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Gold Cup

A “Can You Win With That Guy” Assessment of the USMNT After the Gold Cup

Peter Nolan July 10, 2019

So USMNT fans and followers, did we see enough progress from Gregg Berhalter’s Gold Cup runners up? Or did the team’s 1-0 loss to Mexico confirm your worst fears and leave you wallowing in despair?

Let’s take a look back at the team and evaluate what we saw using my father’s patented “You’re not going to win anything with that guy” system.

Goalkeepers

Zack Steffen had a good tournament. Now he goes on loan from Manchester City to Fortuna Dusseldorfoff on the back of a fine Gold Cup. He earned three clean sheets and allowed just two goals over five games in his first full international tournament. So Steffen gets a YES from me in the “Can you win with that guy” rankings.

Can you win with Steffen? YES.

Sean Johnson shutout Trinidad and Tobago in his one outing, likely earning a measure of trust from the coach while Tyler Miller did not play.

Can you win with Jonhson and Miller? Incomplete

Defense

Let’s take the fullbacks next. I’ll start with some potential controversy.

Tim Ream is not a fullback to me. Despite some praise from other quarters for Ream’s efforts versus Mexico and throughout the Gold Cup, I rate Ream the fullback firmly in the “You are not going to win anything with that guy” side of the bracket.

Why?  After a good first half, the final turned when Mexico coach Tata Martino made a simple switch of wingers, suddenly pitting Ream against Rodolfo Pizarro, a speedy and savvy vet, after Ream had enjoyed a good first half versus young Uriel Antuna, also quick but lacking in experience.

Ream was unable to deal with Pizarro, who turned him like a top to set up the lone goal of the match. Ream’s troubles forced winger Paul Arriola to drop back and help Ream with Pizarro, meaning that Arriola, so good a partner for Christian Pulisic in the first half, was no longer able to provide Pulisic with that attacking outlet, contributing mightily to the failure of the U.S. attack in the second half. So Ream is a NO.

Can you win with Ream? NO.

Reggie Cannon was perhaps the revelation of the tournament for the U.S. and his performance on both sides of the ball vindicated Berhalter’s decision to choose Cannon over Nick Lima versus Mexico. I still rate Newcastle United’s DeAndre Yedlin as the first choice USMNT right fullback but was mightily impressed with Cannon.

Can you win with Cannon? YES.

I gave Lima and Daniel Lovitz grades of NO in the rating system prior to the Gold Cup and I will stand firm on that here, although Lima was solid throughout the tournament and could serve as a useful back up going forward.

At center back Omar Gonzalez is another that earned a pre-tourney NO and he did nothing to reverse that grade over the past three weeks. It is time for Berhalter to turn the page.

Can you win with Gonzalez? NO.

Matt Miazga was not quite as sharp as Gold Cup Best 11 man Aaron Long – a solid YES- but Miaga did enough to stay in my YES column, although he will have a battle on his hands to retain a starting spot if John Brooks ever gets, and stays healthy.

Can you win with Miazga and Long? YES.

Walker Zimmerman did himself no harm in this event. Can you win with Zimmerman? YES.

Midfielders

In the middle of the park, I called Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic automatics in the YES column back in June and that remains the case after both turned in fine Gold Cup performances, even allowing that McKennie did not have a great game in the final.

Can you win with McKennie and Pulisic? EMPHATIC YES.

Michael Bradley earned a spot on the official Gold Cup Best 11, along with teammates Long and Pulisic. I wouldn’t have gone that far, but Bradley showed that he is not done yet, although his lack of speed is a problem.

Can you win with Bradley? YES (for now).

What Bradley’s continued selection shows is that Berhalter has apparently lost faith in Wil Trapp, a player I rated as a NO pre-Cup, a rating I still believe is appropriate.

Can you win with Trapp? NO.

Christian Roldan did not see enough time to change my mind about his international prospects. Coming in I felt Roldan had yet to prove himself at this level, going out I still feel that way, though he may get there yet.

Can you win with Roldan? INCOMPLETE.

This Gold Cup came too soon for both midfielder Djordie Mihalovic and winger Jonathan Lewis, and their places on the roster should have gone to players better able to help the cause in 2019.

Can you win with Mihalovic and Lewis? NO.

Tyler Boyd and Jordan Morris shared the right-wing position, with Boyd starting off hot before finding himself bypassed against Mexico, even while the U.S. was screaming out for some attacking impetus.

Morris had an up, and–but mostly down tournament. Maybe somehow makes his way back into his natural striker position.

Can you win with Morris? NO.

Can you win with Boyd? INCOMPLETE.

Striker

Which brings us to the striker position. Even with his hard to unsee miss in the first half against Mexico, Jozy Altidore should be the go-to guy for the USMNT. His hold up play and his passing ability, and even the way he got open on his missed opportunity, were all badly needed by the U.S.

He’s a massive upgrade over Gyasi Zardes and should get first team action until Josh Sargent ripens.

Can you win with Altidore? YES.

Can you win with Zardes? NO.

Coach

And what about Berhalter? An injury that prevented Tyler Adams from playing in the Cup landed Reggie Cannon a roster spot and we saw the FC Dallas 21-year-old grab his chance with both hands. Berhalter gets points for trusting Cannon against Mexico, for realizing that Bradley is still better than Trapp, and for guiding his team to the final in his first official competition as the national team coach.

But demerits must be handed out for his decision to play Ream at full back, his continued fascination with Omar Gonzalez, why Gonzalez over Miazga when seeing out a skin of their teeth win over Curacao, another demerit there.

And if the final versus Mexico was a game of two halves, then Berhalter, as much as his players, was played off the pitch in the second half after a good opening stanza for both.

Martino’s simple switch of wingers turned the game on its head and Berhalter never reacted. A quick change to Lovitz, or maybe Lima, who plays left back for San Jose, for Ream, might have slowed the Mexico attack, or why not bring Cannon over to continue mark Pizarro, as he had so successfully in the first 45 minutes.

Then there were Berhalter’s substitutions against Mexico. Pulling Altidore for Zardes in the 56th minute seemed like giving up. Roldan, and not Boyd, for Morris, seconded that emotion and Berhalter’s final move, pulling Ream for Lovitz and not an attacker while trailing 1-0 in the 83rd minute, had the feeling of a boxing trainer throwing in the towel to save his beaten fighter.

So, a strong NO then for the coach? No, actually. In his first official games as U.S. coach, Berhalter’s team was better at the end of the Copa Oro than it was going in. He will need to improve his roster selection as well as his substitutions. However, by moving on (presumably) from Trapp, and abandoning the inverted fullback when Tyler Adams went down, the former Columbus Crew boss showed some flexibility.

Can you win with Berhalter? YES (for now).


USMNT Has the Heart, not the Talent to Overcome Mexico in Gold Cup Final

High Press 10 July 8, 2019

Today was a contrast of United States national soccer programs.

In France, the USWNT won back-to-back World Cup titles, defeating Netherlands 2-0. The game was a testament to the absurd wealth of talent the USWNT program has at its disposal. Yes, they play with heart and unmatched charisma. At the end of the day though, they just have better players than everyone else.

That’s not necessarily the case with the USMNT.

As discussed in our preview post of the Gold Cup Final against Mexico, some think El Tri have a positional advantage at each line-up spot over the Americans.

At a minimum, Christian Pulisc showed that’s definitely not the case tonight. However, despite a spirited and gutty effort, the USMNT simply couldn’t overcome the talent disparity against Mexico, losing the Gold Cup Final 1-0.

Both teams had big chances early

This game saw both sides create big chances early on.

