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
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
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
TRI – Alvin Jones (caution) 39th minute
TRI – Daneil Cyrus (caution) 58
USA – Weston McKennie (caution) 58
TRI – Joevin Jones (caution) 86
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