USA vs. Italy preview: Morale among US fans continues to plummet

If it wasn’t clear during the last round of friendlies, it sure became crystal clear during a 3-0 shellacking at the hands of England on Thursday: the USMNT needs to hire a full-time manager. Now. Not after the end of the international window, not after MLS Cup Final, but now. The team looked lost at Wembley. And it’s not surprising given that the last year has been more about blooding newer and younger players (which was vital) rather than focusing on creating an identity and consistent system. The lack of consistency reared its ugly head against one of the top teams in the world as the US was run out of the building. There is one final game in what has amounted to a lost year for the US as they get set to take on four time World Cup champions Italy.

Simply put, Thursday’s showing by the US was utterly appalling. Nobody did well. Christian Pulisic created the one real chance the US had but failed to finish it which saw England come right back down the field and score a sublime goal. Pulisic was then culpable on the second England goal just minutes later with a horrendous giveaway in the US half. Brad Guzan may not have been able to do much on a few of the goals, but it’s not a good look for a goalkeeper to have to pick the ball out of the back of his net three times. The US backline looked awful with John Brooks looking nothing like the standout defender from the 2016 Copa America. Jorge Villafana looked lost repeatedly, as did DeAndre Yedlin (despite playing regular in the Premier League). Wil Trapp captained the US in the midfield but again showed that he is way out of his depth at the international level (but get used to it folks because his club manager is about to become the national team manager). Bobby Wood was wholly ineffective up front. Everybody looked bad. Yes, England is a quality side that just went to the World Cup semi-finals but the US looked like they didn’t belong on the field. That’s not something the US has looked like very often over the last 20 years. The lack of a coach with a consistent vision and message is crippling this team and turning it into a laughingstock at the international level. One final games remains this year to at least try to stem the tide of that narrative against Italy.

Italy may be four-time World Cup winners, but like the US, they failed to qualify for Russia 2018. They finished 2nd in the qualifying group and then failed to score a single goal over two legs against Sweden in the playoff. It was the first time they had missed the World Cup since 1958 and it saw the sad end to the illustrious international career of Gianluigi Buffon. The named Roberto Mancini as their new manager. Mancini is one of the top managers in the world, having managed at clubs like Inter Milan, Manchester City, Galatasaray, and Zenit St. Petersburg. Results have been hard to come by for the Azzurri though. Their record this year stands at 2-3-5 (W-L-D) and they currently sit 2nd in Group 3 of the UEFA Nations League (behind Portugal and ahead of Portugal). The roster for this window (they drew 0-0 with Portugal in a Nations League game on Saturday) consists primarily of uncapped players playing in Serie A. Of the 22 players called into the camp, seven of them have 0 caps and another eight of them have fewer than 10 caps. Players of note that are in the squad include defender Leonardo Bonucci of Juventus (6 goals in 84 caps) and mid-fielder Marco Verratti of Paris Saint-Germain (1 goal in 28 caps). Of the seven strikers in the squad, nobody has more than 10 caps and none of them have scored an international goal.

Notes:

1. Weston McKennie and Luca de la Torre departed US camp on Sunday morning, leaving the roster for the Italy game with 24 players.

2. Only four US players have ever scored against Italy: Aldo Donelli in 1930, John Harkes in 1992, Landon Donovan in 2009 and Clint Dempsey in 2012 (Italian defender Zaccardo also scored and own goal against the US in 2006).

3. Since winning the Gold Cup Final in July of 2017, the US has won just four of its last fifteen games, posting a record of 4-6-5 for a 43% win percentage.

When and where to find the game on US TV and streaming:

Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Luminus Arena
Genk, Belgium
2:45pm ET
Live on FS1, UniMas, Univision Deportes Network, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV and fuboTV (free trial)

All-Time Series:

USA trails 1-4-3

Last Meeting:

February 29, 2012
Stadio Luigi Ferraris
Genoa, Italy
USA 1–0 Italy

Current FIFA Ranking:

USA: 23
Italy: 19

Next Game:

To be determined

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