Christian Pulisic, who often looked like the best player on the field, and Jonathan dos Santos both had near misses in the opening minutes.

Jozy Altidore, who earned the start over beleaguered striker Gyasi Zardes, will rue a missed opportunity in the 8th minute. Altidore received a headed pass from Paul Arriola that left him with a clear shot to put the US ahead. He muffed it off his right foot, sending the shot wide.

Almost immediately thereafter, Raúl Jiménez’s header was denied by US keeper Zack Steffen.

VERY physical, open, hyper-charged play continued until the half. The US and Mexico went into the tunnels tied 0-0.

Scoring opportunities continued, Mexico converted one of theirs

The second verse was same as the first, as both sides came out physical.

Mexico was lucky not to earn a red card, as Jozy Altidore was cheap-shotted in the 47th minute.

Big scoring chances continued as well. The US almost took the lead in the 51st minute. Christian Pulisic delivered a corner that Jordan Morris headed from close range. Morris beat Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, but Jesus Guardado was perfectly positioned to head the ball away before it crossed the line. It was a brilliant and ultimately game-changing block.

Mexico broke through in the 79th minute as Jonathan dos Santos finished a dirty little flick from Jiménez.

The US dug in and fought to create more chances until the very end. Ultimately, the dos Santos goal was the difference in the game.

USMNT can build on this

Two things were clear from this match:

  1. The US doesn’t have the quality of talent to match Mexico just yet. Outside of Pulisic and Weston McKennie, there’s a striking talent and tactical disparity.
  2. However, if they can play with this level of intensity moving forward, they will gut out some surprising wins.

This is not a game the US should leave discouraged. They fought hard and were a bit unlucky not to convert. It was their best overall display of the tournament, even though it ended in a loss.

The US can — and should — build on this.

Gold Cup Final Preview: USMNT vs Mexico

Peter Nolan July 6, 2019

Who: USA vs Mexico
When: Sunday @ 9:00 pm ET
Where: Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
Line: Mexico +120 | Draw +205 | USA +225

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The following tweet from Xavier Sol la Lande is making the rounds.

If it is to be believed then we shouldn’t expect much of a battle when the USMNT face Mexico Sunday night at Soldier Field in Chicago in the Gold Cup Final.

Is Mexico really that far ahead of the US?

It is an interesting tweet though, because other than Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, not too many American fans are likely to go to the mat to advocate for the U.S players as superior to their Mexican counterparts.

The tweet and its thesis that the Mexican players are universally more talented than the Americans is interesting because the two national teams have had oddly similar Gold Cups. One difference is that Mexico’s coach Tata Martino, late of Atlanta United, has brought what many considered a “B” team, minus the likes of Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Hector Herrera, and others.

But back to the similarities. Both sides eased through group play with perfect 3-0-0 records. They easily advancing to the knockout rounds, as pre-ordained by the Gold Cup schedule makers.

And while Mexico hammered Cuba 7-0 and the U.S slammed Guyana 4-0 and T&T 6-0, there were tenser moments as well.

For the Americans, a 1-0 victory over Panama was mostly excused because Panama has given the Americans trouble in the past and coach Gregg Berhalter ran out an entirely new starting 11 vs. the Canaleros.

Mexico wasn’t overly impressive in a 3-1 win over Canada but this was the year Canada was supposed to fulfill all that promise, wasn’t it? More concerning for El Tri was a narrow 3-2 win over Martinique.

The U.S. had that moment in the quarterfinals, struggling to a 1-0 victory over Curacao, while Mexico battled Costa Rica to a 1-1 draw before prevailing on penalty kicks in a battle of equals.

Berhalter insisted that all was well in his team’s narrow escape versus the tiny constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Curacao, but he wisely made several lineup changes for the semifinal match with Jamaica.

Mexico’s semifinal versus Haiti proved to be a surprising nailbiter as they struggled to a 1-0 victory over Haiti, a longtime struggler that appears to be on the rise.

So, two teams that have failed to live up to expectations against some weaker opponents, while providing some moments of excitement and still managing to survive to the meet in the final as expected.

Another interesting tidbit is that the seven times winner, Mexico and the six times winner, the USA, do not meet regularly in the final, this will be the first time since 2011 that the two CONCACAF powers have met in the Championship match of the semi-annual event.

No, but seriously, are Mexican national players that much better than the US?

So, are the Mexican players all > better than their American counterparts and does it matter in a team sport?

Well, not really, and not really.

Pulisic and McKennie are getting stronger as the Gold Cup goes on and seem to be on the verge of taking over this team and claiming it as their own. In some cases, it is too close to call or maybe worry about, like in goal where Ochoa is in good form but so is Zack Steffen (and the younger American has a huge upside).

But, again, soccer, football, futbol, however you refer to it, is a team sport and these two teams seem fairly evenly matched as we head to Sunday night’s showdown.

Mexico plays primarily in a 4-3-3, likes to control possession and will give the U.S. trouble in the midfield. Andres Guardado, always tough on the Americans, Jonatha Dos Santos, and Jesus Gallardo will cause problems. That trio will need to be battled to a standstill or better by Michael Bradley, Weston McKennie, and Christian Pulisic.

And Berhalter’s defense will need to be on its toes to blunt the Mexico frontline. Led by Wolverhampton target man Raul Jiminez, who has five goals in this tournament, speedy L.A. Galaxy winger Uriel Antuna, who has four, and Rodolfo Pizzaro, this is a formidable front three.

Berhalter’s selections are critical

Berhalter has some decisions to make after his team impressed in the semifinal against Jamaica. Does he stay with Reggie Cannon and Matt Miazga over Nick Lima and Walker Zimmerman?

Cannon provides an element of speed that Lima doesn’t, but Lima has been a Berhalter guy from the beginning. Miazga was beaten for Jamaica’s goal but had a strong game otherwise. Zimmerman was a rare bright spot for the U.S. against Curacao.

The defensive calls are close ones. Berhalter will also have to choose between Tyler Boyd and Jordan Morris at right-wing, essentially another jump ball. The coach’s other big decision, however, should be no decision at all.

To lead the attack it has to be Jozy Altidore over Gyasi Zardes. Against Jamaica, Altidore played a strong first 56’ before being replaced by Zardes. Once in, Zardes promptly missed a sitter before turning the ball over, leading to Jamaica’s goal, the only goal the U.S. has surrendered at this Gold Cup.

So, yeah, start Altidore.

The US has little margin for error in this game. Berhalter’s must nail his selections.

Gold Cup Semifinal Preview: USMNT vs Jamaica

Peter Nolan July 2, 2019

Who: USMNT vs Panama
When: Wednesday @ 9:30 pm ET
Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville TN
Line: USA -200 | Draw +255 | Curacao +600

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The elimination of the Confederation Cup has caused some to question the point of the Gold Cup.

Yes, there is the crowning of a CONCACAF champion. And sure, testing your team against your neighbors can be worthwhile. However, without the carrot of the Confederation Cup and the chance to face off against the top dogs from UEFA, CONEMBOL and the rest, the value of the Gold Cup remains an open question.

But for a USMNT seeking to rebuild its credibility within the region as well with its jaundiced fan-base under new coach Gregg Berhalter, the Gold Cup seemed like a perfect opportunity.

These are official matches, they count. No more attempting to parse meaning from the series of increasingly meaningless friendlies presided over by caretaker coach Dave Sarachan.

Then the games began. Wins of 4-0 versus Guyana and 6-0 over Trinidad and Tobago, as well as a 1-0 win with a brand new 11 against Panama claimed the group stage for the U.S. This set up a showdown with the tiny constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Curacao.

