On Wednesday night, the USMNT won Group D at the Gold Cup by defeating Panama 1-0. The US started a 2nd string group after they guaranteed qualification into the quarterfinal with their win over Trinidad & Tobago. Panama also rotated their lineup, resting many starters for the quarterfinals. Despite making their World Cup debut last year, Panama still aren’t CONCACAF powerhouses, so all the same “we’re playing against lesser competition” caveats apply. Here are my thoughts on the night:
- Miazga looked fantastic defensively, and okay with the ball at his feet. Zimmerman has him beat when it comes to passing out of the back, which is likely why Zimmerman was favored in the previous two games.
- O. Gonzalez was shaky defensively at times, similar to Tim Ream. Outside of those 2-3 scares, he was fine. Better teams are going to capitalize on those opportunities much more easily.
- Lovitz was solid defensively, but relatively ineffective going forward. He played the LB role differently than Ream, who usually stays at home. Lovitz ventured forward more often, but to little avail.
- Cannon held his own but also didn’t push for the starting spot. He showed that he can hold his own against CONCACAF competition, and we will need players like that in the future. However, I do not expect Cannon to be the first choice RB anytime soon.
- Johnson had little to do on the night, and did not make any mistakes. I doubt he will start again over Steffen, but he showed that he was not overwhelmed playing in a competitive match. Again, we will need guys who are comfortable against CONCACAF teams.
- Roldan and Mihailovic both played okay, but did not have the “creativity”, for lack of a better word, in connecting passes together in the final third. Both are obviously downgrades from Pulisic and McKennie.
- Trapp didn’t look awful or overwhelmed, like he did in the friendlies leading up to this competition. Panama is probably a worse team than Jamaica and definitely worse than Venezuela, but it was encouraging to see Trapp put in a few physical tackles
- Lewis and Morris had as good of showings as they could with poor service. As mentioned above, Mihailovic and Roldan are not Pulisic and McKennie. So Lewis and Morris were not getting the same kind of passed played their way. Suddenly it feels like winger is a strength of this team when it felt like a weakness 2 weeks ago.
- Altidore still looked rusty, but he got the job done scoring the only goal of the night. I was surprised he played 80 mins in this one after only getting 15 against T&T. I would expect him to play limited minuted against Curaçao but I am not sure whether it’d be smarter to start him and take him off or to bring him on off the bench.
- Pulisic came in as a winger and, like Lewis who he replaced, struggled to get service. Previously, I thought he might play better as a winger since he usually plays their for his club, however, I see now that if we do not have enough passing ability in central midfield than we’re practically handicapping our own best player. Might change if we have McKennie, Holmes, Lletget, and/or Adams in the middle, but I won’t make that assumption just yet.
- Boyd and Zardes both cameo-d for 10-15 mins but barely made an impression on the game.
Two larger notes:
- Head Coach Berhalter’s system was still evident when the second string was playing. Altidore missed on two good opportunities which were setup by Berhalt-ian passing sequences with which we are becoming familiar. Not to mention, we still did not concede any goals (Last team in this tournament who can still say that).
- While the collective performance wasn’t anything to write home about, I feel more confident in each of these players filling in for a starter than I did before the game. Right? Like if Boyd and/or Arriola gets injured, I think Lewis and/or Morris could do just fine in the same spot(s). If Lima gets injured, Cannon is a downgrade, but he won’t be a liability. The only two players that might feel like liabilities are Trapp and Gonzalez. Fingers crossed that’s not a problem in this tournament.
Next up is Curaçao on Sunday night. I would expect the starting XI out there which is mostly likely this:
Arriola – Pulisic – McKennie – Boyd
Ream – Long – Zimmerman – Lima
We always knew Altidore was an upgrade over Zardes, he simply wasn’t healthy. I think Miazga deserves to be in the lineup over Ream but I am unsure how well he would play on the left side. Long usually plays on the left side for the New York Red Bulls, but I think Berhalter wants to keep him in the center so they can use his speed as the team’s sweeper. Other than that, I don’t believe anyone made a compelling case to push for the starting XI.
Come back for more Gold Cup action next week!