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Gold Cup: Unconvincing USA lives on the edge
by Paul Kennedy, July 13th, 2017 1:51AM
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TAGS:  bruce arena, gold cup, jordan morris, men's national team, world cup 2018

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USA followed up on its 1-1 tie against Panama with another disappointing performance against Martinique, fielding a majority of amateurs from the French sixth division. The Americans took over the Group B lead with a 3-2 win but they were hardly convincing.

"We're certainly guilty of making the game a lot more difficult on us than it needed to be," said U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena after watching his team blow a 2-0 lead almost as quickly as it took it in the second half.



1. Holdovers struggle along with newcomers.

Arena isn't afraid to shake up his lineup. For the final group game against Germany at the 1999 Confederations Cup in Guadalajara, he made nine changes -- every first-team player but Jeff Agoos and Frankie Hejduk -- and the USA beat the Germans for the second time in six months, 2-0.

In June, Arena made seven lineup changes -- everyone but DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, Michael Bradley and Christian Pulisic -- between the Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico qualifiers and the USA held El Tri to a 1-1 tie in Mexico City.

The circumstances were different Wednesday -- Arena wants to look at everyone at the Gold Cup -- but the USA went out with just just three holdovers in the starting lineup from the Panama game in Nashville: Brad Guzan, Omar Gonzalez and Kellyn Acosta.

In his own way, each struggled against Martinique. Guzan gave up one of the worst goals in his national team career, getting beaten on a shot by Kevin Parsemain whom Gonzalez should have closed down. Acosta wasn't terrible but he hardly looked like the steadying force the midfield needed after a shaky game against Panama.

2. Lineup shake-up produces little cohesion.

Of the eight new players in the starting lineup, the player who probably boosted his stock the most was Jordan Morris, who scored the second and third U.S. goals against an albeit tiring Martinique defense.

Gonzalez put the USA ahead 1-0 in the 53rd minute, pouncing on a rebound of a shot at the door of the Martinique goal after Paul Arriola's shot was stopped by keeper Kevin Olimpa.

The USA had most of the ball -- 62 percent of the possession -- but Gyasi Zardes, Juan Agudelo and Arriola attacked in a helter-skelter fashion all over the field.

Martinique came back on a pair of goals by Parsemain, who once played for the Seattle Sounders but now plays for Golden Lion de Saint-Joseph in Martinique's Division d'Honneur, the sixth level of French soccer.

3. Big winners may be veterans at home.


The Gold Cup is all about looking at candidates for a possible World Cup 2018 roster -- nothing is yet assured, of course -- in the eight or so positions that are up for grabs.

The big winners so far may be those who aren't at the Gold Cup, veterans like Tim Ream, who started at centerback in the away draws at Panama and Mexico, DaMarcus Beasley, who has played in a U.S. record five World Cup qualifying cycles, and even Jermaine Jones, who has been injured.

No one has made a convincing case at his position so far at the 2017 Gold Cup.