The U.S. barely escaped with a 1-0 win over Curacao, with the six-time Gold Cup-winning United States apparently happy to bunker in against the 79th rated FIFA ranked nation.

Berhalter defensive of team’s performance

The US’ showing against Curacao doesn’t necessarily bode well for their chances in Wednesday night’s semifinal match-up against Jamaica. Yes, like all U.S. Gold Cup games, the semifinal will be a home game, this one in Nashville.

Berhalter had something of a thin-skinned reaction to Sunday’s narrow escape, telling the gathered press post-game, “Despite the tone in here, we’re happy with the result of this game and that should be said, I’m proud of the guys for their effort and now we move on to Nashville.”

A win is a win but one hopes Berhalter’s pride in that performance doesn’t translate to acceptance of that level of play because if it does there will be little chance of the Americas advancing to the hoped-for showdown with Mexico in Sunday’s God Cup FInal in Chicago.

Hopefully, Behalter’s pride in his team’s effort does not hamper the coach’s willingness to shake up his lineup, limited though his roster options may be.

Continuity for continuity’s sake?

Berhalter has used the same 11 in three of the team’s four matches. The early, easy wins and the struggle versus Curacao all featured the same starters. Other than Christian Pulisic, goal scorer Weston McKennie, Man of the Match Zack Steffen in goal and defender Walker Zimmerman, none of that 11 distinguished themselves versus Curacao. Of the “second 11” that beat Panama 1-0, I can only recall center back Matt Miazga and fullback Reggie Cannon showing anything.

So, what now? Every coach has a player or two that he values despite howls of protest from the peanut gallery. Bob Bradley’s Jonathan Bornstein obsession comes to mind. For Berhalter, Gyasi Zardes is developing into that player, while Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream have potential.

Jozy Altidore has been recovering from injury but by all official accounts, the TFC man has recovered. “He fits Berhalter’s system,” we hear. Altidore is better. Start him.

Ream is a center back, not a fullback and Nick Lima, who was poor against Curacao, regularly plays left-back for his club team. Play Cannon on the right and Lima on the left.

Further up the pitch, Berhalter’s options are limited. He has to stay with Michael Bradley, even if his diminishing speed is an issue because he is a far better option than Wil Trapp.

Tyler Boyd was a sensation with a brace versus Guyana but has failed to fire since. Jordan Morris provided a spark off the bench against T&T but little after. Play either, the difference appears negligible.

Paul Arriola looked to have added some final product to his otherwise well-rounded game but he was invisible versus Curacao. Berhalter is likely to start him against Jamaica because Jonathan Lewis is better suited as an off the bench option.

Jamaica drew 1-1 with Curacao in Group play and lost to the same team in the Carribean Cup. But Jamaica beat the U.S. in pre-Cup friendly and more importantly the Reggae Boyz also defeated the Americans 2-1 in the semifinal of the 2015 Gold Cup, so Jamaica will show the U.S. no fear. 

This Gold Cup is a measuring stick for the USMNT, both internally and externally. At the moment the internal group, Berhalter essentially, seems to judge this group to be a success, while outside forces, the press, the public, are less enthused.

The final report card for the U.S. at the Gold Cup will be issued when the home team’s participation concludes. At the moment looks like a C+, perhaps, but there remains time for improvement before the term concludes.

Disappointing U.S. Scrape by Curacao 1-0 to Advance to Gold Cup Semifinal

Peter Nolan July 1, 2019

The USMNT eeked out a 1-0 victory over a solid Curacao side in Philadelphia Sunday night, punching its ticket to a Gold Cup semifinal. Next up: a matchup against Jamaica on Wednesday night in Nashville.

Early promise fizzles as game ends in a grind

The game opened with a promising 15 or so minutes from the US squad. Christian Pulisic was an early standout, shooting wide with one chance and robbed by Curacao keeper Eloy Room on another. The U.S. finally broke through when Weston McKinnie headed home a fine Christian Pulisic cross.

Had one of Pulisic’s earlier chances found the net perhaps the Americans could have rolled to a victory more in line with results from earlier in this competition. Those results gave rise to the notion that Berhalter’s rebuild of the moribund U.S. Men’s program was proceeding at a rapid pace. That notion seems fanciful now given Sunday’s struggles against Curacao, a team playing in the Gold Cup Knockout rounds for the first time.

On Sunday night, Curacao out-possessed the United States (52-48%), won more corner kicks (6 to 2), and forced U.S. keeper Zack Steffen to make more saves (5 to 2) than Hood in Curacao’s net.

The most important of Steffen’s saves came in the game’s 84th minute when a draw may have been a more accurate representation of the 90 minutes of play between the sides.

It was a poor effort by the Americans, who never seemed to come to grips with the defensive pressure from their 79th FIFA ranked opponents. The US spent much of the second half bottled up in their own defensive third, completely unable to build an attack from the back through the midfield, instead clinging to a lead, seemingly content to escape Philadelphia and move on to Nashville.

Berhalter certainly sounded that note, saying in his postgame remarks, “The interesting thing about this game and when you look at both in Copa América and Gold Cup and look at these quarterfinal matches, they’re all tight matches.” Indicating the press corps, Berhalter added, “I think you guys wanted us to go out here and beat ‘em 5-0 but we knew it was going to be a difficult game.”

Berhalter’s personnel choices leave some scratching their heads

Berhalter was happy enough with the performance that he made just two subs, the second in stoppage time, when he inserted Omar Gonzalez as the U.S. sought to hang on late. Berhalter’s continued trust in Gonzalez is one that most observers do not share.

Likewise, the coach’s decision to stay with Gyasi Zardes as his striker for the full 90 minutes versus Curacao while a reportedly healthy Jozy Altidore, named by Berhalter as his number one striker, cooled his heels on the bench, struck many as curious.

Gonzalez had no impact on the game in brief cameo, although it seemed odd that Berhalter chose the new Toronto FC man over Matt Miazga when the latter had been far more assured when the two were paired versus Panama.

Staying with the ineffective Zardes just seemed stubborn, especially given Altidore’s superior hold up play on a night when the U.S struggled to maintain possession.

In further remarks to the press, Berhalter said, “Despite the tone in here, we’re happy with the result of this game and that should be said, I’m proud of the guys for their effort and now we move on to Nashville.”

Advancing to Nashville and the Gold Cup semifinal is, of course, the goal, and the coach is certainly entitled to be proud of his team. However, Berhalter will have to coax a better performance out of that team versus Jamaica if he and the USMNT plan to advance to the Gold Cup Final in Chicago on July 7.

USMNT vs Jamaica Preview

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The USMNT plays Jamaica in the Gold Cup semifinals on July 3rd at 9pm ET. The US is heavily favored to advance to the finals.

