Is this the Best Version of USMNT in History?

Are we better now than back then?
Brazil v United States - Continental Clasico 2024
Brazil v United States - Continental Clasico 2024 / Douglas Defelice/USSF/GettyImages

Exiting the round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup, many fans of the US men's national team felt a mix of disappointment and optimism. After all, the team, the tournament's youngest in terms of minutes played, showed potential and talent we've never seen before. Now, with the Copa America looming and an opening clash against Bolivia, the big question is: are we better now than back then?

First, let's talk numbers. And numbers don't lie, right? FIFA rankings and Elo ratings show a slight rise: from 13th to 11th in FIFA and from 23rd to 21st in Elo. Though just a couple of steps, it shows progress. It's like that half-full or half-empty glass scenario. We can see it as a sign that we're on the right track, or we can be more cynical and think that the improvement is minimal for a team aiming for greatness.

Follow MLS Multiplex on X (Twitter).

During the 2022 World Cup cycle, we averaged 2.1 goals per 90 minutes; now it's up to 2.25. We're creating more chances and taking more shots on goal. The number of goals conceded has also increased, which raises a red flag for our defense. If you watched the friendlies against Colombia (a humiliating 5-1 defeat) and Brazil (a respectable 1-1 draw), you know these games provide arguments for both optimists and pessimists.

Goalkeeper Matt Turner highlighted that the team had brilliant moments and others where we clearly need to improve. Tyler Adams' injury is a major concern. Without him in midfield, we lose a vital engine. And speaking of injuries, Sergiño Dest's absence also leaves us without an important offensive piece, despite him being a defender.

The attack, always a weak spot, now seems to have more options. Folarin Balogun, whose promise has yet to translate into major achievements. Josh Sargent, with his versatility, remains a question mark due to a recent injury. Ricardo Pepi has proven effective coming off the bench but wants more minutes on the field. The diversity of options is promising but still lacks consistency.

The key to success will be creativity, where Gio Reyna can shine. After turbulence with coach Gregg Berhalter, it seems the waters have calmed, and Reyna is ready to take on a crucial role. His ability to create chances and finish will be crucial.

We can't ignore the experience gained at the World Cup. This baggage could be the difference for a young team full of potential. Defender Chris Richards emphasized the importance of playing as a team, something lacking against Colombia but corrected against Brazil.

So, are we better now? Looking at the numbers, the answer is a cautious "yes." But soccer, as we know, is much more than statistics. The true measure will be our performance in the Copa America. The pressure is high, but the promise of a bright future is tangible. The question remains whether this team will turn potential into reality and perhaps become the best version in USMNT history. Will we exceed expectations or fall short?