On Sunday in Belfast, the United State’s Men’s National Team defeated Northern Ireland 2-1 in an international friendly. The United States is now unbeaten in their last nine matches and went 2-0-0 in this March training camp. This was their first away win since October 7, 2016, and their first away win in Europe since June 10, 2015.
USMNT got things going in the 30th minute with Tim Ream setting up Gio Reyna whose shot careened off a Northern Ireland defender and into the back of the net. In the 59th minute, Christian Pulisic was dragged down in the penalty box and earned a penalty kick. The captain took the PK himself and buried it to make it 2-0. In the 88th minute, Northern Ireland pulled one back with Kyle Lafferty setting up Niall McGinn for a goal to make it 2-1.
Gregg Berhalter‘s team deployed in a 3-4-2-1 with three center backs on the backline. This was a new look from the United States and one that suited a number of players who have used it at the club level. This was a formation the team only trained in for eight minutes during training leading into the match.
“When you see the game you can see that there were good parts but we still have a lot of work to go in the spacing to really hurt the opponent,” said USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter on the formation. “We got in some really good positions but weren’t able to hurt the opponent enough I thought.”
Overall the performance of players like Reyna and Pulisic were noteworthy as well as solid shifts from Yunus Musah and Aaron Long. The limited doses of Daryl Dike and Brenden Aaronson also provided positive takeaways. USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen made two saves on the match and stepped up in key moments.
Certainly some pitfalls as well with some touch and go moments creating for a nervy affair. At the end of the day, however, winning this match and doing it against a European team in their own house is a big feat for the U.S.. This is one step forward in the federation’s overall goal to change the narrative when it comes to U.S. Soccer. From the player side having players like Reyna and Pulisic find the back of the net could be positives for them when they return to their clubs.
“It is definitely going to help build some confidence,” said USMNT Captain Christian Pulisic on building from this match. “I am feeling good, the guys are feeling good as a team here and for me personally as well going back to club level. I am excited. I am feeling confident. I have said I feel the best that I have felt in my game so I am excited for what’s to come.”
The U.S. will be back in action on May 30th when they face Switzerland in an international friendly. Following that match, the United States will face Honduras on June 3rd in the Concacaf Nations League Semi-final.