Jamaica +540Draw +285USA -205

U.S. MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM MATCH REPORT

Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Curaçao

Date: June 30, 2019

Competition: 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup; Quarterfinals

Venue: Lincoln Financial Field; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Attendance: 26,233

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET

Weather: 82 degrees; clear

Scoring Summary:   1          2          F

USA                            1          0          1

CUW                           0          0          0

USA – Weston McKennie (Christian Pulisic)             25th minute

Lineups:

USA: 1-Zack Steffen; 2-Nick Lima, 5-Walker Zimmerman, 23-Aaron Long, 13-Tim Ream; 4-Michael Bradley; 8-Weston McKennie, 10-Christian Pulisic (capt.); 21-Tyler Boyd (11-Jordan Morris, 63), 9-Gyasi Zardes, 7-Paul Arriola (3-Omar Gonzalez, 90+2)

Substitutes not used: 12-Sean Johnson, 22-Tyler Miller, 6-Wil Trapp, 14-Reggie Cannon, 15-Cristian Roldan, 16-Daniel Lovitz, 17-Jozy Altidore, 18-Jonathan Lewis, 19-Matt Miazga, 20-Djordjie Mihailovic

Head Coach: Gregg Berhalter

CUW: 1-Eloy Room; 13-Jurien Gaari, 2-Cuco Martina (capt.), 4-Darryl Lachman, 21-Ayrton Statie (5-Jurich Carolina, 68); 15-Shermaine Martina (6-Michael Maria, 80), 10-Leandro Bacuna, 18-Elson Hooi; 11-Gevaro Nepomuceno, 19-Jafar Arias, 14-Kenji Gorre (16-Gino Van Kessel, 75)

Substitutes not used: 22-Jarzinho Pieter, 23-Zeus De La Paz, 3-Shermar Martina, 7-Jarchino Antonia, 12-Shanon Carmelia, 17-Zinjo Constansia, 20-Jimbertson Vapor

Head coach: Remko Bicentini

Stats Summary: USA / CUW

Shots: 10 / 15

Shots on Goal: 3 / 5

Saves: 4 / 3

Corner Kicks: 2 / 6

Fouls: 5 / 10

Offside: 2 / 2

Misconduct Summary:

CUW – Shermaine Martina (caution)             30th minute

CUW – Elson Hooi (caution)                          70

Officials:

Referee: Adonai Escobedo (MEX)

Assistant Referee 1: Alberto Morín (MEX)

Assistant Referee 2: Miguel Angel Hernandez (MEX)

4th Official: Said Martinez (HON)

ussoccer.com Man of the Match: Zack Steffen

Gold Cup Preview: Up Next for the USMNT – “Cinderella” Side Curacao

Peter Nolan June 30, 2019

Who: USMNT vs Curacao
When: Sunday @ 8:30 pm ET
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia PA
Line: USA -910 | Draw +600 | Curacao +2000

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The Gold Cup draw has been kind to the USMNT. That largess continues Sunday night when the heavily-favored Americans kick off against Curacao at 8 o’clock at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field.

The Yanks came into this year’s CONCACAF Championship tournament unburdened by lofty expectations. This is largely due to disappointing performances in a pair of friendlies just prior to the Gold Cup, losing to Jamaica, 1-0 and Venezuela, 3-0.

The cumulative effect of the two matches was enough to cancel out the, “it’s only a friendly” chatter that normally accompanies such tune-ups. This only added further negativity to a fan base already drowning in the stuff.

Then, once the Gold Cup began, the U.S. took advantage of leading a weak group. They beat up on Guyana by 4-0. They improved on that with a 6-0 stomping of a dire Trinidad and Tobago team that bore no resemblance to the side that eliminated the U.S. from World Cup qualification back in 2017.

Bouyed by that start, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter made 11 changes to his side for the final group stage match versus Panama and still managed to escape with a 1-0 victory to win the Group.

Curacao’s Cinderella run

So, what to expect from the tiny nation of Curacao? First of all, Curacao is a nation. In fact, it is one of four Constituent countries that make up The Kingdom of the Netherlands (the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten).

But can they play soccer? Sure. Ask Honduras, who lost a shocker, 1-0, to send the tiny Caribbean nation on its way to a second place finish in Group C action.

The former Netherlands Antilles also drew with Jamaica 1-1, a solid result that should get the U.S. to sit up and take notice.

A 1-0 loss to El Salvador rounded out Curacao’s first round, so the Americans will need to be on their toes on Sunday night.

What to expect vs surprising Curacao

Given its status as a part of the kingdom of the Netherlands, it is not surprising that several players on this Curacao side play professionally for Dutch clubs. This includes starting goalkeeper Eloy Room, a reserve keeper with PSV. Center-back Cuco Martinais an Everton player, although he has been on loan to Eredivisie side Feyernood.

Attack minded midfielder Leandro Bacuna has experience in the English Premier League and the English Championship with Cardiff City. He is Curacao’s leading international scorer with 11 goals, including the winner versus Honduras in this Gold Cup.

Curacao’s other goal in this tournament came in thrilling fashion when fullback Jurien Gaari scored in the 93rd minute to secure the draw with Jamaica and earn this quarterfinal matchup with the United States.

Curacao has used the same starting 11 in its last two matches. U.S boss Gregg Berhalter, who has referred to Curacao as a “Cinderella” team, will have a good idea of who they are going up against in a match that, let’s be honest, the U.S. will be expected to win, and win handily.

As the host nation, the Americans have enjoyed a relatively free ride to the Gold Cup quarterfinal, up to and including dodging Jamaica in the quarters and facing the least accomplished team to survive to this point in the Cup.

Should the Americans advance as expected, they would face the winner of Jamaica vs Panama. Thanks to the schedule maker for doing its part in saving the expected marquee matchup, the U.S.A. vs Mexico, for the Gold Cup Championship Final.

Having allowed zero goals while racking up a tally of 11 in three group games, Berhalter’s team will be expected to turn Curacao’s coach back into a pumpkin Sunday night in Philly.

USMNT Defeat Panama 1-0, Advance to Quarterfinal vs Minnows Curacao

Peter Nolan June 27, 2019

In our USMNT versus Panama preview for High Press Soccer prior to Wednesday night’s 1-0 American victory, we predicted that coach Gregg Berhalter would make some changes to the lineup that defeated Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago by a combined 10-0 in their first two Group D matches.

We did not, however, foresee that the U.S. supremo would make a clean sweep of the lineup, replacing all 11 starters from that successful opening set.

This win sets up a quarterfinal matchup with surprising Curacao. Meanwhile,Panama gets the tougher draw when it goes up against Jamaica in the quarters. The other two quarterfinals feature Canada vs. feel good story Haiti, while CONCACAF giants Mexico and Costa Rica will go toe to toe in an intriguing contest.

11 new faces, same positive result

In his post-game remarks Berhalter said of all the changes, “the decision to start 11 new players was an easy one. We believe in the group; we wanted to show that.”

So, of the new 11, who impressed, if anyone? The player most wanted to see was Jozy Altidore, whom Berhalter has called the team’s first choice striker, when healthy. With Altidore trying to get to full fitness after missing time through injury, the Toronto attacker has been behind Gyasi Zardes, who played under Berhalter with the Columbus Crew, during this Gold Cup.

Zardes was poor in the U.S. opener versus Guyana, although he did score a fluky goal off of a deflection off of his face. However, he scored a brace vs. T&T, the second of which was a gem.

Altidore scored a gem of his own versus Panama when he elevated to blast home a spectacular bicycle kick for the games only score. Other than that, Altidore showed that he was fit enough to start but looked rusty when it came to linking with his teammates.

Elsewhere, Matt Miazga impressed with a strong defensive effort at center back while also distributing very well from deep. Berhalter’s captain of the day, Omar Gonzalez, did not fare as well and would have been punished for a bad giveaway, only to be let off by a proliferate Panama attack.

It was a similar one up one down for the American fullbacks with right sider Reggie Cannon catching the eye while left full back Daniel Lovitz was all too wasteful with the ball when opportunities arose.

Michael Bradley’s backup Wil Trapp had a solid night, while Christian Roldan was just ok filling in for Weston McKennie. 20-year-old midfielder Djordje Mihailovic was in and out of the action, although the Chicago Fire man did show glimpses of quality on the evening.

Altidore’s wingers Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis each had disappointing nights, although for different reasons.

For Morris, it was a matter of failing to recapture the form he flashed while picking up two assists off the bench against T&T. Lewis promised much while delivering little before he was replaced by Christian Pulisic late in Wednesday’s contest.

