USA captured first place in Group A with a win over Haiti in the Gold Cup. Billy Nayden offers five takeaways from the game.
The USMNT took on another group stage foe in the CONCACAF Gold Cup last night, and much like their play against Honduras, it wasn’t pretty. Though the United States was able to squeak out a 1-0 victory against Haiti, they were hardly impressive or dominant, and the Haitians produced a lot more chances than many USMNT fans (including myself) would have expected or liked.
While there is good and bad to every game, this game once again sided with the bad. At least the good news is the win secures the United States a first place finish in Group A and will take on a third place team from either Group B or C in the knockout round.
1. Klinsmann should play Aron Johansson more
While it’s hard for me to admit this, Jozy Altidore has not looked healthy in his two matches of the 2015 Gold Cup. The pace is a bit slow, the traditional strength is not there, and his first touch has been simply awful. While I still believe he is a first choice striker, Johansson seems to fit better into the flow of CONCACAF play, and constantly found himself in good positions last night, although sometimes they were wrongly called offside. I’m very in favor of using Jozy as a super sub moving forward to get results and hope he can recover quickly from his injuries.
2. The Zardes-Dempsey-Johansson connection is a revelation
I am currently accepting creative nicknames for the trio of USMNT forwards that linked up for the first time in the second half, but wow did they challenge the Haiti defense. I’ve been very critical of Zardes as a midfielder in the past, but with Dempsey and Johansson alternating between the forward and withdrawn striker role, Zardes was able to find tons of space, and produce beautiful passes to his strikers, including the goal to Dempsey. I hope we see more of this moving forward.
3. Mix Diskerud has come a long way
MLS has been very good to everyone’s favorite Norwegian-American as he has adopted to the physical style of play in North America, no longer getting easily pushed off the ball. He and Michael Bradley were good partners last night, and I loved being able to bring on Kyle Beckerman as a defensive sweeper to secure the result at the end of the game. Mix brings some much needed creativity to the midfield that helped the United States produce many more chances in the second half.
4. Jurgen needs to figure out his center backs
Tim Ream showed us last night that he is not cut out for the international game. He was beat repeatedly by the Hatian strikers, including in the 58th minute where it took some heroic goalkeeping by Brad Guzan to keep Haiti off the board. While Ream is good with the ball at his feet, he is simply too slow in recovery to play at the international level. I support a duo of John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez next game, as Ventura Alvarado continues to develop.
5. Fabian Johnson is the second most important player on this team
Other than Michael Bradley, no player is more important than Fabian Johnson to the USMNT. While Greg Garze showed flashes of brilliance, he ultimately tried to do too much, and as soon as Johnson came into the game, the chances dwindled mightily. He is a great pairing for Zardes on the wing, as he covers Gyasi’s defensive liabilities, but also has a propensity to get forward and the ability to cross better than anyone on the team. Don’t underestimate the contribution of Fabian Johnson.