The biggest takeaways from the USMNT’s November WCQ window

Written By Harrison Hamm on November 18, 2021

The USMNT came away from a shorter November window with four points, going top of the Octogonal for a couple of days before falling back to second after Canada’s win against Mexico.

It was immensely successful, given the outstanding 2-0 home win over Mexico, although they fell back down to Earth after a 1-1 road draw against Jamaica, in which they mostly looked listless.

Overall, it’s looking pretty good for the US. Let’s take a look at some takeaways.

Tim Weah might have to start

With Christian Pulisic forced to come off the bench in both games as he returns from his injury, Tim Weah started on the right wing and made a pretty convincing case to start more games. He produced an assist against Mexico, on a cross to Pulisic, and scored a fantastic individual goal to take the lead against Jamaica.

Weah played so well against Mexico that when Gregg Berhalter subbed on Pulisic, it was Brenden Aaronson who made way. Weah’s burst gave Mexico’s fullbacks trouble all game and provided the sort of verticality and explosiveness that Berhalter has been wanting. His performance means that with a fully-healthy and available USMNT (wishful thinking, I realize), Berhalter will have some interesting decisions.

Ricardo Pepi’s goal-scoring magic didn’t continue, though he did look improved with his hold-up play and got the assist on Weah’s goal against Jamaica. Is there a case to be made that in order to fit Aaronson and Pulisic on the field at the same time, Berhalter should play Weah up top? It’s something to consider.

The midfield is playing at a very high level

Perhaps what stood out the most from the US’s dominant performance against Mexico was the performance of the “MMA” midfield of Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and Yunus Musah. The three were outstanding. Adams and McKennie performed at as high a level as we’ve seen them in a US uniform. Musah’s ability to take his space on the dribble and progress the ball into good areas serves as an important creative influence.

Without McKennie due to a yellow card suspension against Jamaica, the midfield did not look as strong. They put in Gianluca Busio next to Adams and Musah, which was certainly the right decision, but neither Musah nor Busio are defensive presences, and the US struggled to gain a foothold.

Busio is starting and playing well in Serie A, and he remains 19. Musah turns 19 in a little over a week. The problems we saw against Jamaica can partially be chalked up to youth, development, and inexperience. The elite-level future of this midfield (Gio Reyna was hurt for this window, remember) is extremely promising.

The starters on defense are solidifying

Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson proved that they are clear starters at center back in this window. They put up a lockdown performance against Mexico, shutting down Hirving Lozano and Raul Jimenez. Zimmerman in particular showed out, and with Robinson having assured his spot on the depth chart in the past two windows, Zimmerman has now joined him.

Chris Richards stepped into the lineup alongside Zimmerman in Jamaica due to Robinson’s red card suspension and looked good. He’s a Bundesliga starter, after all. But so is John Brooks, who was left off the roster entirely and has apparently fallen behind Richards and Mark McKenzie on the depth chart. The US is deep at center back.

Additionally, DeAndre Yedlin played 180 minutes in this window with Sergino Dest injured. He was great against Mexico and a little less great in Jamaica, but he has shown that he is a very capable replacement for the Barcelona star. Joe Scally, the 18-year-old Borussia Monchengladbach standout, did not get any playing time. That, surely, will come.

The evolving forward depth chart

Beyond Pepi, the forwards in this pool remain blurry. Jesus Ferreira got the call-up as Pepi’s backup with Gyasi Zardes injured and played some high-energy minutes in both games. But Ferreira is not a pure goal-scorer. The US should make sure it has someone they can put on who will get themselves into the right areas and get goals from nothing.

They need someone like Daryl Dike or Jordan Pefok to show that they can perform this role. Zardes is a good but not great finisher who is mainly useful as a connector, smart runner, and hold-up talent. It will be an interesting variable for the US to find someone who can add scoring off the bench or if Pepi is cold.

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