Next up, Curacao

Curacao awaits and while Berhalter said all the right things about Sunday’s quarterfinal opponent, calling Sunday evenings opponent “Cinderella,” the United States should handily advance to the Gold Cup semifinals against the winner of Jamaica vs Panama.

On the other side of the draw rising Canada will take on Haiti, the surprise packet of the Gold Cup, having won its group with a perfect 3-0-0 mark. The other semifinal features Mexico and Costa Rica.

Gold Cup Preview: USMNT vs Panama

Peter Nolan June 25, 2019

Who: USMNT vs Panama
When: Tuesday @ 9pm ET
Where: Kansas City
Line: Panama +650 | Draw +330 | US -230

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Two wins from two matches have qualified the USMNT for the knockout stages of the 2019 Gold Cup, and the same can be said for Panama, Wednesday night’s opponent.

The U.S. defeated Guyana 4-0, and Trinidad and Tobago 6-0. Winning by a combined 10-0 score is an impressive start as they adjust to new coach Gregg Berhalter and his system.

Meanwhile, Panama defeated Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 and Guyana 4-2.

USMNT vs Panama Preview: Familiar Foes

Panama is a familiar foe for the Americans and with a healthy dose of MLS and former MLS players U.S. fans will be familiar with the Canaleros.

Seattle’s Ramon Torres anchors the Panama defense, after a season that saw him lose his starting position with the Sounders. Torres has been reinstated and he continues to be an inspirational leader for the Canal men.

Red Bulls fullback Michael Murillo is another familiar face and his ability to get forward can trouble the U.S. former Toronto FC midfielder Armando Cooper is playing his soccer in Israel these days, but Berhalter and his players will remember the midfielder from his MLS days.

Panama striker Gabriel Torres never quite caught on with the Colorado Rapids but he has come back to lead the line for Panama.

With both teams already assured of moving on to the next round, the coaches will be free to experiment and rotate. It should be noted that Berhalter went with the same starting 11 in consecutive matches, as he sought to build continuity. Will he again?

Berhalter is unlikely to make it three in a row with the same 11 but he may not make wholesale changes that many might expect.

Goalkeeper Zack Steffen is likely to maintain his place. Reggie Cannon impressed in a brief cameo versus Trinidad and Tobago and may be in line for a start if Nick Lima gets a night off. Center backs Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman are coming off of big games, with Long scoring a brace versus Trinidad and Tobago.

Tim Ream may also get a rest, while Christian Roldan could step in for Weston McKennie and Michael Bradley may sit for Wil Trapp. Will Christian Pulisic get a night off? How about wingers Paul Arriola and Tyler Boyd, so good in the first two U.S. matches, will Berhalter rest them?

Can’t take anything for granted at this Gold Cup

One thing for sure is that neither team can take anything for granted. Especially not after Haiti’s 2-1 win over Costa Rica to win its group. Even Bermuda topped Nicaragua by a 2-0 scoreline.

There have been shock results, blowouts, and in the case of Honduras, last rights for a reeling program that has slid down the CONCACAF rankings to the point of losing 1-0 to Curacao!

This while everyone is taking turns beating Cuba 7-0. First Mexico scored a touchdown against the Cubans, then Martinique could only manage a 3-0 win in game two before Canada hung another seven against the hapless Cubans.

With all of this swirling around Berhalter and his team, Wednesday night’s winner will probably face a weaker team in the next round, most likely El Salvador or Curacao, rather than the stronger Jamaica side in the quarterfinals.

Mexico, who only edged Martinique by a 3-2 score on Sunday, will take on reeling Costa Rica in another of the quarterfinals, with a possible U.S. and Mexico showdown a bit further down the road.

With Berhalter looking to impose his style on the USMNT, perhaps this game is a bit more important to the U.S. than Panama, so look for the Americans to prevail on Wednesday night.

Energetic Mexico Fans Steal the Show at Gold Cup Doubleheader

Tyler Everett June 24, 2019

Based on the players at Tata Martino’s disposal, the 2019 Gold Cup is clearly not a huge deal to a number of El Tri’s biggest stars. But don’t tell that to Mexican fans, who swarmed the area around Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium long before kickoff of Sunday’s doubleheader.

Below are my takeaways from attending Canada’s 7-0 blowout of Cuba and Mexico’s 3-2 win over Martinique last night.

Mexican fans show out

The energy from Mexico’s supporters made the matches feel much more consequential than they were. The sounds of horns and rattles and the sight of countless green and red luchador masks, flags and sombreros among the horde that filled Morehead and Mint Street was something to behold.

I’ve attended a number of Carolina Panthers games, and I would compare the vibe around the stadium to what you’d expect for a late-season NFL game with playoff implications. It was hard to fathom how raucous El Tri’s World Cup matches will be in ’26.

The atmosphere was the biggest highlight of the night, as Canada-Cuba was a snoozer in front of a few thousand people.

From there, Mexico and Martinique played an entertaining match before a crowd of 59,283. The lower bowl was packed, and the sections of the upper deck with decent views – the end zones and 50-yard lines – were full as well.

The announced attendance should not have shocked anyone – Mexico has drawn big crowds for previous games in Charlotte – but is still notable. It’s that much more impressive considering no Copa América group stage match has attracted more than 48,000.

As for the on-field action, Mexico looked worthy of their status as tournament favorites. The first goal did not come until the 29th minute on a beautiful finish from LA Galaxy’s Uriel Antuna, whose low left-footed strike beat diving Martinique keeper Loïc Chauvet. Most in the stadium, including the few who weren’t wearing green and red, expected that to be the first of many in a blowout for Mexico. It didn’t play out that way though, as Mexico’s halftime lead was just 1-0.

Martinique equalized in the 56th on an absolutely stunning free kick by Kevin Parsemain. His strike showed that even CONCACAF’s minnows can produce moments of EPL- or La Liga-level quality.

Mexico quickly responded, picking apart the Martinique back line for goals in the 61st (Raúl Jiménez) and 72nd (Fernando Navarro).

Martinique scored in the 84th to make it 3-2 and create a bit of intrigue down the stretch, but never came terribly close to equalizing.

Cuba no match for Canada

It was hard to tell if Cuba is just awful or if Canada really is a threat to Mexico and the USMNT. I have a feeling the truth is somewhere in the middle. Mexico, however, certainly had no problems head-to-head against Canada, winning 3-1 while holding a 69-31 advantage in possession.

As for Canada-Cuba, the score tells you just about everything you need to know. Cuba lost its other two matches 7-0 to Mexico and 3-0 to Martinique, but Canada’s performance was nevertheless impressive. The team’s reputation for a dangerous attack appeared well-deserved on Sunday. Three goals came from 19-year-old Jonathan David, and Lucas Cavallini also recorded a hat trick. Junior Hoilett scored the game’s other goal.

Canada scoring seven times without a goal from Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies is notable, regardless of the opponent. It was also interesting to see Davies line up at left back. It’s hard to imagine we’ll see that in the biggest games of the tournament, but it’s an interesting wrinkle that worked out well Sunday.

Canada’s quarterfinal matchup will take place next Saturday at 7 p.m. Eastern, while Mexico’s quarterfinal match-up is scheduled for 10 p.m. that night. Neither team’s opponent has been decided.

USMNT Look to Build on 6-0 Win Over Trinidad and Tobago

Peter Nolan June 23, 2019

It doesn’t in any way make up for the infamous night in Couva that kept the USMNT out of the 2018 World Cup, but Saturday night’s 6-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago had to feel pretty good.

This is especially the case for the likes of Michael Bradley, Christian Pulisic, and Jozy Altidore, who were on hand for both matches.

