It is the biggest red flag for what is the most promising batch of USMNT talent ever. A clinical, reliable and efficient striker is the biggest fault in what is an otherwise strong United States side.
Looking elsewhere across a potential starting XI, depth is actually something of a strong suit. A CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup win in the summer of 2021 allowed almost two entirely different teams to get tournament experience against a strong Mexico side.
Certain players are ‘locks’ to start come November in the 2022 World Cup. Christian Pulisic will be on the left side. At the back, Walker Zimmerman’s performances in qualifying solidified his role with the team. Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie are part of the spine of the team that can control the game and spread it out.
Other areas have slight question marks. For instance, Walker Zimmerman’s teammate was meant to be Miles Robinson. However, an Achilles injury puts his World Cup status under question. Then, the goalkeeper come tournament time could realistically be any of three options in Zack Steffen, Matt Turner and Ethan Horvath. Even someone like Sean Johnson started in a friendly against World-Cup-bound Uruguay.
Fact of the matter remains, there are options, which is a good problem for Gregg Berhalter to have. The options at the top of the formation are less defined.
The USMNT games against weaker CONCACAF opposition like Grenada and El Salvador is one of the last chances for Gregg Berhalter to see which of his options is the best fit.
Potential No. 9
First off, here are the striker options included in the June 2022 USMNT squad for four games. Haji Wright made his USMNT debut in a substitute appearance against Morocco. He scored a goal on his debut. Wright replaced Jesús Ferreira, who just passed 10 caps and has three goals with the squad. Jordan Morris is somewhat more experienced, approaching 50 caps, but he has just 10 goals with the side.
That is it, at least for the current squad. Wright and Ferreira are both young, but not in relation to an already young USMNT squad. Plus, there are other options not called up for the June camp that could fill in.
Ricardo Pepi burst onto the scene as a teenager. However, a winter move to Augsburg in the Bundesliga from FC Dallas may have damaged some of his confidence. Jordan Pefok from Young Boys has a number of caps. The same applies to players like Josh Sargent, Daryl Dike and especially Gyasi Zardes, who is now 30 years old.
The one issue is that none of these players really jump off the team sheet as the clear-cut candidates to start up top. That is not to say that each of the aforementioned players is a bad option come World Cup time. However, with supporting talent like Christian Pulisic, Brenden Aaronson, Gio Reyna, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams feeding the funnel to a striker, a clinical finisher would be ideal, if not necessary.
Grenada game may help solve USMNT’s search for a striker
It is one thing to ask players to score against Morocco or Uruguay. Those two nations qualified for the World Cup in November, and did so relatively comfortably from their respective confederations. However, despite Morocco conceding just three times in eight CAF World Cup Qualifying games, the USMNT put three past them in the June 1 friendly.
USA vs. Grenada
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However, in the Uruguay game, Jesús Ferreira started up top and missed a number of chances. The ‘star’ players like Pulisic, Aaronson and Reyna are not immune to these misses. However, the core value of a striker is simply to score, unless Gregg Berhalter decides to employ some sort of false nine. Yet, at that rate, Reyna likely fits into that role better than the listed out options before.
Limited games before the World Cup
Grenada poses an opportunity for the strike options. While USMNT players say they are focused on repeating as CONCACAF Nations League champions, there is surely the thought in the back of the mind that there are just a few games left before the 2022 World Cup. Therefore, roster spots are dwindling.
Furthermore, there are just four games before the first group stage game. Two CONCACAF Nations League games against Grenada and El Salvador. Then, in September, the USMNT will play two friendlies in Europe (one in Germany, one in Spain). The opponents for those games are unknown. However, Daniel Nohra from TUDN reported that those two games would be against Asian nations. Those are rumored to be Japan and Saudi Arabia, another pair of World Cup sides.
Therefore, the USMNT game against Grenada is a simple game that should help to answer some questions asked of the USMNT at the top. If there were ever a time for a U.S. player to shine in a home game against inferior opposition, it would be this one. If all goes to plan, whichever striker gets the nod will be expected to score, and score at will.
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