36 comments
  1. Kent James
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 7:49 a.m.
    While a 3-2 win against Martinique is obviously nothing to brag about, since I tend to be an optimistic person, I didn't think it was that bad. We could have scored a few goals in the first 2 or 3 minutes, and the game was, at least, pretty entertaining. Martinique had some speed and an occasional expression of skill, and their defending, while a bit desperate at times, was pretty effective. What was good about the game was that when they tied it up, we did not lose our composure but came back and scored a very nice goal within a few minutes. So sure, Martinique had no business being that close to our "c" team (or whatever it was), but if you're going to have a bad day (and we all do), better to have it against Martinique than Mexico.
  1. Brent Crossland
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 8:01 a.m.
    I recognize that Arena is treating the Gold Cup group play as an 'audition'. Still doesn't give me a lot of confidence in our depth - particularly in back - when we struggle to beat a nation that has roughly the same population as New Orleans.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 8:18 a.m.
    Kent, I expect professional players to dominate amateurs, both 1v1 and as a group. Even though these amateurs played amazingly well, professional players should not have allowed that to happen. What was surprising is that the US did not have, or at least did not exploit, any speed advantage. What I wanted to see was US attackers dominating, not just winning, 1v1 and even 1v2 matchups. Didn't happen. Regarding Morris, he finished 2 crosses. He was in the right place at the right time, correct. But he didn't score any unassisted goals. The other US attackers were less impressive. Maybe the explanation is that the amateurs were that good, but the bottom line is this team made beating an amateur team look difficult. Martinique is 1/3rd the size of Rhode Island with a population of about 400,000. The US has 44 cities (not metropolitan areas) with greater populations. Our countries population is 1000 times higher.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 8:30 a.m.
    Here is a statistic that ought to demonstrate how bad things are--contrary to the popular excuse that soccer is not a popular sport in the US--according to FIFA the US has 9% of the world's soccer players. (Yes, 1 out of every 11 players in the World resides in the USA.)
  1. Kent James
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 11:15 a.m.
    Bob, while I certainly agree that we should've crushed Martinique, I did not think we looked as bad as the score might indicate. As for size of the country, you know size of the country only matters to a point (otherwise China and India would be world powers, and the Netherlands would suck); one could even argue that the size of the US hurts us because players get lost (though I'd still rather have a large player pool to work from, it's not purely positive). As for the speed of the players, I thought Martinique had excellent speed (Morris, for example, who I know is quite fast, could not outpace their defenders, and I don't think it was for lack of effort). While many people did not play especially well, I don't think it means all that much (other than the fact that only a few players helped their case for being included in games that matter, and it is almost as useful to know who not to include as who to include in those games. So while it was not a stellar performance, it was entertaining, we got the win, and got to evaluate more players, so it is time to move on to Nicaragua! If we also struggle to beat them, then I'll start to worry...
  1. Richard T. Lynch
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 8:33 a.m.
    Bob, I agree with your pro vs amateur comment but I thought our guys were playing scared, tentative, whatever. Individually, they all knew this game was potentially their "big moment" and many of them weren't up to the moment. Perhaps that tells us something. The number of back passes and side passes in our defensive third and the general inability to play out of our back through the MF, and as a result reverting to the MLS 'long ball', was telling. These guys really are better than they showed but the pressure of the moment got to them, IMO. Shouldn't have, but did.
  1. Gary Levitt
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 8:39 a.m.
    I am not being unrealistic with my expectations BUT every time our National Team steps on the field I expect a 100% effort. I don't care who Arena puts on the field in the Gold Cup but last night's performance was embarrassing and unacceptable at a National Team level. I don't want to hear about the player pool - in the middle of 2017 last night's performance was shameful.
  1. Joe Linzner
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 9:23 a.m.
    Amen, Mr. Levitt If Mr. Klinsmann were the coach, his head would roll yet again. Even watching this farce was painful. It certainly followed Mr. Arena's goal of winning first, playing well second. Certainly, a goal to which a team should aspire!
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 9:43 a.m.
