After what was going to be a goalless first leg in Austin, the USMNT scored three goals in just seven minutes late in the second half to save themselves from embarrassment. Gregg Berhalter’s men take a trip to Port of Spain in Trinidad to finish off the job. Goals from Ricardo Pepi, Antonee Robinson, and Giovanni Reyna proved to be too much for the 10-man Trinidadians, who played down a man for an hour.
We take a closer look at how it all went down, the context of some of the key plays within the flow of the game, and what it means for the team going forward.
Team USA XI (4-3-3): 1. Matt Turner (GK) — 2. Dest, 3. Carter-Vickers, 13. Ream (C), 5. Robinson — 6. Musah, 8. Mckennie, 7. Reyna — 17. Tillman (9. Pepi, 66’), 20. Balogun, 16. Paredes (11. Aaronson, 65’).
Tim Ream takes over the captaincy from Christian Pulisic, who couldn’t make it to this camp after picking up an injury against PSG in the Champions League with his new club, AC Milan.
The opening ten minutes saw a tight battle in midfield, with Trinidad really troubling the Americans. It will be a theme going forward on Thursday evening. It’s a tough watch for both fans and neutrals as there’s not much action going on.
The first significant action comes in the 38th minute of the match when Noah Powder picks up his second yellow of the evening and sees red after a late tackle on Weston McKennie. Despite the sending-off, the USA game hasn’t changed much, with a few more entries into the box but fluffing chances. Both teams go into the half goalless, while many viewers want their 45 minutes back.
Heading into the second half, the USMNT will need to improve its performance, and that first comes down to the manager because changes need to be made. The soccer being played is not only dull but also ineffective.
The Yanks continued where they left off from the first half, having all the possession but with no bite. Trinidad is yet to have a shot in the game as the American pressure keeps growing.
Malik Tillman had several chances throughout the game but was unable to capitalize. The Trinidadian shot-stopper, Denzil Smith, is playing one heck of a match to keep the score level. Yunus Musah let one rip from way out in the 58th minute to test Smith’s gloves once more, and the keeper aced the test as he parried the ball out to safety.
Minutes later, in the 60th minute, the referee pointed to the spot for the U.S., for what seemed like a foul on McKennie at first glance, but VAR intervened. It seemed like the defender got the slightest touch on the ball before tripping the Juventus midfielder, but the American looked to be on his way down before the contact. It was the right decision, and no penalty was awarded.
Chances over chances fell for Team USA, this time to Kevin Paredes in the 63rd minute, who was seeking his first USMNT goal but fluffed his lines after the ball came to him in the box, skying it. A very common reoccurrence for Berhalter’s team.
The substitution of Pepi for Tillman made a significant difference as the PSV striker looked to be much more dangerous than his club teammate. Playing on the right wing, Pepi nearly made an instant impact as the ball fell to him in the box, but his first touch let him down. His towering presence is what’s needed as the team continues to spam crosses into the box.
It is once again super-sub Pepi to the rescue the U.S. from embarrassment, finding the back of the net in the 81st minute. Robinson was in an advanced position on the edge of the box and delivered a dangerous cross into the box, finishing the 20-year-old, who flicked the ball past Denzil Smith. ‘El Tren’ is now the first USMNT player ever to score five goals as a substitute in a calendar year.
The floodgates are open, and Trinidad seems to be dazed as the U.S. looks to land the final blow. The answer comes in just three minutes as Jedi Robinson fires one from way out, doubling his country’s lead in the 84th minute. It takes the smallest of deflections to help gain a bit more height as it curls past Smith. It’s a goal and an assist for the Fulham fullback!
The Americans kept pushing for a third, and Gio Reyna gave his side just that in the 88th minute. After a nice one-two with Folarin Balogun, Reyna leaves no doubt and finishes a sweet move to cap off what seemed to be a disastrous night.
After an unmemorable six added minutes of stoppage time, three goals in seven minutes late in the second half gave the USMNT a much-needed three-goal cushion as they travel to TT to finish off the second leg of this CONCACAF Nations League which also serves as a ticket to the 2024 Copa America.
My man of the match goes to Antonee Robinson, who looked solid when asked to defend, which was much needed on the night. He contributed to two of the three goals, providing an assist for the first goal to Pepi and scoring one for himself.
In some ways, it is a paper-over-cracks-like performance because, prior to Trinidad’s capitulation near the end of the game, the U.S. struggled to break down a TT team who were down a man for over an hour of the game. It is not good whatsoever and is very worrying if we want to get far in Copa America.
Up next for the USMNT is a trip to Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago to play out the second leg of the CONCACAF Nations League, with the Americans holding the advantage, three to the good.