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The United States pummeled Bolivia in Pennsylvania, and while the incredibly poor level of competition should temper any major talking points, we can still learn plenty from this glittering performance by the youngsters.
[ MORE: Player ratings | Match recap ]
They’re all quite raw, and it showed early and often, even drawing the ire of the head coach at halftime, but it was clear they have the skills to grow and help this team in a big way moving forward.
Josh Sargent and Tim Weah have the potential to be a part of this squad for quite some time
The United States has struggled to replace Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan in recent years. While Christian Pulisic appears to be the new Donovan in someone who plays on the wing but is dangerous in front of goal, they’re still searching for a prolific target man in front of goal. Josh Sargent appears to have all the instincts to be that guy. While there’s still a long way to go for the 18-year-old, including making his professional debut at Werder Bremen, he seems to be strong and physical, as well as able to move fluidly and with purpose off the ball.
Weah is an exciting prospect as well, someone with the pace and ball skills to be a great compliment on the opposite of Pulisic. He seemed to be on the same wavelength as Sargent, playing a number of different one-two combinations that nearly resulted in a goal. He also makes excellent runs off the ball, which allowed Rubio Rubin to find him for his best chance on net. These are two guys who appear to be the real deal, albeit against admittedly abysmal competition.
What was missing is very teachable
These kids are young. Really, really young. They seem beyond their age in grasping the attacking flow of Dave Sarachan’s tactics which is a fantastic sign, but the finishing still needs work. Tim Weah, in his first start, had a few early chances that he should have taken, while Josh Sargent was also a little wild in front of net.
[ MORE: Full game recap of 3-0 win over Bolivia ]
The good news is that finishing can be improved, while the soccer IQ that the squad shows is the more difficult part of the game to teach, meaning there is plenty of room for growth with this team.
Dave Sarachan even admitted on the Fox broadcast at halftime coming off the field that the shooting was rushed, and that he might have a chat with a few of the youngsters up there (ie: Weah, Sargent, Rubin, McKennie) about taking their time and developing better shots. While there are plenty of teachable moments from this match despite the dominating performance, what most U.S. fans should take from this game is that anything that appeared to be missing – first and foremost patience and vision in front of goal – is very teachable.
Dave Sarachan may have something with the 4-1-4-1
Interim head coach Dave Sarachan has deployed a 4-1-4-1 in consecutive matches against Paraguay and now Bolivia, with Weston McKennie at the CDM spot, and it’s worked both times. McKennie does a fabulous job protecting the back line, allowing the defenders to stretch and cover wide areas. In a personally signature moment, the 19-year-old bulldozer muscled Leonardo Vaca off the ball, shrugging him to the ground in the 70th minute.
[ MORE: Player ratings from 3-0 win over Bolivia ]
With both McKennie and Kellyn Acosta figuring to be in the selection pool for quite some time, this is a system that could be useful down the road. The United States has not had a consistent system to play for a very, very long time following the experimental years of Jurgen Klinsmann.
4. Christian Pulisic is very tired
Bonus! It was very obvious that Christian Pulisic has had an extremely long season and is quite exhausted. He was somewhat influential in the buildup – especially early on – but was not his typical flashy self, and the faded into the background as the game went on, eventually substituted off in the 89th minute. Pulisic is an extremely talented player and there shouldn’t be any concerns about his future, but if there is one bright side to missing the World Cup, it’s that Pulisic gets the summer off, and the 19-year-old desperately needs it after a long, brutal season with Borussia Dortmund where many times he wasn’t at his best.