The month of June looms big for the United States national team. And for the Americans, that big June ironically starts in May with a friendly against Switzerland.
This isn’t just an ordinary friendly, the May 30 match at the Swiss is huge for the United States national team and head coach Gregg Berhalter. It is a chance to push the group – at elevation – against one of the top teams in Europe (Switzerland is currently No. 13 in the FIFA/Coca Cola World Rankings, the United States is No. 20).
And that type of quality opponent is an important test for the Americans ahead of the Nations League semifinal against Honduras on June 3.
Three thoughts for the United States ahead of the Switzerland match:
Josh Sargent will solidify his spot – For the United States, striker has been an issue for the past three years under Berhalter but there appears to be some clarity emerging here. Gyasi Zardes was left off this recent roster, likely meaning that he has shifted down the pecking order a bit for the Yanks. This friendly and then the Nations League match against Honduras will be a key moment for Sargent, who is coming off a team high seven goals in all competitions for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga.
While there is competition from Daryl Dike, who had a tremendous loan at Barnsley, and Theoson-Jordan Siebatcheu, who just inked a new deal at Young Boys in the Swiss top flite, Sargent fits this system so well. He has a high work rate, makes good runs and does well positionally.
A goal in the month of June would go a long way towards taking the starting spot ahead of World Cup Qualifying. Scrapping for goals at Bremen prepares him well for life with the United States national team where opportunities can be few and far between in qualifying.
The replacement for Long isn’t here – The loss of Aaron Long was perhaps bigger for the United States than for the New York Red Bulls. No, seriously.
A 28-year old centerback, Long was athletically superior among his peers in the national team pool. He covered ground well, won his aerial duels, did well individually when isolated against international attackers and …. Did we say he covered ground well?
Partnered with John Brooks, this ability of Long to make recovery runs and put out fires was big. Brooks is a tremendous man marker and powerful, but he struggled at times with balls behind him and played into space. Long covered this well with his speed, athleticism and ability to read the game.
No one currently on the roster is like Long in this regard. The best bets to replace Long this fall ahead of World Cup qualifying are Chris Richards (injury) and Miles Robinson (not released by Atlanta United). Both can cover ground and athletically are good foils to Brooks in the center of the defense.
Hoping for Hoppe – After starting like gangbusters in the Bundesliga, Matthew Hoppe’s first season in the German top flite turned a bit rocky. His form dipped and his club was relegated. But after the hype about his professional debut, now is a chance to see if Hoppe can contribute to the national team.
He has a high work rate, not a shock given how Schalke plays, and he gets himself in very good positions. If he can finish, there is the potential for him to either become the lone striker and slide Sargent to a wide position (which he has played with some effect at Bremen) or become an important rotation player for Berhalter. This isn’t a make or break camp for Hoppe by any stretch, but it will be an important measuring stick for his future with the set-up.