By Charles Boehm – WASHINGTON, DC (Sep 11, 2023) US Soccer Players – The USMNT concludes its September international window in St Paul, Minnesota on Tuesday with a friendly against Oman, another debut opponent for the United States. It’s a chance to build further rapport among the squad and apply the lessons gained from Saturday’s 3-0 win over Uzbekistan in St Louis.
Speaking to the media on Monday afternoon, coach Gregg Berhalter suggested that there would be limited changes to the lineup that took the field at CityPark, aside from a planned rotation at the goalkeeping position. After posting a clean sheet vs Uzbekistan, Matt Turner departed for England with Drake Callender joining the group after backstopping Inter Miami’s 3-2 win over Sporting KC in MLS play over the weekend.
“Ethan [Horvath] ‘s going to play in goal tomorrow, that’s pretty clear. We’re going to mix up some players, but it’ll be a very, very similar lineup to what we saw last time,” said Berhalter. He and his staff also brought in New England Revolution fullback DeJuan Jones to take the place of Joe Scally, who left camp due to family reasons.
Sitting 73rd in the current FIFA rankings, one spot ahead of Uzbekistan, Oman finsihed 3rd in June’s CAFA Nations Cup with Uzbekistan 2nd. Berhalter described Oman as a very distinct tactical proposition, though.
“Oman is completely different than Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan was a 5-4-1 [formation], at times 5-2-3, but very difficult block to break down, defending with four players on the wing, very compact,” he said. “Oman has played a 4-4-2 diamond, and they have a very, very dynamic counterattack. Part of the emphasis in this camp was finishing attacks against the low block in Uzbekistan, and now preventing transitions against Oman.”
Coach Branko Ivankovic has Al-Ahmar (The Reds) in a solid run of form in recent months. Berhalter pointed to a November friendly against Germany as an indication of what Oman can do over 90 minutes.
“It’s going to be a great test for us,” said Berhalter. “We watched the game against Germany where Germany won 1-0, but they absolutely battered Germany with the transition moments, they were all over them in that game, so it’s going to be important for us.”
Despite the score, several USMNT players expressed some measure of frustration with their overall performance against Uzbekistan. The desire to keep to a high standard in keeping with the program’s big ambitions for the 2026 World Cup is accompanied by a focus on the small details, like solving subtle spacing issues and being clinical when the opponent is exposed.
Berhalter shared a bit more insight into one topic of this week’s video and tactical analysis.
“I think it’s just understanding how they move. So for example, in (Uzbekistan’s) five in the back, there were times when their side center back was releasing to our attacking midfielders, because they played 5-2-3 or 5-4-1,” explained the coach. “So when that happens, there’s going to be a natural space in their back five. And if we can get the ball central now, can we then play directly behind that? So it’s little things like that and again, we have high expectations for this group, I think they have high expectations for themselves. And for us, it’s just about getting better and understanding that we want to keep improving.”
Every camp represents an opportunity to hone relationships between players and the collective understanding that follows. The attacking trident of Christian Pulisic, Folarin Balogun, and Tim Weah is a prime example, as is the central-midfield triangle that became so influential during the 2022 cycle.
Luca de la Torre earned praise for his display as the lone defensive mid behind Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah on Saturday, though his availability is in doubt due to the broken nose that forced him off the pitch in the 35th minute.
“What we decided at the end of the day was having two dynamic players in those attacking mid positions when (the opponent) come out, when their defense loses its lines, to be able to take advantage of those opportunities, and a more controlling player centrally to distribute the ball to the right areas,” said Berhalter. “We think Luca fits that role really well. So I was happy with Luca when he performed and happy with Yunus the whole game.”