By Official Florida FC
The United States men’s national team is unbeaten in its last nine matches following Suday’s 2-1 win over Northern Ireland. Gio Reyna opened in the 30th minute. Christian Pulisic scored his 15th international goal from the penalty spot in the 59th minute en route to earning man of the match honors.
Northern Ireland’s Niall McGinnn scored a late consolation, but the home side did not threaten again.
Here are three thoughts from the match:
Big Dike Energy
Orlando City forward Daryl Dike came on in the 63rd minute and had three good chances to score his first international goal, but could not.
The first two opportunities, in the 78th and 81st minute were created because Dike used his awareness to make runs that allowed Pulisic and Luca de la Torre to find him in stride while sprinting toward goal. Dike’s physicality allowed him to hold off Northern Ireland defenders long enough to get a shot on goal.
Later, Dike narrowly missed gettig his head onto an 82nd minute header.
The biggest takeaway was not his misses, but the fact that three times in 20 minutes the 20-year-old put himself in position to score goals in an international match.
New System, Same Results
The United States operated with three central defenders: Aaron Long, Matt Miazga and Tim Ream.
The lineup was part of what appeared to be a 3-4-3 system with Antonee Robinson and Sergino Dest serving as wingbacks, with Kellyn Acosta and 18-year-old wunderkind Yunus Musah in the middle of the park with Pulisic and Reyna as attackers and Jordan Siebatcheu as the center forward.
Berhalter has primairly used four in the back during most of his 25 games as the coach of the USMNT. Sunday’s system was a wrinkle that may serve the program well during its slate of matches over the next nine months.
Last Chance to make first impression
Sunday’s win was the last friendly the USMNT will play before the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals against Honduras on June 3.
The Nations League begins a run of as many as 22 competitive matches for the USMNT in this calendar year. The Nations League (2 games) would be played in June followed by the CONCACAF Gold Cup (maximum 6 games) in July and August the Olympics in July in August. That slate will be followed by the first eight World Cup Qualifying matches.
The Olympic squad, should the USMNT qualify for the first time since the 2008 Olympics, would be primairly an Under-24 roster. But, considering the talent that is available to the USMNT — six of Sunday’s starting XI in Belfast are eligible for the Olympic team — it is plausible some of the players on the plane to Tokyo could help the full national team qualify for the 2020 Men’s World Cup.