The U.S. men’s national team kicked off their two-legged Concacaf Nations League quarterfinal series against Trinidad and Tobago with a 3-0 win in Austin, Texas.
Despite having a wealth of possession in their home leg on Thursday, the USMNT at first struggled with breaking down the visitors that fielded a defensive-minded 4-5-1 formation. Even with a one-man advantage after a red card was shown to Trinidad and Tobago’s Noah Powder in the first half, the USMNT didn’t take the lead until substitute Ricardo Pepi found the back of the net in the 82nd minute.
Reinvigorated by breaking the deadlock, the USMNT then ramped up their pressure in the final stages. After doubling their lead in the 86th minute with a well-placed shot from Antonee Robinson, the U.S. then cemented their 3-0 result after a goal from Gio Reyna in the 89th minute.
Both sides will now meet for the second leg in Trinidad and Tobago on Nov. 20. The winners, determined by aggregate goals and with away-goals as a possible tiebreaker, will qualify for the next round of the Concacaf Nations League and for the 2024 Copa America. The losing quarterfinalists will have another opportunity to qualify for the Copa America through a single-elimination play-in match next March.
Manager rating (scale of 1-10)
Gregg Berhalter, 5 — Was it an experimental 4-2-2-2 formation? More of an unrestrained 4-2-3-1? In either situation, one can’t help but wonder if the USMNT players were asking themselves the same question in what was an unnecessarily complicated strategy to start the game. The USMNT looked far too ponderous and at times narrow in their approach, with no goals to show for the first 81 minutes.
Berhalter eventually got things right in the second half, but the improvements remained far too close to the final whistle.
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USMNT Player ratings (0-10; 10 = best; 5 = average)
GK Matt Turner, 6 — Didn’t need to do much in a game that required no saves.
DF Sergiño Dest, 6 — The PSV Eindhoven right-back provided a handful of decent crosses going forward but also had issues with winning his ground duels. That said, he improved as the game progressed.
DF Cameron Carter-Vickers, 7 — Few complaints about the central defender that worked well with Tim Ream while providing crucial defensive interventions.
DF Tim Ream, 7 — Credit to the captain that was great in the air and confident with his distribution going forward. A reliable presence alongside Carter-Vickers.
DF Antonee Robinson, 9 — Robinson was a much-needed source of energy going forward, eventually stepping up with a goal and assist in the final minutes. The most proactive player of the evening.
MF Yunus Musah, 6 — An average night for the AC Milan player that dished out a long list of passes, but not much else worth highlighting in the win.
MF Weston McKennie, 8 — Although he suffered a few hits early on in the first half, McKennie was able to maintain his composure through his decisive passes. The midfielder forced the red for Trinidad and Tobago and nearly won a penalty.
MF Malik Tillman, 5 — A lackluster performance from the player who often lost possession and had issues with his decision-making in the final third.
MF Gio Reyna, 8 — Needing time to warm up, Reyna began to pull more strings after Berhalter eventually switched him to a more central role. The goal was the icing on a cake for a much-improved second half.
MF Kevin Paredes, 6 — A quiet first USMNT start for the 20-year-old. He’ll need to have more of an influence in the attack if he wants to earn more places in the XI.
FW Folarin Balogun, 7 — Like others, Balogun didn’t seem to truly wake up until the 45 minutes. The forward did well to link-up with Reyna for his assist late into the game.
Substitutes (players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
FW Ricardo Pepi, 7 — Thanks to his goal, the floodgates were able to open for a USMNT side that weren’t too far from a disappointing draw.
MF Brenden Aaronson, 6 — Aaronson couldn’t seem to capitalize on his chances that immediately emerged for him shortly after subbing on. Despite this, he had brief flashes of impressive play with his dribbling and distribution.