On Sunday night in Guadalajara, Mexico the United States U-23 Men’s National Team defeated the Dominican Republic 4-0. With the win, the U.S. moves to 2-0-0 in the Concacaf Olympic Qualifiers and has a +5 goal differential. This was one of those matches where the scoreline doesn’t reflect how the match played out.
The first half of the action didn’t go according to plan for the United States. While the team did dominate possession and had a 93% passing percentage the bulk of their work was 5-to-10 yard passes. The U.S. struggled to breakdown the Dominican Republic in the first half.
“It’s a difficult match in a lot of ways,” said U.S. U-23 Head Coach Jason Kreis on the match. “Very difficult to break down a team that sits so deep.”
Part of the problem for the United States in the first half was the fact that the Dominican Republic started the match with five backs who sat deep in the formation. This was a different look for the United States to encounter and to make matters worse there was a hesitancy to push forward with players opting to be cautious rather than trying to break down the defense. Both of these issues collided and caused the team to make some changes during half-time in an effort to break the stalemate.
Tale Of Two Halves
Following a scoreless first half, the United States brought on Sebastian Soto to take the place of Jesus Ferrera. To start the second half the U.S. was a tad better in catching the Dominican Republic defense off-balance but still lacked the finishing touch. In the 60th minute, Jackson Yueill scored a goal by redirecting a pass from Sebastian Saucedo. The play started with Julian Araujo sending in a cross to Johnny whose shot went off the cross-bar. Johnny was able to get a touch on the rebound to keep the U.S. on the ball which resulted in the goal by Yueill.
In the 62nd minute, the United States brought on Hassani Dotson for Johnny and Djordje Mihailovic for Saucedo. In the 73rd minute, the subs sent in by Jason Kreis stepped up. Mihailovic set up Dotson in the center of the box for a goal. Then again in the 78th minute, Sam Vines hit Soto in a dangerous area, Soto laid-off to Mihailovic who found a streaking Dotson who took care of business. In the 90th minute, Mihailovic scored a goal of his own. This time he was set up by Orlando City SC forward Benji Michel on a low cross.
Takeaways And Road Ahead
Going into this match the expectation was that the United States would win the match and do it comfortably. In the end that is exactly what the United States was able to do. Credit this Dominican Republic team. They got numbers behind the ball for the first 60 minutes and were able to hold their own and counter at times. This match played out similarly to the win that Mexico had over the Dominican Republic on Thursday. That match ended in a 4-1 Mexico win and it was goals that were scored in the later stages of the match that opened up the scoreline.
As expected there was plenty of squad rotation for this match for Jason Kreis with six changes to the starting XI from the 1-0 win over Costa Rica. One of those changes was at center-back with New England Revolution defender Henry Kessler getting the start. Kessler, 22-years-old, typically plays left-center-back in MLS, was at right-center-back for this match but given that he is a right-footed player it wasn’t a big ask of the University of Virginia product.
According to Concacaf, Kessler completed 71 of 73 passes, had one shot attempted, one foul, and recorded one steal. As a whole, the United States is still figuring out its preferred lineup but it does appear that Justen Glad has a lock as one of the starting center backs. That will likely leave Kessler and Mauricio Pineda as the two vying for the other spot.
“What is and what is not our best group is to be determined,” said Jason Kreis when talking about rotation. “These are decisions that the coaching staff will make. Because we will want to beat Mexico, we will want to win this group.”
The U.S. will now rest and prepare for the final group stage match which will take place on Wednesday when they take on Mexico. That match will kick-off at 9:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcasted on FS1.
Concacaf action will return on Monday though with Hati taking on Canada at 6:00 p.m. and El Salvador taking on Honduras at 8:30 p.m. ET. Both matches will be broadcasted on FS1.