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.
He ended up touching the ball 52 times on the night and completed 88.9 percent of his passes. No player created more than his three chances, with his xA of 0.64 over five times better than any other player on the team.
3. Changes are going to have to be made
Unfortunately, changes will be made, and it's out of necessity, Both Miles Robinson and Weston McKennie are suspended for Tuesday's showdown against Jamaica, meaning Berhalter cannot replicate the starting lineup. Now, because there are two games in this window and not three, there is less concern about the tired legs.
The interesting aspect will be if Pulisic starts, and it sure feels like he will, though a lot of that will depend on how he's feeling after the Mexico game.
But with Robinson out, it would make sense that Chris Richards makes the starting XI against Jamaica, with Mark McKenzie being another option. Richards is far and away the top defensive prospect of the national team and has played regularly for Hoffenheim.
In the middle, the most natural replacement for McKennie would probably be Kellyn Acosta, though that is a huge drop off in terms of attack. Most fans would probably prefer to see Gianluca Busio there, but I suspect it will be Acosta to bring a veteran presence into the midfield that can defense and possess the ball.