Pulisic's fan frustration overshadows USMNT's near-perfect performance against Morocco

Christian Pulisic United States fans GFX
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The Americans romped to an impressive 3-0 victory over Morocco but their captain was "not happy" with the lack of support in Ohio

It's unfortunate that the lasting memory of Wednesday's U.S. men's national team friendly will likely be Christian Pulisic's post-game comments.

Moments after a 3-0 win over Morocco, Pulisic reflected on the USMNT's fan support, or lack thereof. He said he was "not happy" with the number of American fans in attendance in what was the fourth game in Ohio in the last year.

Pulisic has a legitimate gripe, but not with the fans that were or weren't in attendance.

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The USMNT, in particular, still has a connection problem, one brought on by a number of factors including the 2018 World Cup cycle, questionable venue choices and, perhaps most importantly, ticket prices.

His beef, then, is not with the fans, but rather with U.S. Soccer.

But that's a discussion for another day, even if Pulisic's quote brought it to the forefront, because, up until the winger spoke out, the focus was very much on a near-perfect performance from a USMNT group that is building nicely towards Qatar.

Pulisic may be frustrated with the fans, but there wasn't anything on the field to be pessimistic about. This was the USMNT, and Pulisic, close to their very best.

The stars were spectacular, several fringe players stepped up and a number of newcomers impressed in their first international appearances.

Pulisic, as he usually is, was decisive as USMNT returned for their first match post-World Cup qualifiers. He was direct, he was effective and he was crisp in what was a pretty clear Man of the Match performance.

This was the Pulisic that the USMNT need in Qatar: the one that makes himself standout while making all of those around him better.

If not for his post-game interview, the abiding mage of Wednesday would have been the sublime touch from Pulisic that set up Brenden Aaronson for the game's first goal.

It was a picture-perfect sequence from the Chelsea star that offered a glimpse into what the U.S. could look like by turning up the directness from time to time.

For most of World Cup qualifying, the U.S. attack was defined by possession. They were patient in breaking teams down, looking to play the right ball to open up a defense.

Against a Qatar-bound Morocco, the hosts' opener came from Walker Zimmerman's ball over the top. It might not have been pretty possession football but it sure was effective.

It was one of several sequences that showed that the U.S. may benefit by doing things a bit differently than they have against their usual CONCACAF foes.

With Jesus Ferreira playing as more of a false 9 rather than a traditional advanced forward, Pulisic and Timothy Weah were free to go vertical and to stretch defenses.

They did just that all through the first half, pinning Morocco back with their pace, with Pulisic setting up one and Weah scoring one of his own, even if it may go down as half-howler, half-thunderstrike.

Defensively, the U.S. pressed higher and harder. It wasn't a flawless display but keeping a zero on the board against a fellow World Cup qualifier is never a result worth nitpicking.

But the best part? Wednesday's match was one that offered a bit of hope that the U.S., like France in 2018, could survive without a true goalscoring No. 9.

Could a front three of Weah, Pulisic and Gio Reyna possibly work out, with all three interchanging to keep a defense on its heels? Maybe.

Could Brenden Aaronson, playing as a central midfielder on this night, be counted on to join that attack and provide the goals needed to win games? It sure seems so. The position may still be a concern, but Wednesday showed that there are plenty that can pick up the slack.

As we head into the home stretch, there's a very real chance that the solution to the USMNT's striker problem may just be to 'just put the best players on the field and let them figure it out'. When you have this much depth in attack, it may be the right way to go.

There are still some twists and turns to be taken at that No.9 spot, though, with newcomer Haji Wright showing well in his first USMNT cap as the race's latest entrant.

A former star on the youth level, Wright is finally with the national team at age 24 after a strong end to his season with Antalyaspor in Turkey. He entered the summer as the USMNT's most in-form goalscorer, and he showed why on Wednesday.

Wright was creative with his movement and good at holding the ball during his 45-minute appearance. It was the type of performance that definitely earned him at least another look over the next few weeks.

His crowning moment? A goal from the penalty spot after a foul on Pulisic.

Seemingly set to take the penalty himself, Pulisic instead handed the ball to Wright, a former roommate at the youth level.

It was the type of move made by a true captain, with Pulisic helping a longtime friend cap his international debut with a goal he'll never forget.

“We go way back," Pulisic told ESPN. “He needed that goal, and he said he was confident to go step up and take it, so I wanted him to get that confidence, and I'm glad he scored."

It was a feel-good moment from what will be a feel-good performance for the USMNT.

They blitzed a good Morocco team by every metric, taking a positive step forward after what felt like an eternity of beating their heads against the wall against CONCACAF opposition.

And they did so by adding a few wrinkles, trying a few new players and learning a bit more about some of the more experienced ones.

There's another big friendly coming on Sunday, with the U.S. set to face Uruguay in Kansas City.

And that friendly will be another vital litmus test for this young team and another chance to learn about this young USMNT group, regardless of how many American fans are in the stands.

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