Opinion: Thoughts on the USMNT’s win over Cuba, sending them to the semi-finals of the Gold Cup
The United States will move on to the semi-finals of the 2015 Gold Cup after demolishing Cuba 6-0 in the Quarterfinals Saturday in Baltimore. The win was the USMNT most complete match of the tournament so far as they took advantage of a depleted Cuba squad early and never let up throughout the game. Here are some of the things that ran through my head during the match.
After a very sluggish trek through the mostly meaningless Group Stage, the U.S. got their act together when it mattered. Make no mistake about it, the U.S. put together their most complete performance in the entire tournament Saturday, playing two good halves and looking very cohesive with each other.
After the match against Panama, I wrote that Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad rotation policy throughout the group stage gave every player a roster a chance to stake their place in the team for the knockout rounds, though it didn’t really seem as if anyone took advantage of that.
Following this performance against Cuba, it looks as if the U.S. has found their best XI for at least the duration of the tournament. Inserting Ale Bedoya on the left side of the midfield helps provide balance to the high-flying flash of a Gyasi Zardes or DeAndre Yedlin flying up the right wing. Bedoya brings a solid skill set to the final third of the pitch, but also a great workrate in the midfield and the discipline to provide cover defensively when the rest of the U.S. midfield gets up the field on the attack.
But of course when it comes to a Jurgen Klinsmann team, who knows how the U.S. will line up next?
All Hail Clint Dempsey
Coming into the Gold Cup it was only natural to wonder what the U.S. would get out of Clint Dempsey. The team had just defeated the Netherlands and Germany in friendlies without Dempsey, making people like myself wonder how he would fit back into the team, and the striker had been stripped of the captaincy after an incident in the MLS.
Well, Dempsey has responded the only way Clint Dempsey knows how–by scoring a ton of goals. The key for the U.S. was to get off to a fast start. Less than four minutes into the match, Clint Dempsey put the U.S. ahead, setting the tone and the rout was on.
Klinsmann issued a personal challenge to the U.S. striker before the tournament to win the tournament’s Golden Ball, and with a hat-trick, Dempsey now has six goals and is well on his way to capturing the trophy.
The U.S. found their best strike partnership in a long time
I am an unabashed Jozy Altidore hater. I think he’s overrated, and I’ve just been waiting for Aron Johannsson to finally step up and steal Altidore’s place. Well, that finally might have happened. Johannsson scored a beautiful goal at the end of the first half and played what was probably his best ever match in a U.S. shirt. Not only that, his link-up play with Dempsey was phenomenal keeping the Cuban defenders on their toes all game.
The U.S. has certainly found their two starting strikers for the remainder of the tournament and hopefully it will continue when World Cup qualifying starts in November. Johannsson’s goal should give him confidence going forward and hopefully that will translate into more performances like the last one.
Gyasi Zardes continues to shine
When the U.S. defeated the Netherlands in early June I wrote that the Gold Cup would be a huge tournament for Gyasi Zardes in that if he can continue to put up impressive performances he can parlay it to a move to a European club.
Well it’s time for European clubs to take notice of Gyasi Zardes. Zardes has been nothing short of a revelation this year, making 12 appearances for the U.S. in the year 2015. He’s settled into the spotlight of international football and has now begun adding goals to his arsenal, scoring against Germany and finishing the United States’ second goal after making a great run. Zardes is ready to play and be challenged in Europe, and if the right club snatches him up, it would do wonders for his development and provide great benefit to the USMNT.
Who is in the U.S. back four in the semi-final?
With John Brooks’ suspension in the quarterfinals, the question heading into the match was whether Jurgen Klinsmann would opt for a Omar Gonzalez-Tim Ream partnership like he did against Haiti, or if one of the two would simply replace Brooks. In the end, it was Omar Gonzalez stepping in and helping settle down a U.S. back line that had been in flux throughout the tournament.
So the question is who starts the semi-final? This was the second time Gonzalez has paired with Ventura Alvarado and the second time the U.S. kept a clean sheet with the two of them starting (the other was the April friendly vs. Mexico). It’s hard to argue with facts like that, and the pair did help the U.S. defense look a lot more settled. Is that enough to earn them both a start or does John Brooks come back into the team?
It’s clear that for some reason that no one else can see Klinsmann loves Alvarado, so despite the fact that he hasn’t exactly played well yet he’ll likely retain his place. As for Brooks, I’ve always been a believer that eventually he will be the best defender the U.S. has. However, that doesn’t mean he’s there yet, and right now Gonzalez is playing better than him. I’d love to see a Gonzalez-Brooks partnership, but for now I think we’ll still be stuck with Alvarado.
At fullback, it was a little odd seeing DeMarcus Beasley not in the starting XI after being recalled for the knockout rounds, but Klinsmann then said he didn’t play after picking up a knock in his first training session. If Beasley is recovered, expect him to come in at left back with Timmy Chandler being dropped to the bench.
Michael Bradley’s Corners
We get it, Bradley scored off of a corner against Panama back in January. We all saw it and it was great, but that doesn’t mean he has to try to do it every single time he get an in-swinging corner. Every team knows it’s coming and they’re defending it; it’s getting annoying now.
And then from the other side it’s not getting any better. Why can’t he just cross a corner into the box? Instead, he has DeAndre Yedlin playing a short corner right to him to then cross into the box? Short corners don’t work *especially* when you try them every time.