Regardless of how the team downplayed the game beforehand, their commanding 6-0 win certainly indicates that deep down, this one mattered.

How is Gregg Berhalter’s team progressing?

The evidence presented last night can only be seen as positive.

Berhalter took the unusual step of naming the same 11 two games in a row, a tactic that did not work out so well for Bruce Arena that autumn night in 2017 in Couva. However, it worked a charm for Berhalter on Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

There was much to like from the U.S. performance versus Trinidad and Tobago. Sure, T&T is not a good team. They haven’t scored a goal since September, a stretch of seven games. And it did take the US 41 minutes to break the visitors resistance.

The U.S. finally broke through in the aftermath of a free kick when Pulisic lofted a cross that defender Aaron Long powered past the Soca Warriors excellent, if beleagured goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.

That 1-0 advantage stood until halftime and the U.S. came out and finished the job in short order in the second stanza, led by an energized Pulisic, who admitted afterward, “I didn’t like to say it, but I definitely had a little chip on my shoulder today, So I hope you guys could see that,”

It was there for all to see as the Chelsea attacker ran at, around, and through an overmatched T&T defense en route to one goal and two assists. Pulisic had plenty of help, with Gyasi Zardes claiming two goals.

Zardes’ first was a tap in laid on by Nick Lima’s diving header off of Michael Bradley’s sublime chipped pass. His second was a lovely finish after a fine Pulisic set up.

The Columbus Crew striker claimed his brace in a three minute stretch between the 66th and 69th minutes propelling the Americans to a 3-0 lead, that Pulisic extended on a Jordan Morris assist in the 73rd minute.

Paul Arriola made it 5-0 in the 78th minute, completing a four goals in 12 minutes blitz that decided the game, and put a smile on the entirety of U.S. Soccer for the first time since, well, you know when.

Long tacked on a 90th minute capper, because, well, why not? leaving us to ask, what does it all mean?

So what does this all mean for the US?

In one sense, Saturday’s laugher means little. The USMNT had already punched it’s ticket to the next round of the Gold Cup, rendering Wednesday night’s group stage finale with Panama, likewise already qualified for the KO rounds, moot.

But the therapudic effects of Saturday’s laugher on a program that has been suffering a collective hangover for almost two years now shouldn’t be dismissed.

Nor should the badly needed, step up and lead performance from Pulisic.

Additionally, Weston McKennie, healthy after an injury scare against Guyana, showed his Bundesliga pedigree, even if his name doesn’t appear on the score sheet. And Berhalter showed that he is not a slave to a particular tactic, abandoning the inverted fullback/midfielder role in the absence of Tyler Adams and DeAndre Yedlin, playing Nick Lima as a more traditional fullback.

31 year-old Michael Bradley displayed a range of passing as he continues to revive an international career that many had frankly thought (or hoped) was at an end.

In fact, Berhalter had to be pleased with performances all over the field. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen was sharp when he had to be. The back four were solid. The midfield was aggressive. The wingers were dynamic. Arriola has scored in consecutive matches. Tyler Boyd has been impressive. Everybody’s favorite punching bag, Zardes, had some good finishes.

On to Panama

Panama would figure to provide a sterner test Wednesday night in Kansas City. However, with both teams already qualified for the next phase of Gold Cup play, the match may be more of an opportunity to rotate and rest key players.

For the U.S that should mean Jordan Morris will get a chance to build on his impressive performance versus T&T. Perhaps we’ll see a full 90 from Altidore, who impressed in his cameo. And maybe there will be some playing time for the likes of Matt Miazga, Christian Roldan, and even Omar Gonzalez.

Match Report: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Trinidad & Tobago

Date: June 22, 2019

Competition: 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup – Group D

Venue: FirstEnergy Stadium; Cleveland, Ohio

Attendance: 23,921

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

Weather: 69 degrees; sunny

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F

USA 1 5 6

TRI 0 0 0

USA – Aaron Long (Christian Pulisic) 41st minute

USA – Gyasi Zardes (Nick Lima) 66

USA – Gyasi Zardes (Christian Pulisic) 69

USA – Christian Pulisic (Jordan Morris) 73

USA – Paul Arriola (Jordan Morris) 78

USA – Aaron Long 90

Lineups:

USA: 1-Zack Steffen (capt.); 2-Nick Lima (14-Reggie Cannon, 84), 5-Walker Zimmerman, 23-Aaron Long, 13-Tim Ream; 4-Michael Bradley; 8-Weston McKennie, 10-Christian Pulisic; 21-Tyler Boyd (11-Jordan Morris, 61), 9-Gyasi Zardes (17-Jozy Altidore, 74), 7-Paul Arriola

Substitutes not used: 12-Sean Johnson, 22-Tyler Miller, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 6-Wil Trapp, 15-Cristian Roldan, 16-Daniel Lovitz, 18-Jonathan Lewis, 19-Matt Miazga, 20-Djordje Mihailovic

Head Coach: Gregg Berhalter

TRI: 1-Marvin Phillip; 16-Alvin Jones, 5-Daneil Cyrus, 2-Aubrey David, 4-Neveal Hackshaw; 8-Khaleem Hyland (capt.) (10-Kevin Molino, 17), 19-Kevan George; 13-Nathan Lewis (3-Joevin Jones, 67), 23-Leston Paul, 7-Cordell Cato; 11-Levi Garcia (18-Lester Peltier, 77)

Substitutes not used: 21-Gregory Ranjitsingh, 22-Adrian Foncette, 6-Duane Muckette, 9-Shahdon Winchester, 12-Carlyle Mitchell, 14-Akeem Humphrey, 15-Curtis Gonzales, 17-Mekeil Williams, 20-Jomal Williams

Head coach: Dennis Lawrence

Stats Summary: USA / TRI

Shots: 27 / 9

Shots on Goal: 12 / 3

Saves: 3 / 6

Corner Kicks: 6 / 2

Fouls: 16 / 15

Offside: 2 / 0

Misconduct Summary:

TRI – Alvin Jones (caution) 39th minute

TRI – Daneil Cyrus (caution) 58

USA – Weston McKennie (caution) 58

TRI – Joevin Jones (caution) 86

Officials:

Referee: Said Martinez (HON)

Assistant Referee 1: Walter Lopez Ramos (HON)

Assistant Referee 2: Helpys Feliz (DOM)

4th Official: Ismael Cornejo (SLV)

ussoccer.com Man of the Match: Christian Pulisic

Gold Cup Preview: USMNT vs Trinidad and Tobago

Peter Nolan June 20, 2019

When: Saturday, 8 pm ET
Who: USMNT vs Trinidad and Tobago
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Odds: US – 600 | Draw +650 | T&T +1100

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America looks to move past crushing World Cup failure

Saturday’s nights second round Gold Cup match between the U.S. and Trinidad and Tobago is being sold as a revenge match.

Yes, this is an American team and soccer nation that’s still scarred by the October, 2017 loss to T&T. That loss kept the USMNT out of the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

It’s not, of course, a revenge match. Simply put, there is no margin of victory for the Americans that could erase the damage done to U.S. soccer, it’s reputation, and its very psyche, by that awful night in Couva. That 2-1 loss left a mark on Yanks that still reverberates today.

Previewing USWMNT vs T&T

Even though the Americans have already qualified for the knockout rounds, they could still use the win. Gregg Berhalter, who eventually replaced Bruce Arena in the post – Couva fallout, would love to see his group build on Tuesday night’s 4-0 victory over Group D minnows Guyana, a nice result that proved little.

