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Matt Turner’s Distribution Starts a Goal and Five other USA/Canada Thoughts from World Cup Qualifying

The USMNT’s 2-0 win over Jamaica put them atop The Octagon/Ocho rankings thanks to Canada’s historic 1-1 draw at The Azteca.

Soccer: CONCACAF FIFA World Cup Qualifier-Jamaica at USA Chuck Burton-USA TODAY Sports

New England Revolution fans are well versed in Matt Turner’s ability to save just about everything. Yes, there was a rough patch for a few games based on Matt’s ridiculously high standards where a few oddball/soft goals snuck in but these things happen.

The biggest knock on Turner has always been his distribution, and people will point to his Gold Cup as an indication he’s not great with the ball at his feet. And while, that might be true compared to some guy who plays in Manchester, the USMNT shouldn’t be using Turner, or any of their goalkeepers for that matter, in any possession based system.

This is a countering team designed for speed, directness, and verticality. I think that’s how you spell that. It’s totally a word, observe:

This is the USMNT at it’s best, quick restart, ball upfield quickly and directly, great off the ball channel runs, and goal. We can talk about the technical ability of the current player pool which is tremendous but the USA is going to win games based on their speed. Tim Weah off the bench torching people, Jedi Robinson and Sergino Dest overlapping on the flanks, and how quickly players like Adams, McKennie, Musah, and Aaronson make decisions on the ball. This team needs to get out onto the front foot and keep pushing because that’s how they score.

Also, Matt Turner is pretty solid at this type of quick distribution and he can ping a decent diagonal ball. And he saves everything. Posting a 9-0-2 international record with 8 shutouts and just 3 goals conceded with more penalty saves than penalties allowed is utterly insane. The only reason you don’t start Turner is because of squad rotation and Turner played all three games in the last international break and probably can do the same this time around.

But the USMNT needs to be doing more of these things from the get go and we need to see more of those types of sequences and plays from the opening whistle.

THE UNITED STATES NEEDS TO FIGURE OUT THE FIRST HALF

Gregg Berhalter I don’t think got things wrong in the first half yesterday, but often times he has and while it’s nice to have a ton of weapons off the bench to use, it’s also nice to have a lead going into halftime. And the USMNT didn’t deserve a lead yesterday unless we’re talking about having more players than Jamaica at halftime (more on that in a bit).

This is bad. And the USMNT does this all the time and it needs to stop. It’s great to dominate the second half, but I’d like to see the US not need 45 minutes to an hour to find the game and have said dominance reflected on the scoreboard.

THE PEPI HYPE TRAIN IS REAL

Another player who should start as often as possible for the USA right now is Ricardo Pepi. He’s in brilliant form for both club and country and is right now exactly the kind of striker this team needs.

No, Pepi is not going to be the high volume touches, back-to-goal, hold up forward and that’s fine. He’s a poacher and there’s plenty of guys in the US midfield that want the ball and Pepi’s off the ball channel runs (combined with other players like Paul Arriola knowing how to open up space) and timely finishing are more than enough to keep him on the field.

I love diving into numbers and analytics and stats and completely understand why Pepi would under-perform here. But he’s not under-performing on the scoresheet and that’s what really counts. The US has plenty of hard working players to eat up touches all over the field, they can live with Pepi poaching goals up top as he learns more and more every game he starts for Dallas and the USA. If the US needs a more traditional target man that’s why Daryl Dike and Jordan Pefok are in the player pool when available and Gyasi Zardes or maybe Matt Hoppe can be that more traditional high touch, find the ball guy when Berhalter needs it.

LACK OF VAR IS A BIGGER ISSUE THAN A POTENTIAL RED CARD (OR TWO)

I don’t know what we expect in CONCACAF anymore, but yesterday Kemar Lawrence nearly got himself sent of for a DGSO twenty seconds in and I think rightly got a yellow card. That is absolutely the worst position to be in for a referee right after the opening whistle. Damien Lowe a half hour later upended Brendan Aaronson right at the edge of the box and I think had the far better case for a DGSO red card than Lawrence. The worst of them all was Yunis Musah losing his mind on Jamaica’s endline and made a scissor tackle trying to get around a defender shielding the ball for no reason:

Yesterday USA-Jamaica had a referee in Reon Radix of Grenada making his WCQ debut. I thought he was fine. This is CONCACAF, far worse fouls go unpunished as red cards than these two potential DGSO fouls. Paul Arriola was too far from goal for me when Lawrence fouled him to be sure he had a clear run at goal and it would feel harsh to send off Lowe on a DGSO on a ball he might’ve gotten to first. But once the foul is rightly called (you can’t slide in from the back like that regardless of if you get the ball first) I do think Lowe has to go but I’m not overly upset that he didn’t. He made a legitimate attempt at the ball, nearly won it, and I think the yellow on the grand scale is enough even if it goes against what I think the laws expect.

The bigger issue, rightly called out by Taylor Twellman on the broadcast, is that CONCACAF isn’t using VAR for qualifying. You are five years away from HOSTING THE WORLD CUP and you can’t even get video review for the final round of qualifying. This is a problem and a tremendous oversight by the region who is now going to have to cram in a lot of VAR training into just the next cycle to get its referee pool outside of the USA/CAN/MEX contingent that uses replay regularly up to scratch.

Also this is interfering with a GK restart and a yellow card for encroachment. I’m sorry, but you have to back up Chucky Lozano, why are you there in the first place? I will die on this hill, if that play was legal we’d see it all the time we don’t cause it’s not. Anthony, who’s the best, and I agreed to disagree.

TAJON BUCHANAN AND CANADA ARE A PROBLEM

I mean, again, we know this, we watch Tajon every week. But Canada is becoming a legitimate threat in the region and absolutely bossed Mexico in their own building. I thought to myself yesterday that it has to be a very short list of teams that have taken points from both the USA and Mexico in the final round Hex/Octagonal in World Cup qualifying and ye verily it came to pass that Paul Carr blows your mind:

Absolutely insane that the first team to do this is Canada but not surprising at all that it’s THIS Canada team that is filled with young talent and getting better every international break. Compared to where the Canada MNT was a couple of cycles ago when they barely played and never won to what this team is doing right now is absolutely incredible. They might have played a low block against the USA last month but had more than enough confidence to go out IN AZTECA and try to play with Mexico from the start and rightly deserved both results. And on a different night with better finishing, they probably win.

CANADA IS THE THIRD BEST TEAM IN CONCACAF

I will keep saying this to reinforce the point. The standings don’t lie. The eye test doesn’t lie. Canada has answered the question and yes, they are good at soccer.

Everyone in the top three is unbeaten, Mexico currently on back-to-back draws getting only a point in Panama and being held at home by Canada. The US outlook has changed a lot since three halves ago, thank you Pepi, and Canada I think will soon separate themselves from the pack here a bit. Are they going to have a few more growing pains than the US and Mexico during this qualifying run, yes of course, it’s been a long while since they’ve been here but it’s a much deserved spot they find themselves in.

Shoutout to El Salvador and Panama keeping pace with Los Cuzcatlecos beating Los Canaleros 1-0 at home yesterday. The old stalwarts of The Hex in Costa Rica and Honduras have fallen off dramatically but Panama consistently as ever is still hanging around. We’ll see how long that lasts as the USA heads there Sunday followed by a home game against Costa Rica in Columbus on Wednesday. Canada heads down to Jamaica before playing Panama in Toronto to end the international break.