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The stars and stripes were shining bright and early in the United States’s second game of the group stage. Gregg Berhalter’s lineup had seven new starters compared to their game one lineup against Haiti. These changes paid dividends as the young but talented crew was on fire Thursday night.
A Matthew Hoppe cross in the 14th minute was on a beeline towards Daryl Dike as he banged a header off the right post and in. Plays like that are exactly what Berhalter was expecting when forming this lineup. That chemistry and trust being built going forward will only help boost this tandems’ confidence throughout the Gold Cup and beyond.
Speaking of trust and confidence, one of the most confident players on the pitch for this squad is the 19-year old Gianluca Busio. He looked exceptional while taking corners and free kicks, almost cashing one in from about 25 yards out on the left side. Then on their second goal of the evening in the 23rd minute, Busio smoked one off the cross bar that bounced right towards Dike’s head and off the defender for an own goal.
His patience and maturity to pick out the open man is far beyond his years. The 90th-minute goal from Nicholas Gioacchini was the perfect example of this as Busio tracked him and sent a screaming ground cross for an easy tap in goal. As it stands, his midfield play is vital to this team and he should easily be starting the rest of the Gold Cup.
Busio’s partner in the midfield, Eryk Williamson, also had plenty of flashes, including his assist to Miles Robinson in the 50th minute. He was quick on the ball and beat many defenders off the dribble. Is it enough to keep his name in the hunt for a World Cup qualifier spot? Maybe, but he needs to find the back of the net sometime in this Gold Cup to help his case.
For the three defenders and their subs, it was a decent night. Martinique’s attacking play was never going to give them fits, but the way they possessed and distributed the ball was impressive, especially James Sands. Robinson’s goal was definitely the highlight of the night for the defense as Walker Zimmerman could never get a header on target.
Obviously, the goal was to get three points and clinch their quarterfinal spot, which the U.S. did that. Now their Sunday game against Canada won’t be as stressful, but the U.S. does have to win to clinch top spot in the group.
If it wasn’t for another Kellyn Acosta mistake to concede the penalty, the Americans would have the top spot in the group. In that scenario, a tie would have been enough to clinch that top group spot. Acosta has been a complete liability as I mentioned in my Gold Cup primer and should be in no way a consideration for the World Cup squad next summer.
Finally, Dike is growing before our eyes and becoming a real problem for the opposition. His second goal of the evening was spectacular as he maintained possession and finished it with a beautiful touch over top of the goalie. At this point, they should highly consider him to be the main man starting up front for the U.S. next summer.
Tune in on Sunday to support the U.S. as they try and grab a win and the Group B top seed over the Canadiens.