Berhalter and his staff have no doubt parsed Trinidad and Tobago’s 2-0 loss to Panama on Tuesday night in search of any edge, even if the Soca Warriors are a familiar opponent.

On the evidence of Tuesday evening, T&T won’t unduly stress the U.S. defense, although if Seattle’s Joevin Jones plays from the start, as he undoubtedly should, the dynamic left-wing/fullback could trouble Nick Lima with his pacy runs.

T&T also feature speed on the right flank through Nathan Lewis, which could be a problem for Tim Ream, but Lewis’ final ball was very poor versus Panama, rendering all that speed pointless.

Solid and well organized, Trinidad did make it difficult for Panama’s attack to flourish. Center back pair Daneil Cyrus and Aubrey David provided a strong platform for T&T to defend from, ably abetted by midfielders Khaleem Hyland and Kevan George.

The U.S. will need to find a way through and if they do they will have to beat in form Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.

Whatever attack the Soca Warriors do generate is liable to come from the wide play of the Jones brothers. Alvin Jones, who scored the telling goal versus the U.S. in Couva, and Joevin Jones, who like his brother, operates as a fullback/wingbacks. The US will also have to look after Minnesota United midfielder Kevin Molino, who put a scare or two into Panama with his incisive passing in T&T’s Group D opener.

For Berhalter and the U.S., this is all part of a rebuilding process albeit one that requires some success along the way, if only to keep the wolves at bay.

This is (again) a game the US should win

Despite that historic loss to Trinidad and Tobago in 2017, the United States should clearly defeat T&T on Saturday. If not, then those wolves will start howling loudly.

The record says as much, given that the Americans have lost just once in Group play at the Gold Cup, dropping a decision to Panama in 2011. In total, their record is 33 wins, one loss and four draws in group play at this tournament.

I don’t expect much rotation from Berhalter, although 31-year-old Michael Bradley may give way for Wil Trapp. Although given little to do in the Americans 4-0 win over Guyana, center back Aaron Long had a shaky moment or two and Berhalter could turn to Matt Miazga or even Omar Gonzalez.

If healthy, Jozy Altidore should replace the ineffective Gyasi Zardes, a move that the U.S. attack clearly needs. Altidore’s superior hold up play could be a boon to Christian Pulisic as he operates through the center of the park while wingers Paul Arriola and two-goal hero Tyler Boyd try to replicate their success versus Guyana against T&T.

Pulisic’s midfield partner Weston McKennie left Tuesday night’s victory holding his hamstring. After the match Berhalter called McKennie’s injury a cramp, rather than a more serious strain or pull. That would be great news for U.S. hopes of going far in the Gold Cup. On the other hand if the Schalke man is unavailable on Saturday, or indeed going forward, he will leave an immense hole in the U.S. lineup, one the current roster seems ill equipped to fill.

2019 Gold Cup Betting Preview: Is It Really a Two-Horse Race?

Tyler Everett June 13, 2019

The Gold Cup starts Saturday when Canada takes on Martinique at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Most coverage Stateside this week has focused on the USMNT’s awful form in its last two matches. There’s plenty more to be said about whether Gregg Berhalter and the U.S. can make a run in this tournament.

This piece, though, is going to focus whether El Tri and the U.S. are as far ahead of the field as the oddsmakers seem to think they are.

Gold Cup Odds on DraftKings Sportsbook

One of the most interesting things from the betting angle is how similar the odds at DraftKings Sportsbook NJ are for Mexico (+145) and the U.S. (+175) to win the Gold Cup. I hate to overreact to two friendlies, but the U.S. looked so far from competent against Jamaica and Venezuela (especially in the latter) that I think the lines for this tournament’s traditional juggernauts should be further apart.

Are the current odds due to skepticism about Tata Martino or optimism about the impact Christian Pulisic and Michael Bradley will have? Is the U.S. essentially having home-field advantage being overestimated?

Mexico, U.S. appear beatable

Upon a closer look at who El Tri has available, the main reason is pretty obvious. This is not quite Mexico’s B team, but it’s certainly not the line-up they would have if this were a World Cup. Mexico is missing Chicharito, Hector Herrera and Carlos Vela, to name just a few key contributors that won’t be suiting up.

For the U.S., playing without Tyler Adams or John Brooks will be difficult. Does anyone on this roster other than Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, 31-year-old Michael Bradley and 29-year-old Jozy Altidore inspire a lot of confidence? Are four proven commodities enough to win a Gold Cup?

Considering all the cause for concern around Mexico and the U.S., if it were possible to bet on “the field” vs. those two, I’d give the field a long, hard look.

ESPN’s SPI does not agree, as it gives the U.S. a 43.4% chance to win, followed by Mexico (30.7%), Costa Rica (12.4%), Canada (2.8%) and Panama (2.7%).

It’s well-documented that in Gold Cup history, someone other than Mexico or the U.S. has won this tournament just once (Canada in 2000). The payout if anyone bets on someone other than those two will be substantial, as Costa Rica has the third-best odds but is a massive underdog at +850, followed by Jamaica (+1,800).

Below are a few underdogs worth keeping an eye on:

Canada

There is more buzz around them than there has been in a long time. The first name that comes to mind when thinking of this team is Alphonso Davies, who is among the top players to watch. The teenage Bayern Munich striker was excellent in the 2017 Gold Cup, scoring three goals in four matches. Canada, whose FIFA ranking is No. 78, is a long shot to win the whole thing, but could very well make a run. At +3,300 to raise the trophy, they’re worth a flier (this will be a common refrain).

Costa Rica

As far as sides in this field that have given the USMNT trouble historically, Costa Rica is at the top of the list (though Trinidad and Tobago has caused an issue or two). It also has the highest FIFA ranking (38) after Mexico (18) and the U.S. (24). Los Ticos will be missing keeper Keylor Navas, but if I’m betting on anyone other than the favorites, it’s Costa Rica. Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell, 26, are both proven players in World Cups. There aren’t many teams in “the field,” if any, with two veterans with their pedigree, even if the 33-year-old Ruiz is past his prime.

Jamaica

The last intriguing dark horse I could see hoisting the trophy is Jamaica, which finished second in both ’15 and ’17. For one thing, the Reggae Boyz have by far the best nickname in this tournament. More importantly, the No. 56 team in the FIFA ranking should enter the Gold Cup with confidence after beating the U.S. 1-0 on June 5th.

Curacao

Anyone looking to really roll the dice may want to think about Curacao, which is led by a pair of ’18-19 EPL players in Everton’s Cuco Martina (on loan this season at Feyenoord) and Leandro Bacuna of Cardiff City. At +25,000 to win, if they aren’t the definition of “why not?” then who is?

USMNT Gold Cup Roster – “You’re Not Going to Win Anything With That Guy.”

Peter Nolan June 7, 2019

Gregg Berhalter’s first real USMNT lineup dropped today, one day after an experimental American side shit the bed against Jamaica, losing 1-0 at Audi Field in Washington, DC.

Berhalter had indicated prior to the friendly versus Jamaica that a couple of spots on the Gold Cup roster, which determines the CONCACAF champion, were still up for grabs.

Few if any of the combatants for places shone, although Duane Holmes, a U.S. born, English raised midfielder who plays for English Championship side Derby, was rewarded with a Gold Cup place after he made the most of his substitute appearance versus Jamaica.

You’re not going to win anything…

Below you will see listed the names of the players selected to represent the U.S.A. in competition against Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, etc.

As you peruse the roster, remind yourself of the debacle in Couva, which saw Trinidad and Tobago deny CONCACAF giants, the USA a place in the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

When I look at the names put forth by Berhalter to lead the USMNT into international competition for the first time under his watch, I am reminded of words that my father has said to me for many years now, “you’re not going to win anything with that guy.”