    Joe are you kidding about JK? The 2015 Gold Cup performance - with a first-choice squad - was every bit as bad as last night. He should have been fired after the debacle but someone hung on another year and put us in a hole in the Hex. Not excusing yesterday's performance because it was awful but I'm still pretty happy Bruce is in charge.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 9:43 a.m.
    Also how about an edit button soccer america so my posts don't have a million typos? It's 2017! Thanks.
  1. ROBERT BOND
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 10:15 a.m.
    my soon to be 16 year old son is better in goal than Guzan-as is the current ATL U goalie-just hope he can beat out the ODP politics....
  1. Rusty Welch
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 10:40 a.m.
    Congrats to J-Mo Smooth, he played hard the entire game and came up big. I think the biggest concern with this game was the huge number of weak, awful little dribbler passes that I saw - I mean, wtf? There were so many lazy slow passes, and a lot of lazy efforts to retrieve them as well. That should NEVER happen in a U.S. competitive international match. I am also worried that coach Arena apparently was happy with the effort at the half. The team came out hustling (but still way too many crap passes), but then this gave way to only some guys hustling. I think Roldan is a great young player, just maybe not ready for this level yet with that performance. That was a truly ugly performance from a squad that should be able to play better - and if that's the best this group can do against Martinique, a good portion of them need to work a lot harder on their game and fitness. Gonzales scares me in the back as well - congrats on the goal buddy, but it's more important that you stop getting beat by every team you play against. Shaky at best.
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 12:02 p.m.
    Guys, I didn't watch the game for I figured a USMNT intra-squad game would have been better, but maybe I was wrong. First ,what are we doing playing these types of countries? I would rather see us play friendlies from South America countries rather than this. We need to play the best or better countries,THAT will only serve us better as far as learning. From your criticisms it sounds you guys weren't too happy and I can understand that. Bob's points and some of you other guys are right on. The point Kent was making about small countries, well...there is small and there is small countries. Holland has 16 million people but it is small. Name me a country that is a power house that has the population New Orleans. Criticisms of the passing is too slow, lack of good build up from the ,ball movement, and there is so much more of course, etc,etc...is more a reflection that goes right to the top...the USSF Coaching School Academy where you receive those coaching licenses. That is where the fault lies, plus those of the USSF think tank which run US soccer responsible as far as the focus of how we should play,what should be stressed in the technical development and other matters. Once you identify some of the basic problems as per your criticisms and mine, something should be done for I'm sure those who control and run US soccer at the highest echelons should see this as well. If i ran US soccer ,for example, and seeing just the technical inadequacies that from bottom to the top. My first response would be to have US Coaching Academy beat into the heads of these coaches going for a license( I'm not referring to the very young kids) the importance of fast pace passing, teaching them the effects, technically, positionally, defensively and tactically the negative effects. That the state associations will have representatives at tournaments look for the good ,fast, hard passing. By continually emphasizing this aspect sooner or later it becomes second nature to the coaches and as result fast passing won't be an issue anymore. Tournaments should be set up where it is not the winning that is important but individual teams performances as to the finer aspects of the games, the passing, ball distribution, off sides traps, building up from the back, cross passes, 3rd man off the ball, etc ,etc...and award points for sophistication they have shown...most points ,wins.. In other deal with the real soccer aspects.....
  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 12:13 p.m.
    Both teams showed a lack of execution and the soccer IQ level was quite apparent. Most of the passing interchanges by both teams were mediocre in quality. Deliveries were either too slow and lacked accuracy.
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 12:15 p.m.
    TIP 59. FINDING A GOOD MOMENT TO PRESSURE THE OPPONENT'S BACKFIELD, IS DONE IN 3 WAYS. ONE, WHEN THEY PASS THE BALL TO A BACK BY THE SIDELINE. TWO, WHEN THE DISTANCE OF A PASS TO A DEFENDER IS MEDIUM RANGE. THE DEFENDER HAS TO WAIT A LITTLE LONGER FOR THE BALL AND THEREBY LOSING CONCENTRATION FOR WHAT IS HAPPENING UPFIELD OPTIONS. THREE, THE PASS IS GOING TO A DEFENDER WHO IS WEAK TECHNICALLY. THAT IS DONE BY ALLOWING THE DEFENDER ENOUGH SPACE TO GET THE BALL AND THEN JUMP ON HIM
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 12:28 p.m.
    TIP 68. THE TEMPO OF THE GAME IS DIRECTLY RELATED TO NUMBER OF PLAYING OPTIONS OFF THE BALL, THE MORE THE FASTER...
