The United States Men’s National Soccer Team is at a crossroads. Team USA failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup in Russia. Losses to Mexico, Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago, along with surprising draws with Panama and Honduras were enough to cost both Jurgen Klinsmann and his temporary replacement Bruce Arena their jobs. Since then U.S. Soccer has been rebuilding. How do they get their shine back? For starters, a strong showing in the 2019 Gold Cup.
In December of 2018 Gregg Berhalter was named as the new head coach. Berhalter hit the ground running with this team. Using a mixture of both their youthful and veteran players, the United States posted a 3-0-1 record in their four friendlies with wins over Panama, Costa Rica and Ecuador. In addition, they outscored the opposition 7-1 under Berhalter’s watch.
While winning a record seventh trophy (tying Mexico for most titles) is the best outcome, a strong showing (meaning at least the quarterfinals) will prove that Team USA is a contender once again. But this years Copa will provide a very difficult test for the Americans.
What’s in Store for Team USA?
For this year’s event the United States drew Group D. In that group they must get past a hungry Panama team. One that has qualified for every Gold Cup since 2005. A returning Trinidad & Tobago team and a fresh challenge from Guyana who’s making their first ever Gold Cup appearance. The latter of which posted a 2-1-1 record in their last four matches.
Teams that will give Team USA a fight should they reach the knockout stages are Mexico (looking for a record eighth championship), Costa Rica (reached the semifinals back in 2017), Honduras (reached at least the knockout round in five of the last six Gold Cups) and Jamaica (finished as the runner up in the last two Copa de Oro’s).
Rounding out the rest of the field is El Salvador (made the quarterfinals in three of the last four events), Nicaragua (first appearance since 2009), Bermuda, Haiti and Curacao. The competition will be stiff, especially against a U.S. team that’s made some changes since the 2017 Gold Cup.
Who is Team USA Fielding in the 2019 Gold Cup?
This year’s team has a mixture of both youth and experience, however, Berhalter is leaning more towards the youthful side this time around.
The U.S. will have the usual suspects such as Omar Gonzalez, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Brad Guzan. Yet, there are also relative newcomers such as Cristian Roldan (23-years-old, 9 caps), and Weston McKennie (20-years-old, 8 caps, 1 goal). Other youngsters at play are defenders Greg Garza (27-years-old, 10 caps), Nick Lima (24-years-old, 2 caps), forward Christian Ramirez (26-years-old, 2 caps, 1 goal) and goalkeeper Sean Johnson (29-years-old, 7 caps).
However, it is Midfielder Christian Pulisic, that is under the biggest microscope. He’s been labeled as the future of U.S. Soccer since moving up from the Under-17 squad in 2016. At just 20 years of age, Pulisic has already posted 25 caps and 10 goals scored. His transfer to Chelsea of the Premier League from Germany’s Borussia Dortmund cost $73 million, a record fee for an American player.
All of the aforementioned players have been using the recent international friendlies to build chemistry and form a bond. Once the tourney begins they’ll need to put all of those details together to bring home their second trophy in-a-row.
Losses to Venezuela and Jamaica in Team USA’s recent exhibition matches cast a shadow. Is Team USA isn’t ready for primetime? One thing is certain, if Team USA is serious about getting that luster back it all starts at the Gold Cup.