Ricardo Pepi, playing against Bosnia last month, has scored all three goals by a USMNT striker. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Several years ago, a respected high school soccer coach I know lamented after his team dominated the opposition but was forced to settle for a 3-3 draw.

“Possession is overrated,” he said.

Indeed it can be, especially if you can’t finish your chances.

It also can be devastating and disheartening at the highest level because there is a good chance you will underachieve or not get the results you need.

Which brings us to the U.S. national team, which has several problems these days, many of which orbit around goal-scoring, or in this case, the lack of it.

Through 10 World Cup qualifiers in the Concacaf Octagonal, the USA has celebrated 13 goals, and that includes four in one game, in a 4-1 victory at Honduras.

Worse, American strikers have celebrated goals three times – all three from a 19-year-old, Ricardo Pepi – in those 10 games.

In baseball, three out of 10 ain’t bad.

In soccer, it is cause for alarm.

On Sunday, we were reminded of the U.S. men’s national team’s one Achilles Heels in its 2-0 loss at Canada in Hamilton, Ontario. The team outplayed the Canadians, enjoyed a sizable possession advantage and outshot the hosts. But the bottom line, or the line on the scoreboard was more important than any other statistic we can bring out:

Canada 2, USA 0

Cyle Larin, who scored the first goal, is Exhibit A for Canada and for the entire Concacaf qualifying process, for that matter.

He leads qualifying with 12 goals and has tallied an Octagonal-best five goals.

Pretty impressive.

An in-form striker can make up for many sins, such as a mediocre midfield or shaky defense. He or she can be a poacher, putting away a chance that had no chance of traveling into the net.

USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter defended his strikers on Sunday.

“I don’t think we created that many clear-cut chances that we should have finished off,” he said. “I don’t think today was an issue of poor finishing. I can be wrong. I’ll watch the tape again. I think it was more of lack of chance creation that I think got us down a little bit, lack of precision in the final third. … When we talked about what we needed to do to win this game, we checked almost all the boxes and that I’m pleased with [that].”

Jesus Ferreira started in the No. 9 role in the 1-0 win over El Salvador on Thursday and Gyasi Zardes was in that position on Sunday. Pepi replaced Zardes in the second half.

In other words, the USMNT striker position has been essentially by committee.

“I think that all these opponents are different,” Berhalter said. “All of them bring different element. We’ll pick the best strikers that we think can get the job done in that particular game. So, this will be a game plan specific striker now.

“Ricardo is a player that just went over to Germany. He’s just breaking in there. I’m sure he’s going to have a long run with the national team and it’s just about getting him confidence and getting him gametime at the highest level. I think he’ll eventually do that.”

Berhalter made some excuses for Ferreira (FC Dallas) and Zardes (Columbus Crew).

“With Jesus and Gyasi, they’re not in season yet,” he said. “So, it’s hard to really see the form that they’re in to say, ‘Okay, this is the guy who’s going to be leading the line for three games in a row.’

The USMNT boss was confident his team will be able to score.

“Scoring goals is the hardest thing to do,” he said. “But I’m confident that the group was going to get it right. We have another opportunity on Wednesday.”

Against Honduras in St. Paul, Minn.

“To me, it’s not an issue,” he said. “We look at the whole team of how we’re moving the ball and how we’re getting into dangerous areas.”

Well, it is an issue to many USA soccer observers, given the paucity of striker  goals.

Have teams won titles and qualified for the World Cup by using this method?

Yes, they have.

And perhaps the USA will reach Qatar 2022.

But the team will continue to struggle until someone reliable like Cyle Larin to depend on emerges.