With ghosts of 2017 circling, USMNT looking for Gold Cup growth vs. T&T
Everyone watching and playing is well aware what happened the last two times these teams played, but how with the USMNT respond? Will it show growth or will show signs of an ongoing quagmire? ASN's Brian Sciaretta is here with a preview.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedTHE UNITED STATES national team will continue its Gold Cup campaign on Saturday night (8pm EST, FS1) when it takes on Trinidad & Tobago at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium. Fair or not, the dominant story heading into this game will be the crushing defeat the U.S. team suffered to the same opponents 20 months earlier which eliminated it from the 2018 World Cup.
June 21, 2019
June 21, 2019
There is simply no getting around the fact that the loss in Trinidad will be on the minds of every watching and playing in the game. Some of the players from that loss remain on the U.S. team and some are new to team. But the loss is the team’s legacy and a win against Trinidad won’t come close to erasing it.
Lost in all of this talk for the U.S. team, however, is that this game will reveal more about where the team is now. After two dreadful performances in the pre-Gold Cup friendly, did the Guyana game actually provide some confidence moving forward? Or was the Guyana game simply a game against a mismatched opponent that revealed nothing?
Only Berhalter knows for sure, but it would hardly be a surprise if the new U.S. manager goes with a similar lineup to the one that started against Guyana. That team played better as the game went on and Berhalter might try to continue the momentum.
Here are some things to look for in this game
Will the U.S. team play with a purpose?
To try to ignore what happened 20 months ago is futile. It would only be nature, and perhaps healthy, if the U.S. team took the field on Saturday and played with some anger and fire. The talk of specific tactics is secondary. If the U.S. team can’t be motivated for this game or looks nervous because it, it is probably very troubling.
U.S. fans should want to see their team play with incredible intensity. Even for players who were not on the team 20 months ago, everyone should be motivated by the now infamous loss. If the U.S. team plays with fire from the start, it will be a very good sign.
Defense in the midfield
One of the biggest weaknesses of the team is defense in midfield. How is this team going to press and disrupt opponents in the middle of the field? Can it prevent opponents from setting up in the center? Can it force turnovers to quickly get the ball moving the other way?
It was not an issue when playing against an overmatched opponent like Guyana, but when the opposition gets a little better, can it show any improvement from the pre-Gold Cup friendlies?
The good news is that Weston McKennie was back in full training and should be able to go.
Wingers and 1v1 attacks
The best part of the Guyana game was from the two wingers – Paul Arriola and the obvious Man of the Match winner Tyler Boyd. Combined with Christian Pulisic, there are enough players who can beat defenders in 1v1 attacking situations with the ball – or make dangerous runs to draw defenders. Can this continue?
Without a doubt, it was a weakness for most of the past cycle as very few players could actually beat anybody off the dribble. Boyd's addition is big in that regard and it helps out others who are also good at it. Stretching the defense will create holes. That was apparent in the second half vs. Guyana.