A friendly match against Morocco on Wednesday provided manager Gregg Berhalter with the perfect opportunity to experiment a little with roles and personnel, with the World Cup just over six months away.
As per insiders, While Hakim Ziyech was absent, nine of the 11 players on the field at TQL Stadium had previously played in Morocco’s final World Cup qualifier, and one of the relative newbies was Azzedine Ounahi, who scored two goals in the 4-1 second-leg victory over DR Congo that clinched the ticket to Qatar.
There were times when Berhalter felt that the team “went out and showed exactly how good we can be, but also vulnerable.” A player’s versatility may not be as important as it once was, but it still has value in light of the additional tactical wrinkles Berhalter can throw at opponents if FIFA decides to expand the World Cup rosters to 26 players. Aaronson’s ability to play both in the middle and on the wing shows that.
It was Berhalter’s goal to use Pulisic and Aaronson in those positions “to really hurt the opponent and then still have three guys high on the backline that could be running behind them and keeping their [back] five pinned back,” he said.
Joe Scally (at left-back on this night) made his international debut, as did forward Haji Wright and 20-year-old midfielder Malik Tillman, who had never been to the United States before this camp and had switched to the United States from Germany for their debuts.
He was instrumental in the first goal, collecting Zimmerman’s pass, eluding two Moroccan defenders in the process, and laying the ball off to Aaronson, who finished into an open net despite the keeper’s commitment to him. He gave it to me after I begged for it, and it’s an amazing feeling,” Wright said after he scored his first goal in his first game.
That’s why I think Aaron [Long] will benefit from this experience because he was an excellent opponent, an excellent forward, and a man who has scored many goals this season.