In this Slovenia Nations Cup matchup, the United States squad ran a 4-3-3 and dominated Malta. Led by a brace from Atletico Madrid’s Rodrigo Neri and a goal from Seattle’s Reed Baker-Whiting, this United States team never looked like it would let Malta into the game, winning 5-0. Malta could not deal with the high press and constantly lost possession, allowing the United States to hold onto the ball most of the game and attack the middle of the pitch. The urgency needed from Malta was only there in moments, and the United States’ quality got the best of them. Malta would hold on in the first half, allowing only 1 of the 5 goals, before letting the chances created by the United States pile up in the second.
- A1 – Very good, could play higher
- A2 – Strong potential to play higher
- B1 – Good, strong player at level
- B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
- C – Average for the level, rewatch
- D – Below average in this match
- Nationality: United States
- Age: 18
- Date of birth: 26/04/2004
- Club: Stade Reims
- Career: Orlando City (Y), Inter Miami (Y), Orange County
- Position: Centre Back
- Preferred foot: Right
Kobi Henry captained this United States U19 team and played right centre back before being subbed off at half time. He is listed at 187 cm and despite having a slim build he has hidden strength and is not afraid to get physical. A couple times he pressed very high up the pitch for a centre back and used this physicality to one time knock a ball free to set up an attack but fouled his opponent on the other attempt. This suggests he may need to keep his aggression in check. Despite that, Henry showed great leadership qualities as captain during the first half by communicating with teammates to get into position and keeping their heads up after mistakes.
As a tall centre back, Henry has naturally long strides that convert into impressive pace. This helped him in recovery on transition or when he needed to rotate and cover a teammate. Due to the dominance in this matchup, Henry did not have as many defensive duties, especially playing only one half. But he did flash why he deserved the captain’s armband and a big move to Stade Reims in France. The captain always kept good positioning defensively with open hips and kept his marker in front of him with proper space. Henry also made a timely clearance at the top of the box. He showed jumping ability that made him dominant aerially, too. His headers were on point in this game.
With the ball at his feet, Henry looked very comfortable and patient even on the few occasions when he did face pressure. He was accurate on all of his short and intermediate passes, although the ball would be behind his target sometimes. This was important because he was the key player beginning the build-up or who the ball would go back to when the attack reset. A few times, he got creative and played balls to advance the attack. Only a couple were completed and the longer, more difficult to complete passes did not hit for him in this game. I liked seeing the initiative, though, and that could be a promising aspect of his game.
Rating – A1
Henry was more than solid at the back, a great distributor, and a leader in this game. He showed why USMNT fans should have hope for the future of the nation’s centre back position. Paired with Joshua Wynder, the duo is already way ahead for their ages and is showing that the USL is a viable place for players to develop. Although he did not have to play much rigorous defence in this match, I predict Henry will shine with Stade Reims B this season and could break into the senior team.
- Nationality: United States
- Age: 17
- Date of birth: 31/03/2005
- Club: Seattle Sounders
- Career: Seattle Sounders (Y), Tacoma Defiance
- Position: Right Back
- Secondary Position: Left Back, Centre Midfield
- Preferred foot: Right
Reed Baker-Whiting caught my eye at the right back position in this game and in the second half he switched sides to left back. He scored the opening goal of the game, an easy finish in front of the goal, and passed to the assist during one of the four second half goals. Baker-Whiting played the whole 90 minutes and really left his mark on this game. Standing at 180 cm (he looks taller to me), he has a stocky, broad build and is a physical and invites contact. He has decent pace for the fullback position and made use of it.
Baker-Whiting translated that pace into great recoveries on defence. He took good angles and closed down well on the break and was able to settle the opposition himself or win the ball back. Baker-Whiting’s overall positioning could use some improvement, but it is not an issue and he defended well. He utilized his physicality in duels putting in several tackle attempts, both standing and sliding, for an okay win rate. The fullback also used his physicality to overwhelm smaller wingers and force them into bad decisions. In the air, he was not the strongest and I would like to see him improve.
On offence, he was a natural playmaker and calm with the ball at his feet on the right side. He trusts his right foot way more and is visibly hesitant and mistrusting of his left. So, with his right, he looked for the most dangerous pass often. Baker-Whiting also looked for give-and-go’s several times and was constantly moving in space or making inverted runs to help teammates. He was very active in trying to get the offence moving, especially in the first half. This activity and his playmaking do overshadow the clumsiness he has on the ball at times. At one point Baker-Whiting slipped and fell while dribbling and his first touch is not always the most attractive. Baker-Whiting’s crosses were not accurate in this game, but he did hit some beautiful over the shoulder through balls.
Rating – A2
The Seattle Sounders academy product had a great first half and average second. Baker-Whiting looked at home in the right back position and out of place on the left. He is listed as a centre midfielder by his club, and I can see the traits to be a box-to-box midfielder in this match. Seeing as he performed quite well out of position, I think Baker-Whiting has a bright future ahead of him. He has played two MLS matches this season, and judging by this performance, the versatile midfielder will be playing in way more very soon.