Saturday, January 22, 2022

USMNT stock watch: Weston McKennie finds consistency in Juventus role; Yunus Musah struggles vs. Real Madrid


It’s a big year for the United States men’s national team with Gregg Berhalter’s side expected to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. We’ve reached a point where it is no longer cool to just have guys at Hannover and Fulham, with many of the world’s best teams now featuring American players. 

But with the second half of the season in Europe underway, who is helping or hurting themselves after last weekend’s action? Here’s a look at three noticeable USMNT performances, both good and bad.

Yunus Musah, Valencia 

  • 66 minutes played in 4-1 loss vs. Real Madrid
  • 23 touches
  • Zero chances created
  • 82.4 percent pass completion 
  • Zero shots
  • Three recoveries 

Analysis: Due to injuries, Musah got into the starting XI in a massive spot against Real Madrid. Sadly, it was disappointing from him and his team. He was vibrant for the first minute, he had one solid pass going forward in the first half, and that was about it. He had some costly mistakes, he did not look comfortable, and he was all over the field position wise. He only had one good moment where he got by defenders to start an attack. Other than that, he was just wandering around helpless on a team that just did not have the right game plan. It isn’t all his fault, surely, but his movement into space to try and get things going was poor.

Performance grade:

Weston McKennie, Juventus

  • 90 minutes in 4-3 win over Roma
  • 48 touches
  • 82.8 percent pass completion
  • 1 chance created
  • Two shots
  • Three interceptions
  • Three recoveries 

Analysis: The U.S. midfielder went the full 90 in what may just be the game of the season in Serie A. That’s two straight matches where he has gone 90, and he’s been quality in both. His passing has been sharp, but more so outside of the final third, and he’s shown an uptick in aggression. He has five shots in the last two games after just one in the previous six, which is especially important with Federcio Chiesa now out for the year. McKennie is far from a focal point of the team’s attack, but he’s been a stable player for them with a growing role, especially due to injuries.

Performance grade: B

Ricardo Pepi, Augsburg 

  • 30 minutes played in 2-1 loss to Augsburg
  • Nine touches
  • Four pass attempts
  • 100 percent pass completion
  • Zero chances created
  • One shot
  • 0.10 xG

Analysis: We took a deep dive into Pepi’s debut over the weekend, and we should not jump to any conclusions after just a half an hour played. But in his limited time, he looked comfortable and fit. He’s due to start before long, and here’s hoping he does because chances are limited with a half a season and no domestic cup participation. He didn’t get the ball much at all, but he put himself instinctively into dangerous spots. 

Performance grade: C

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