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It sounds like a broken record when we talk about the U.S. in the 2021 Gold Cup. Outside of the 6-1 beat down they gave Martinique in the group stage, the Americans have won four out of their five games by a score of 1-0. That same scoreline includes the victory in the semifinal over Qatar onThursday night.
It wasn’t always pretty, as the first half consisted of goalkeeper, Matt Turner, being peppered by shot after shot. One of his miraculous saves actually came inadvertently off the foot of his own man, James Sands. Even though the U.S. dominated the possession game, it means nothing if you just keep swinging the ball around to the defenders.
After being awarded a controversial penalty kick in the second half, Qatar could have taken the lead. It was originally a no call on the field, but the video assistant referee (VAR) came into play and the Qataris were granted the foul. Qatari captain, Hassan Al-Haydos, took the PK attempt and booted it over the bar.
That seemed to be the trend the entire evening for the Qataris, outshooting the Americans 17-6 and coming up blank. Some of that had to do with the quality of shots they took, even though they did have a few looks inside the box. Most of it was due to the stellar keeping of the aforementioned Turner, who has been a brick wall this Gold Cup, allowing only one goal in five games.
From an x’s and o’s standpoint, manager Gregg Berhalter did an incredible job of handling the subs. The lone goal of the evening was created by those second half changes. Eryk Williamson got the hockey assist as he fed Nicholas Gioacchini, who used the outside of his foot to send the ball across goal to Gyasi Zardes.
Zardes is a player who I’ve always been on the fence about, even though he was the deciding factor of the game. In the Gold Cup primer I said that he’s definitely good enough for CONCACAF competition, but should never be on the World Cup squad. If Berhalter continues to get added value out of him then that might change.
In my eyes, nobody really stood out tonight. There were plenty of people that handled their business, such as defenders Miles Robinson and Shaq Moore, but I was expecting to see more. That could all be based off the idea that going into this game, we would get to see back and forth blows with many goals.
Well, the U.S. advanced and that’s all that really matters. Mexico did the same, grinding out a 2-1 win against Canada. All eyes now shift to Las Vegas for the Sunday final.
Final Thoughts (Literally)
If I were to use my best judgement, I’d say that the U.S. comes up short on Sunday against Mexico. The back to back shaky starts don’t mix well with Mexico’s high pressing style of play. That is exactly what caused an early mishap and 1-0 deficit in the CONCACAF Nations League finale, back in June.
This U.S. squad is so young and inexperienced, even though they’ve made it this far. Their rival brought a ton of experienced players who nearly triple the number of caps across the board for the Americans. It’ll be a hostile environment for sure, as these two teams love to mix it up on the field, just as much as the fans in the stands.
This team could prove me wrong, but from what I’ve seen in this Gold Cup, the inexperience and lack of chemistry has been overwhelming at times. That’s why I believe the more experienced veterans like Zardes, Paul Arriola, Kellyn Acosta and even Cristian Roldan will get the start. Berhalter trusts those guys, even if they have less upside than the younger players.
This takes nothing away from rising talents like Daryl Dike and Gianluca Busio. Having the older guys out there to slow down the game and not take the Mexican trash talk is important. These younger guys could be used as late game subs, depending on the situation.
Dike, without a doubt, can out-muscle any of the Mexico defenders, even if he isn’t at 100%. That should be on the mind of Berhalter if he needs to get a late goal off of a set piece.
Also, I would really like to see Williamson one more time. In the two games he’s played this Gold Cup, I’ve really enjoyed what he brings to the table. He’s quick on and off the ball and always seems to make the right pass. The U.S. can never have too many playmakers, especially those that line up in the midfield.
Be sure to tune in on Sunday at 8:30 PM ET, as the U.S. try to take down Mexico twice in one summer!