All of a sudden, the United States men’s national team is sitting at the summit of World Cup qualifying in Concacaf thanks to that convincing 2-0 win over Mexico on Friday night. The U.S. were a different team in the second half, controlling the ball, creating the chances and sending El Tri to their third straight defeat in the series just this year. Christian Pulisic made all of the difference off the bench, but it was also an all-around display from a young team eager to prove itself. Here are our player ratings for the match.
But the celebrations can’t last too long, because the focus must shift to Tuesday’s game against Jamaica (live on Paramount+).
Here are three things we learned from the Mexico game that helps set the stage for the battle against the Reggae Boys.
1. The press must continue
The U.S. played a high press that we really hadn’t seen. It kept Mexico off balance and really disrupted any flow that most players, especially left back Jesus Gallardo, had in the match. The talented defender was under pressure all game and completed just 69 percent of his passes as the Americans were able to exploit the flanks.
While it didn’t lead to many direct chances, it got into Mexico’s head and made them at times clear the ball forward and prevented potential build-up plays that could have resulted in attacking opportunities.
Expect that to continue, because this team showed it can dominate defensively, and it all starts with the pressure applied up top by Ricardo Pepi. It wasn’t perfect, and Zack Steffen did have to make a couple big saves with Mexico breaking the lines well in the first half, but in the end it made a difference and changed how teams will approach them.
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2. Right wing is Weah’s position to lose
Tim Weah has always had the talent, but despite dealing with numerous injuries over the past few years, his time is now. The Lille attacker has been arguably the biggest bright spot over the last two windows. He helped get that win over Costa Rica with an own goal he created, and here he delivers a pin-point pass to Pulisic with some nifty footwork down the right to beat their biggest rival.
He’s becoming the impact player this team has needed, and he should get the majority of the minutes at right winger moving forward, at least until Gio Reyna returns from injury.
CHRISTIAN PULISIC PUTS USA ON HIS BACK!