Coming off a depressing loss to Jamaica on Wednesday night in Washington, Gregg Berhalter and the United States men's national team needed a strong performance Sunday against Venezuela in Cincinnati to reclaim some confidence ahead of the Gold Cup.
They did not get it.
Thanks to a series of defensive errors in the first half and an attack that failed to break through Venezuela's deep-lying defense, the Americans fell 3-0 in front of 23,955 at Nippert Stadium.
The international debut of Tyler Boyd and the return of Jozy Altidore stand out as the lone positives on an otherwise disastrous day for the Americans on the eve of the Gold Cup. Boyd's first appearance for the U.S. showed small signs of promise, while Altidore made a significant difference with his hold-up play and passing in the second half.
Too many to count. The U.S. was toothless and sluggish against Jamaica and did not improve in either category against Venezuela. Simple errors at the back and an inability to press effectively as a team handed the South Americans easy opportunities to score. Whatever improvement there was at the back in the second half was undercut by the visitors' willingness to sit back and an American attack that rarely created meaningful threats.
Manager rating out of 10
3 -- The USMNT was missing Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic, and Michael Bradley -- the first is not yet with the team, the other two were held out -- but those absences don't excuse a loss like this just nine days before the start of the Gold Cup. Energy and effort were in short supply, something that falls squarely on Berhalter's shoulders. The system installed by the USMNT boss seems fragile and overly dependent on the influence of a few players.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Zack Steffen, 2 -- Horrific giveaway -- a second egregious error in two games -- gifted Venezuela the opening goal and took the air out of the United States early in the game. Oddly adventurous, a trait that bodes ill for the tourney.
DF Nick Lima, 5 -- Mixed bag in attack as he provided a handful of good crosses that went unfinished. Recovered well enough to provide adequate defending when Venezuela countered.
DF Aaron Long, 3 -- Poor in individual moments when defending and was beaten soundly on Venezuela's third goal by Salomon Rondon. Struggled with aerial duels. Missed just a single pass, an indicator he was passing the ball very conservatively.
DF Matt Miazga, 4 -- Improved in the second half, but played a disastrous first 45. Beaten on a header that led to Venezuela's second goal and kept Rondon onside on the third.
DF Tim Ream, 5 -- Mostly competent, but struggled when facing quicker players. Played conservatively, rarely getting forward.
MF Wil Trapp, 3 -- Rarely passed upfield, choosing to play negatively for most of the match. Complicit when failing to press the ball on Venezuela's second goal and gave the ball away easily on more than one occasion.
MF Tyler Boyd, 4 -- Some good and some bad in an international debut. Provided good set-piece service but was ineffectual with crosses and combinations when on the attack.
MF Weston McKennie, 4 -- Saw the best chance of the first half saved, but had a limited impact on the game overall. Played only 22 passes in 90 minutes and lacked his usual energy on both sides of the ball.
MF Cristian Roldan, 5 -- Worked to carve out opportunities to get the ball forward on the right side, working well with Lima and Boyd. Unable to create real chances with passing in the final third.
MF Paul Arriola, 4 -- Made runs in behind to try to open up Venezuela when the U.S. labored with the ball in midfield. Energetic and good defensively but not sharp enough with the ball.
FW Gyasi Zardes, 4 -- Limited by a lack of service, he provided help defensively tracking back, but was ineffective as part of a disjointed (and haphazard) press. His hold-up play left a lot to be desired.
FW Jozy Altidore, 6 -- Improved the U.S. dramatically dropping in and playing runners into the final third. Missed on a touch in the 66th minute that might have led to a chance. No shots.
DF Walker Zimmerman, 4 -- Picked up a yellow card immediately upon entering in the second half but made no obvious mistakes in his 45 minutes on the pitch.
MF Duane Holmes, N/R -- Showed an ability to press space and move the Americans forward without making a dramatic difference in attack. Gave the ball away late in the match.
MF Jordan Morris, N/R -- Managed one well-struck shot (wide) cutting in from the right. Got in behind and stretched the defense.
DF Daniel Lovitz, N/R -- No significant moments in 12 minutes for the Montreal defender.