A quick, indulgent, and as brief as possible word about my father is necessary here, so please bear with me.

My father was a big-time athlete in Ireland in the 1950s and in the U.S playing Gaelic, or Irish football, in the 1960s.

As such, he wasn’t brought up playing the All-American sports of baseball, football, basketball, etc. But as an athlete, he could, and still can, spot the real deal from a mile away. Alternatively, he could also spot the guy that was never going to make it. When he would spot the latter, my father would intone gravely; “they’ll never win anything with that guy.”

It didn’t matter that he had never seen American football played until he landed in New York City in the 1960s, he successfully noted that N.Y. Giants legendary coach Bill Parcells was off his rocker when he benched Phil Simms for Scott Brunner, prior to correcting course for the Giants 1986 Super Bowl run.

“They’ll never win with that guy.” And that is what I think about too many of the players on Gregg Berhalter’s 23 man Gold Cup roster.

USMNT Gold Cup roster

Let’s go through the USMNT Gold Cup roster, line by line, and ask the question, is that guy going to help you win anything?

First, the goalkeepers. Zack Steffen is the number one, and numbers two and three won’t matter, barring an injury. Still, I am not sure why Club Brugge number one Ethan Horvath did not get the nod over one of Berhalter’s preferred MLS backups.

Omar Gonzalez? Tim Ream? I admire both of these men and thank them for their contribution to the USMNT, but it is well past time that both Ream and Gonzalez are given a pat on the back and a gold watch and sent on their way.

And then there is the rest of Berhalter’s back line, which practically screams, “you’re not going to win anything with that guy.”

Nick Lima and Daniel Lovitz are a pair of fullbacks that Berhalter likes, but both fail the, “you’re not going to win anything with that guy,” test. They are decent players, but international quality?

And I won’t even get into wasting Tyler Adams at fullback, here, other than to say, please don’t waste Tyler Adams at fullback.

Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Tyler Adams, yes, alleged fullback, Tyler Adams, should be automatics in the midfield, regardless of formation.

If Berhalter insists on playing Adams in the fullback/hybrid midfield role then Michael Bradley is still better than Trapp, who I don’t personally rate as an international caliber player.

Wil Trapp is not fast enough to cover the space he needs to cover and is not strong enough to win the 50/50 balls needed to do the job in the center of the park.

Similarly, Christan Roldan has yet to make a case for his international bonifides, albeit with fewer chances than Trapp has received. Perhaps Roldan will get there, but to date, he has shown nothing on the international stage to win my belief.

The big talking point up front is that Josh Sargent has been dropped from the full team when he could have been left to play with the U20s.

It seems like a waste of assets and a waste of Sargent’s developmental time. But in fairness to Berhalter, an injury to midfielder Sebastian Lletget made carrying a third striker a luxury he could not afford.

Berhalter rated Sargent behind Jozy Altidore, not currently injured, apparently, and Gyasi Zardes. Given that the 18-year-old played only sporadically for Weder Bremen this season, this is a reasonable stance. Except that Zardes is another that fails my father’s test.

Zardes can score goals in MLS, so too can all-time MLS goalscoring leader Chris Wondoloski. But when it comes to the international game, Zardes, like Wondo would make my father stand up and proclaim, “you’re to going to win anything with that guy.”

Official USMNT roster

DEFENDERS (8): 14-Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 10/1), 3-Omar Gonzalez (Toronto FC/CAN; 50/3), 2-Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 3/0), 23-Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 5/0), 16-Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact/CAN; 4/0), 19-Matt Miazga (Chelsea/ENG; 13/1),
13-Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 29/1), 5-Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 6/2)

GOALKEEPERS (3): 12-Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 7/0), 22-Tyler Miller (LAFC; 0/0), 1-Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 9/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): 4-Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 145/17), 20-Duane Holmes (Derby County/ENG; 1/0), 8-Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 8/1), 10-Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 25/10), 15-Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 10/0), 6-Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 16/0)

FORWARDS (6): 17-Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 110/41), 7-Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 22/3), 21-Tyler Boyd (Vitória Guimãres/POR; 0/0), 18-Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; 4/0), 11-Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 27/5), 9-Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 44/7)

Three Players Who Will Have to Prove Themselves at USMNT Gold Cup Camp

Avatar May 24, 2019

The USMNT’s 40-man preliminary roster for the Gold Cup was, for the most part, expected. It is a healthy balance between outright starters, fringe contributors and experimental youth.

Gregg Berhalter will have his first quality opportunity to evaluate his players and their fit in his system. Nearly half of the preliminary roster won’t stick around for the Gold Cup itself, but every player has at least confirmed a spot on whatever massive whiteboard Berhalter has in his living room.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some players who have the most to prove this summer.

Darlington Nagbe, Atlanta United

Darlington Nagbe was not named to the January or March friendly rosters due to heavy workloads with Atlanta United, so this will be Berhalter’s first opportunity to see him in US colors. Having been a regular starter with both the 2017 Trinidad Disaster team (he went 84 minutes that October night) and the Dave Sarachan Dark Days team, Nagbe has yet to have a chance to impress in Berhalter’s system.

At 28, he could be a nice veteran squad option. He in theory fits Berhalter’s desire to play on the ball — his calling card is that he never loses possession, with clinical decision-making and clever movement in tricky areas.

His confidence seems to be growing in Atlanta, particularly this season. Nagbe has been more willing to push the ball forward and make late runs into the box. A certain conservativeness on the ball has been the constant knock on him, and he seems to be improving some of those elements.

Nagbe has doubled his xB% from ~6% last season to ~11% this season, per Cheuk Hei Ho of American Soccer Analysis, meaning he is more active in possession. He hasn’t influenced the attack a huge amount still — per Cheuk, his involvement in possession lowers the likelihood that Atlanta produce a quality chance, and his shot numbers are the lowest of his career — but for Nagbe, simply getting involved more is a form of aggression for him.

Reggie Cannon, FC Dallas

Reggie Cannon did not make the March roster, one of the more notable snubs from that camp. That, inherently, means he has a certain amount to prove.

Cannon doesn’t really fit the heavy possession role Berhalter wants his right back to play. With FC Dallas, he is an up-and-down type, a player who is more likely cover space linearly on the touchline instead of spending a significant amount of time inverted in possession. That is likely the primary reason that Berhalter has prioritized Nick Lima over Cannon in the early days of his USMNT tenure.

The system we’ve seen in the first few friendly games isn’t set in stone, though, and it shouldn’t be. Versatility is necessary based on the opponent and personnel. Perhaps there will come a time that Cannon’s skillset is advantageous.

Regardless of stylistic concerns, Cannon is 20, an everyday MLS starter, and a promising right back, a position that has historically lacked for the US. He will be around.

Tyler Boyd, MKE Ankaragucu

Fresh off a one-time switch from New Zealand, Tyler Boyd arrives at this Gold Cup camp with a chance to put himself on the US’s list of speedy, field-stretching wingers. Berhalter likes those, and he liked Boyd enough to leave Kenny Saeif off of this prelim roster.

Boyd has been producing in the Turkish league, with six goals and four assists in 14 games. He’s 24, so he’s not really young, but wingers who can score are valuable in perpetuity, and Berhalter’s system needs a player who can dribble in space and create chances for himself. Corey Baird, who has at times looked like the frontrunner for that job, doesn’t have effectiveness on the ball to score at Boyd’s rate.

It will be fascinating to see whether Boyd can steal a job out of this camp and potentially start a Gold Cup game. That seems like a big jump for a 24-year-old who has been largely unknown to the wider US Soccer stratosphere up until recently, but it seems like a definite possibility.

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