USMNT player ratings: 2022 World Cup in sight after beating Mexico
The USMNT did it again on Friday, beating bitter rivals Mexico 2-0 — dos a cero — in 2022 World Cup qualifying at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, two of the brightest stars of what is already undeniably the most talented generation in USMNT history, got the goals as the Yanks beat El Tri for the third time in 2021.
Halfway through the octagonal round of World Cup qualifying, the USMNT sits atop the table. Simply put, life is good in USMNT land these days…
Here’s a look at who stood out (for better or for worse) for Gregg Berhalter’s side, with some special bonus commentary (of the dissenting variety) from PST’s Nicholas Mendola (italicized)…
GK - Zack Steffen: 8 - Made a pair of massive saves early in the game, just as Mexico were seizing firm control of the game midway through the first half. Despite starting just one game for the USMNT (and four for Manchester City) since August, Steffen looked confident both while handling the ball and playing with it at his feet.
RB - DeAndre Yedlin: 6.5 - This was an incredibly difficult spot for Yedlin to come into — not only for the fact Sergiño Dest was fantastic last month, but for the assignment of facing Hirving Lozano one-versus-one on 15 or 30 occasions. He did well — got beat a few times, but who wouldn’t? — and protected Miles Robinson as well as any USMNT right back has done in years.
CB - Miles Robinson & Walker Zimmerman: 6.5 - We’re going to put these two together because they’ve became synonymous with one another, in a USMNT context. They’re the perfect complement to one another and should be the starting center backs until injuries and/or suspensions dictate otherwise (this was written prior to Robinson’s second yellow card in the 89th minute, naturally).
LB - Antonee Robinson: 7 - Can someone in the Premier League please bring Antonee Robinson back to the top flight where he belongs in January? I can think of at least six clubs for whom he would be an upgrade. He was a handful going forward — not always ending in a chance created, but the threat keeps opposing full backs honest and terrified to go forward.
DM - Tyler Adams: 6.5 (6 — first half: 4, second half: 8) - Far and away Adams’ least impactful performance of 2022 World Cup qualifying (through very little fault of his own, it should be said — the midfield tends to get lost in the shuffle when a game is end-to-end as USMNT vs Mexico was on Friday), and it didn’t completely cripple the USMNT on both sides of the ball. As signs of growth go, that’s a Herculean accomplishment by Berhalter and Co.
We went from seeing Tyler Adams at his worst to his best. What began as an out-of-position, poor decision-making player that didn’t look anything like Tyler Adams turned into the Team MVP we’ve come to see as irreplaceable over the past few months with a decisive, domineering second 45 minutes.
CM - Weston McKennie: 7.5 (8.5) - A largely anonymous first half, followed by increased involvement to begin the second half and eventually the crucial goal for dos A cero late on. McKennie returned to USMNT camp last month, kept his head down with eyes fixed on the job at hand, and he’s been colossal during the stretch of games which will likely help the USMNT to the 2022 World Cup, where he’ll again be expected to raise his game a level.
The Juventus midfielder made a point of telling people he would do his best to prove his critics wrong following his suspension from USMNT duty for an off-field incident. Oh, goodness, did he ever? Part hot rod, part wrecking ball, and all-electric, McKennie channeled Clint Dempsey and Claudio Reyna in a story-altering performance.
CM - Yunus Musah: 7 - On one hand, Musah is an electrifying, explosive, dynamic player who’s unlike any American to come before him. On the other hand, he’s still very much 18 years old and has a long, long, long way to go as a central midfielder. In the same sequence, he’ll receive the ball, turn and disappear when the defender commits, only to take a touch (or two) too many, run himself into a cul de sac and give the ball away for no discernible reason. His ceiling is stupendously high.
[ MORE: USMNT World Cup qualifying schedule ]
RW - Tim Weah: 8 (9) - Don’t look now, but Weah has been healthy for quite some time, which means he’s been playing regularly for Lille, which means he’s fitter and sharper when he checks into USMNT camp. We’ve seen the best of Weah in a USMNT shirt thus far during 2022 World Cup qualifying, but no moment better showed his growth as a player than his 74th-minute assist to Pulisic.
Not sure he put a foot wrong and might have had three assists on another day. My Man of the Match for sure, Weah brought a dimension at winger that even Christian Pulisic doesn’t bring due to his size and power. The idea of Weah on the left and Pulisic on the right makes the USMNT’s center forward question a bit less worrisome… for now.
LW - Brenden Aaronson: 6 - Similar story to Adams, where everything the USMNT created seemed to originate from the right side of the field and Weah, so Aaronson took a backseat.
CF - Ricardo Pepi: 5.5 - Is it the striker’s fault he’s stranded without service because he’s not making runs or taking up the right spaces, or is the midfield to blame for not finding him when he does show for the ball? For the USMNT and Pepi, it’s a bit of both right now. These things are to be expected from an 18-year-old, especially in games of this magnitude.
Sub - Christian Pulisic: 7.5 - Only available for 25 minutes against Mexico, Pulisic wasted little time in making his impact on the game. His touches were few and far between, but the most important one was the one turned out to be the game-winner.