A Gold Cup Title Isn’t Crucial for USMNT

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John Dorton/ISI Photos / Contributor

The USMNT opened up their CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Haiti, a team struck with Covid and a national tragedy,on Sunday night. The game winner came courtesy of a 23rd minute goal from Colorado Rapids defender, but it’s still hard to get a read on what this USMNT group’s outlook is for the Gold Cup. 

It makes it more difficult to dissect a USMNT performance when there’s no Zack Steffen between the ivory panel, and when the likes of Sergino Dest, Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, and Weston Mckennie (just to name a few) are away training with their respective clubs in Europe. 

I know that it’s better for them to train with their clubs in Europe for preseason, but this USMNT needs all the chemistry it can get. Yes, these guys are talents, but there’s a clear lack of chemistry between the group at times.

This USMNT, and USMNT’s as a whole throughout the federation’s history, have always been close off the field. That camaraderie of representing the greatest country on planet earth truly will bring a group of players together. 

Even though the big names aren’t there, this is still a must watch tournament. It is going to make guys step up, or like USA fans are used to seeing, crumble under the pressure of international competition. Some would call it a 'B-team,' but I think that’s being generous. It’s a mix of 'B' and 'C' team players with a sprinkle or two of players who are looking to make an impression before the World Cup Qualifying Final Round starts in September.

Sunday’s match was just the start to what is going to be a wild ride. They’ll be favored heavily in every game with the exception of Mexico, and they are getting every team's best effort. Everyone wants to take America down, so let’s see who is going to step up and make sure that doesn’t happen in this year's Gold Cup.

Players to Keep an Eye on

Daryl Dike

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Omar Vega/Getty Images

The former Virginia Cavalier never got situated to the game during his 30 minutes of action on Sunday. A player like that needs time to cement himself into the game, and he never got that opportunity on Sunday.

I’m well aware that many in the soccer world would prefer Josh Saergent in this role, or even do away with a true #9 in the first place, but I need Daryl Dike to be a regular in this team.

The USMNT is in desperate need of a #9. Jozy Altidore is not “that guy” anymore. He’s an American soccer legend, but he’s not the same goal scorer who is 3rd all-time in USMNT goal scoring history with 42 international goals. 

Daryl Dike definitely could, and in my opinion will be, the new front man for the Stars & Stripes. 

He’s back at Orlando City after tearing it up at Barnsley in the English Championship. 9 goals in 19 games succeeded everyone’s expectations, and those results have linked him with EPL teams, most notably Everton. A strong showing would only enhance his value to an EPL team looking for an American goal machine up front. 

Regardless of where Dike ends up, he’s shown he has the talent to perform in Europe, and if he can bring that hot streak to the national team it could see him become a household name for the average fan who only tunes in for the big games. 

Matthew Hoppe

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Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Let me take you back in time to January 9th where Matthew Hoppe, who at the time was 19, threw a coming out party that will live on in soccer lore forever. 

The LA suburb kid scored his first senior team goal with Schalke that day, and then he scored another one, and then another one. On that January day, Hoppe became the first American to register a hat-trick in Bundesliga history. 

The question now is was that game against Hoffenheim a fluke? Or can this kid break through. Unless you’re a die-hard Schalke fan, you probably haven’t seen Hoppe play, so this could be his big break in terms of becoming a name that American supporters will come to know, and hopefully love. 

Gianluca Busio

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The poise from this young man last night was out of this world. He wasn’t overwhelmed by the moment, which was amped up even more from playing in his home club stadium in Kansas City. 

If you haven’t heard this name before, here’s one fact you need to know; He’s the youngest player to sign an MLS contract since Freddy Adu signed with DC United. He just turned 19, and is starting to show promise of moving to Europe in the future.

He has shown he can control the game with his time with Sporting KC, and if he can keep improving off his Sunday performance, he might have an opportunity to make the World Cup Qualifying roster in an already crowded midfield. 

