The U.S. men’s national team looked like a disjointed mess for a lot of the game in Friday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico, the first of 10 final round qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup. But there were still some bright spots, as the USA nearly salvaged a point despite being outplayed by their continental rivals.
The jewel of the USMNT, Pulisic certainly looked like like the most gifted player on the field on Friday, showing flashes of absolute brilliance and making U.S. fans feel giddy that he’s just 18.
Starting out in a false 10 role in the USA’s ill-fated attempt at a back three, Pulisic looked dynamic in the first half when he picked up the ball in deep positions and charged forward. With neither team looking entirely comfortable playing as a unit, there was space to be had on the field and Pulisic did the most with it.
After moving out to his more familiar left midfield role, Pulisic continued to be among the most dynamic players for either team. If there’s one critique of his performance, it’s that he had a nervy first touch at times. Given the stage and the opponent, it’s understandable.
No player seemed to benefit more from Jurgen Kilnsmann decision to start with a back three. Johnson is tailor-made to be a wing back on the left, and outside of Pulisic, he was the USA’s most effective player when getting forward.
He moved up the left flank with ease and continued to be a part of the U.S. attack after being moved out to the right midfield role following the change to a back four. He and Pulisic nearly created a goal from the second half whistle with a quick link up, though Johnson’s final ball in the box never found Bobby Wood cleanly.
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After moving to the midfield, Johnson remained in tune with his defensive responsibilities. Minutes before Mexico took the lead, Johnson saved a goal when he challenged Javier Hernandez from six yards out, who was waiting for a tap-in following Hirving Lozano’s ball across the mouth of goal.
Have to include the goalscorer, right? Wood tied the game early in the second half on a one-two with Jozy Altidore. Wood had been the more impressive of the two strikers during the game, though both could have done more with some of the chances they had in the first half.
On a similar play with Michael Bradley later in the second half, Wood had a chance to slot home the go-ahead goal, but the chance never came. Bradley selfishly shot it straight at Mexico keeper Alfredo Talavera. Still, credit Wood for continuing to get in the right positions near the box.