The United States men’s national team will look to get closer to finding a solution for its striker woes when it begins its defense of the CONCACAF Nations League title against Grenada in Austin, Texas, on Friday.
Without Ricardo Pepi, Jordan Pefok or Gyasi Zardes on the roster Jesus Ferreira and Haji Wright are getting looks to see how they can make an impact ahead of the 2022 World Cup that starts in just over five months’ time.
The issue will be near the top of the priority list for Friday’s game and Tuesday’s at El Salvador — the final two US games before the September international window.
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While Ferreria is off to a hot start in Major League Soccer (nine goals in 14 games), it hasn’t translated to the national team in the same way (one goal in his last nine appearances).
“As a forward, it’s important to score goals to keep your mindset right,” Ferreira said during a media availability Thursday. “For me, I think I have a good group of people around me that help me stay focused and know that the goals will come. I know that right now I’m going through a little struggle, but it’s something that if I stay focused and I keep working things are gonna bounce my way.”
If there’s a team a US striker should have success against, it’s Grenada, especially at home. The Caribbean nation with a population of just more than 100,000 people is ranked No 160 in the world and, from a talent standpoint, will be one of the most overmatched teams the US has played in Gregg Berhalter’s three-and-a-half-year tenure as head coach.
While that dynamic should offer chances for the US to finish, any goals won’t necessarily be valuable data considering the level of competition.
“This game is going to be about our mindset, our intensity, what we’re bringing to this game,” Berhalter said. “And that’s a really important thing. If you talk about evaluation, this is a really easy game” [to evaluate] because we’re evaluating our mentality, we’re evaluating our intensity, the ability to play in warm conditions, overcome that mentally and it’s about us. I think that’s the important thing.”
Berhalter downplayed the idea that Tim Weahwho has played as a striker for his club team, Lille, could be brought in from the wing and be given a look.
“For us, him playing as a high winger threatening the back line, he’s getting chances, he’s arriving the penalty box. He is getting chances like we think forwards do at times,” Berhalter said. “So he’s valuable to us at that position in the wing. We really like what type of form he’s in and what he’s bringing for us. We’ve considered him at striker; I think only in special circumstance situations when we need a certain quality “
After scoring 14 goals for Antalyaspor in Turkey this year, Wright earned his first two international caps against Morocco and Uruguay, coming off the bench in both. He scored a penalty is his debut against Morocco last week but managed just four touches in 29 minutes in Sunday’s 0-0 draw against Uruguay.
After winning the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League title last summer, the United States was drawn into Group D. Grenada and El Salvador, the other two teams in the group, played twice last week with El Salvador winning at home (3-1) and the drawing teams in Grenada (2-2).