His time could be limited in this Gold Cup if Berhalter gives other looks, but he deserves an opportunity to strut his stuff. 

Sam Vines

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I know Sam Vines scored the game winner last night, which is the most important thing in soccer, but aside from that, he was suspect defensively. His first half was great, but he looked like a different player in the 2nd half who lacked defensive awareness. 

I know I’ve stated that this Gold Cup roster is kinda bleh, but Sam Vines can seriously make a case for himself to have an active role for the USMNT once World Cup Qualifying rolls around in September.  

He’s competing with Antonee Robinson of recently relegated Fulham, who is favored over Vines, but not by much despite being a former Premier League.

Maybe that’s the problem with American soccer. Do we prop the average European players above the dominant MLS players? Maybe, but this is an open competition at left back during World Cup Qualifying. May the best man win. 

Reggie Cannon

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The fluidity and flexibility that Gregg Berhalter has at his expense in the defensive department is overflowing in excess. It’s a great thing to have if you’re a coach, but it’s tough on players like Reggier Cannon who has to sit behind Sergino Dest, or battle it out with a group of other talented outside backs that can play on both ends of a defensive line.  

Cannon is using this Gold Cup as a chance to get a new contract after Portugese side Boavista decided not to re-sign him. If Cannon can outshine Vines, he gives himself a storing opportunity to increase his role within this USMNT roster.

Matt Turner

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It was a relatively quiet night for the neminder, which is something he should get used to for this tournament. He got the shutout, but now Berhalter has to keep him between the pipes.

For the love of God, please give Matt Turner an opportunity to play the entirety of this Gold Cup. Apologies to Brad Guzan and Sean Johnson, but the net needs to be manned by potential MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Matt Turner. 

We know what we get out of Sean Johnson and Brad Guzan. Although they say goalkeepers get better with age, it’s time to fizzle them out of the lineup. Having a veteran presence would be nice for Zack Steffen to have, but as talented as he is, he hasn’t shown enough consistency to make everyone feel comfortable like Tim Howard and Kasey Keller did in prior years. 

I’m not saying he’s going to beat out Zack Steffen for the starting role, but Matt Turner has shown with his time in New England that he deserves to be in the goalkeeping room for this USMNT. Our top two keepers (Steffen and Horvath) aren’t regulars on their club teams, so having someone who is getting quality minutes is important for a keeper room. 


Repeat after me. It's not a big deal if the Americans don’t win this Gold Cup. 

This Gold Cup is no different than any other CONCACAF event in the sense that it’s all designed for the United States to meet Mexico in the final. That’s what’s best for all parties involved. Fans want to see one of the biggest soccer rivalries in the world, the players want to play in these rivalry matches because pride still matters in this sport, and the networks/federations want to make money. 

Does it water down the rest of the competition? Sure, but CONCACAF has to work with the countries in their domain. 

Would I like for the USMNT to lift another trophy like they did with the CONCACAF Nations League ? Yeah obviously. It’d be exhilarating to watch this group of players, who for the most part, aren’t first team caliber international players lift a trophy. 

This Gold Cup is a nice litmus test for Gregg Berhalter to tune some things up, and hopefully add the complimentary pieces needed to get through qualification this time around. In addition to figuring out who’s on the team, it’s equally important for Berhalter to make the tough decision of removing players from the roster.

The question marks regarding Gyasi Zardes have to be resolved by the end of this Gold Cup. From my perspective he’s not still playing international soccer if Greg Berhalter, his old Columbia Crew manager, isn’t in charge of the USMNT. We could be seeing the last of Gyasi Zardes in a United States shirt once the Gold Cup concludes.

This isn’t even remotely close to the squad we’ll have come September when things get serious. To say that this upcoming World Cup Qualifying process is the most important in American history would be a severe understatement. 

This Gold Cup roster is good enough to make the final. It’s not a disappointment if they don’t win it, but it’d be difficult to watch if they didn’t at least make the final.

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