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(Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)
(Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

USMNT October International Window Recap

After a disappointing 3-1 loss against Germany, the United States bounced back and secured a 4-0 victory over Ghana to cap the October international window.  Let’s take a closer look at each game and how these results impact the United States as they look forward to hosting the Copa América next summer.

Germany 3, USA 1

Heading into Saturday’s contest, Germany was under a lot of pressure to get a result from this game.  This would be the first game for the Germans under newly appointed head coach Julian Nagelsmann, whose pressure-focused tactics helped him become the youngest head coach in Bundesliga history at just 28.  Now aged 36, Nagelsmann was tasked with steadying a German side that had lost four of their last six contests. As for the United States, head coach Gregg Berhalter looked for a well-rounded performance against one of the better teams in Europe, something he has not done in the past.  In fact, Berhalter’s only wins against UEFA opponents have come against Northern Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina, two teams that are well below the level of Europe’s top teams.  

At the outset, the United States played up to the level of the Germans, and had the first chance of the game, with Weston McKennie playing a perfectly weighted ball over the back line of Germany that had Christian Pulisic in a breakaway opportunity on goal.  Although Pulisic was just a few inches offside, this chance gave the U.S. momentum. MInutes later, as multiple defenders crowded Pulisic just outside of the penalty area, the AC Milan winger took a quick dribble towards goal and curled it past German goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen, who did not even attempt to save the perfectly placed shot.  

Although it was the Americans who kept the lead for the next few minutes, the Germans were the team on the attack for the remainder of the half and most of the game. In the 39th minute, Germany midfielder Leroy Sané was able to dribble through five U.S. defenders as he worked his way towards goal.  Rather than finish off his chance, he passed back to German captain İlkay Gündoğan, who tapped home the goal from five yards out to even the score.  

Things did not improve for the U.S. in the second half, as miscommunication and unfortunate bounces led to Germany tacking on two more goals. Niclas Füllkrug went unmarked between the Americans’ center-backs and received a through pass, slotting home the go-ahead goal in the 58th minute. Just three minutes later, Jamal Musiala scored the dagger on a ricochet that bounced towards the net after an attempted clearance by a U.S. defender.  The U.S. had some half-chances that materialized throughout the remainder of the game, but outside of those, were completely dominated by the Germans in the second half.

USA 4, Ghana 0

Following the loss to Germany, the United States made three changes to the starting lineup and decided to shift to a new tactical formation.  Joe Scally and Tim Ream made way for Miles Robinson and Kristoffer Lund on the back line for the Americans, while Johnny Cardoso replaced Weston McKennie in the starting midfield.  Additionally, rather than a 4-3-3 formation that has been the staple under Berhalter, he opted for a 4-2-3-1, wanting two central defensive midfielders rather than the typical one.

Straight from the start, the U.S. had control of the game, quite a stark difference from the first 45 minutes of the prior match.  Within the first ten minutes of the game, the Americans had plenty of chances, but would finally put one in the back of the net in the 10th minute after Gio Reyna scored his first goal for the national team in over two years.  Right-back Sergiño Dest made a great run in which he danced through multiple Ghanaian defenders before playing a through ball to winger Timothy Weah on the right side of the pitch. Weah’s cross into the middle would be blocked at the six-yard box, but fortunately for the U.S., Reyna pounced on it quickly to slot it past goalkeeper Abdul Nurudeen.

The Americans would continue to be on the attack for the remainder of the first half, with their next chance coming in the 19th minute.  It was Weah again involved in the goal, this time making a quick cut in the box before being brought to the ground by a Ghanaian defender.  Referee Marco Antonio Ortiz spotted the infraction and quickly called a penalty, which was confidently scored by the Christian Pulisic to double the Americans’ lead.  Just three minutes later, Weah continued to cause havoc for the Ghanaian defense, finding striker Folarin Balogun in the box, who only needed to make two quick touches to score the third goal for the U.S. on the night after just 22 minutes.    

The Americans would continue attacking for the next few minutes, and in minute 39, would finally add a fourth goal to their tally.  After Ghana defender Nicholas Opoku fell on the ball inside his own penalty area, he obstructed Balogun from making a play on the ball, leading to the referee having to call a foul and an indirect free kick.  With the free kick being so close to goal, the U.S. drew up a play in which Balogun and Pulisic both took small touches on the ball before Gio Reyna scored his second goal of the night, smashing it into the upper right corner of the net.  Even with nine Ghanaian players standing on the goal-line, Reyna found an opening and secured his first ever international brace.

After the halftime break, the U.S. decided to take off their three goalscorers, and the lack of offensive prowess was quite noticeable in the final 45 minutes.  Although they did not go on the score sheet in the second half, Sergiño Dest and Weston McKennie had moments of creativity early on, but ultimately those chances led to shots that missed the target.  Matt Turner and the defense played strong to close out the night, with the Nottingham Forest goalkeeper earning his 22th clean sheet in just 35 appearances.  

Next Up For The USMNT: Nations League Quarterfinals, Copa América

As the calendar on 2023 winds down to a close, the U.S. have just two more games scheduled, both of which will be against Trinidad and Tobago in the CONCACAF Nations League. The United States has won both of the first two editions of the tournament, and looks to continue that streak. This particular match-up, however, has more meaning to it, as the four teams that advance to the semi-finals also receive automatic berths into the Copa América tournament next summer.  Although the U.S. would still have a path to qualify should they lose, beating Trinidad and Tobago is the priority and would alleviate any possible unnecessary stress on the team.  

Hopes are high for the Americans heading into the summer, as it is the second time within the last decade they will host South America’s premier tournament.  After a run to the semi-finals in 2016 on home soil, the U.S. look to replicate that performance in what would be their fifth ever appearance in the tournament, the second-most of any non-South American team.  With the World Cup coming to the United States in less than 3 years, Copa América will serve to be a gauge for this young American side and hopefully inspire even more confidence in the team moving forward.

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