USMNT heads to Honduras following Sunday’s disappointing draw in CONCACAF Octagonal
By Official Florida FC
The United States men’s national team tied Canada 1-1 on Sunday night in Nashville. The Americans have two points from two matching in World Cup qualifying and have one more match in this window, a Wednesday evening trip to San Pedro Sula.
Former Orlando City forward Cyle Larin scored Canada’s equalizer in the 62nd minute to silence the Music City crowd.
The only other person on either roster with Florida ties, Miami-born winger Konrad de la Fuente, was 82nd minute substitute for the USMNT. de la Fuente didn’t contribute much in his short time on the pitch, outside of winning a corner kick in stoppage time.
Here are three observations from the match:
USMNT captain Christian Pulisic returned to the starting XI after being held stateside for the Americans’ World Cup qualifying opener as he continued to get match-fit after he tested positive for Covid-19 in August. The 22-year-old has been dynamic in World Cup qualifiers, recording four goals and five assists in 13 matches.
Sunday, he didn’t register a literal assist. But, the constant kicking and fouling he was subject to led to Brenden Aaronson’s 55th minute goal.
Referee Oshane Nation gave the USMNT the advantage and the hosts didn’t waste it. Jordan Pefok found Kellyn Acosta, who got the ball wide to Antonee Robinson. Aaronson made a late run from midfield and had a tap-in for his fourth international goal.
Pulisic hit the post in the 40th minute and put one other shot on target. Most impressively were the positions he took to receive possession. The Pennsylvanian repeatedly dropped deep into the midfield to get touches in areas where he could dictate play.
The USMNT dominated possession, hoarding the ball for 71% of the time. Heading into Wednesday’s match against Honduras, the Americans will need to not only control possession, but convert what chances arrive.
Is Pefok the No. 9?
The USMNT has started four different center forwards in each of its last four matches. Jordan Pefok was the latest to get a run-out in the side. The 25-year-old showcased superb hold-up and aerial play. He uncorked a pair of shots, made solid runs and provided one and two-touch passes that ordinarily would have freed Pulisic, Aaronson or Sebastian Lletget to take shots.
However, the primary job of a No. 9 is to score goals. Pefok hasn’t done that. He has only one goal in eight appearances for the USMNT. While it’s true he’s only played 276 minutes in those eight appearances, eventually the 25-year-old Washington D.C. native has to score more.
Orlando City forward Daryl Dike is not fully fit and not brought up to the USMNT. Neither is Gyasi Zardes. Josh Sargent replaced Pefok in the 82nd minute. Pefok has a chance to make the position he. But, he needs to score goals to do that.
The new No. 1
Matt Turner didn’t have much to do on Sunday night. Canada put two shots on goal and Larin’s goal was a tap-in from close range.
Hours before kickoff the U.S. Soccer Federation announced prohibitive No. 1 Zack Steffen tested positive for Covid-19. Steffen didn’t play on Sunday and, reportedly, will not play on the road against Honduras on Wednesday.
Covid is real and remains deadly. Here in Florida, more than 40,000 people have died for the virus. We at Official Florida FC wish Steffen good health has he tries to overcome the virus.
From an on-field perspective, Matt Turner should be the USMNT goalie. The New England Revolution shot stopper made an outstanding one-handed save in the 14th minute to deny Larin’s right-footed effort.
In three of the last four USMNT matches Turner has made reflexive, saves that have left opponents flummoxed. Though Sunday was the first goal he has conceded from open play in his international career and the first time he didn’t win while between the posts, the USMNT is still 6-0-1 with him in goal. Until the 27-year-old does something to be displaced, the job should be his.