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 12:33 p.m.
    TIP69. TO INCREASE THE TEMPO OF THE GAME THAT DOESN'T MEAN YOU RUN FASTER BUT INSTEAD IMPROVE THE PACE OF MOVEMENT OF THE BALL.
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 12:40 p.m.
    TIP 70. A COACH SHOULD LOOK AT THE LEFT FLANK OF THE OPPONENTS AND NOTICE WHICH PLAYER(S) ARE RIGHT FOOTED. PASSING COMBINATIONS WITH RIGHT FOOTED PLAYERS ON THE LEFT FLANK ARE MORE DIFFICULT AND NOT AS SMOOTH...
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 12:47 p.m.
    TIP 71. STUDY HOW A PLAYER IN THE BACKFIELD OR IN THEIR OWN HALF RECEIVE THE BALL. PLAYERS SHOULD RECEIVE THE BALL IN A MANNER THAT HE CAN OPEN UP TO EITHER SIDE OF THE FIELD, WITHUT TO MAKE AN EXTRA OR TURN WITH THE BALL. OFTEN A PLAYER RECEIVES THE BALL IN MANNER HE CAN'T OPEN TO ONE SIDE WITHOUT MAKING AN EXTRA MOTION WITH THE BALL .
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 12:49 p.m.
    TIP 72. WHEN THE GOALIE KICKS THE BALL TOWARDS MIDFIELD, MAKE SURE THE TEAM CLOSE THE LINES AND STAY COMPACT IN ORDER TO WIN THE BALL.
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 12:58 p.m.
    TIP 73. IT IS NOT IMPORTANT WHO WINS HEAD BALLS AT MIDFIELD FROM GOAL KICKS FOR 99% BECOME SECONDARY BALLS, ANYWAY. THE PERSON WHO WINS THE HEAD BALL HAS NO CLUE WHERE IT WILL END UP. INSTEAD THE SMART PLAYERS INVOLVED SHOULD NOT GO UP FOR A HEADER BUT DROP BACK 5 METERS AND QUITE A FEW TIMES IT COMES RIGHT TO YOU
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 1:05 p.m.
    TIP 74. CENTER BACKS SHOULD BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN BEATING A SMALLER PLAYER IN THE AIR, FOR OFTEN THE BALL ENDS UP GOING TO AN UPCOMING TRAILING OPPONENT. MANY OF THE DEFENDERS ARE JUST CONCERNED ABOOUT WINNING AN AIRBALL WITH REALIZING THE RESULTING EFFECT...
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 1:13 p.m.
    TIP 75. WHEN YOU HAVE A CHOICE 2 ATTACKERS DOWNFIELD, AND A LONG PASS IS FRUITFULL
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 1:17 p.m.
    TIP 75.WHEN YOU HAVE A CHOICE OF 2 ATTACKERS DOWNFIELD, AND A LONG PASS IS WARRANTED THAN PASS TO THE ONE FURTHEST DOWNFIELD . IF THE PASS TO THE NEAREST ONE CREATES BALL LOSS THAN 2 PLAYERS WOULD HAVE BEEN BEATEN ON THE TRANSITION INSTEAD JUST ONE.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 1:19 p.m.
    Thought a bunch of people had chimed in with their thoughts on the game but it's just a bunch of unwanted and pointless ALL CAPS "TIPS" from frankie.
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 1:26 p.m.
    TIP 76. PRESSURING OPPONENTS MEANS REALLY FORCING THEM TO MAKE A BAD PASS IN ORDER TO WIN THE SECONDARY BALL. SO IT IS NOT A QUESTION OF CHASING AN OPPONENT TRYING TO STEAL THE BALL FROM HIM BUT FORCE HIM TO MAKE THE MISTAKE IN MAKING A BAD PASS.
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 1:38 p.m.
    TIP 77. THE LEFT FLANK IS SO IMPORTANT FOR IT IS THIS FLANK THAT BRINGS BALANCE TO THE TEAM. BECAUSE MOST PLAYERS ARE RIGHT FOOTED, LEFT FOOTED PLAYERS ON THE LEFT FLANK ARE SO IMPORTANT TO THE FLOW OF ATTACK AND MOVEMENT OF THE BALL.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 1:44 p.m.
    Yet you criticized Bruce Arena for not playing a right footed player at left-back in the game against Mexico.
  1. Bret Newman
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 4:05 p.m.
    The real problem was the defense. Not marking their man, and leaving Martinique players wide open. Brad Guzman played worse than I ever seen, otherwise Martinique might not even had scored a goal. And the set piece coverage was horrendous.
  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 5:29 p.m.
    FPGN; those "unwanted & pointless thoughts" u so graciously mentioned is "soccer IQ", and u made the B-team with flying colors. Frank S. is giving u some critical elements of the game in CAPS and u "fret and strut upon the stage, signifying nothing."
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 6:33 p.m.
    This is not the stage for frankie to try and show us all he supposedly knows about the game.
  1. Aaron Bregel
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 6:32 p.m.
    I am surprised you did not mention Roldan. The kid seem to have a motor that did not stop, other than the cramping at the end. He seemed solid on breaking up attacks on defense and also did well to engage on offense. I would have like to see Bruce play him in the previous game. He had a really good first team cap.
  1. Craig Cummings
    commented on: July 13, 2017 at 10:15 p.m.
    Bret are you the son of the famous coach of San Diego Sockers Old NASL and MISL?
  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: July 14, 2017 at 11:02 a.m.
    Frank S. wants to help out the bloggers on soccer IQ and some feel insulted? Aaron B., having a "motor" is useless unless the player in question can make things happen. And who made things happen in the first two games on a consistent basis. Look at Pulisic and compare his play to any other NT player; that's the barometer to measure a player's quality.
  1. Keisha Green murrayandy154@gmail.com
    commented on: July 14, 2017 at 5:41 p.m.
    Hi everyone, I am from USA in Taxes, I applied for a loan of $100,000 in march 2016 with diamond loan company and I was ask to pay $1000 for insurance which I did and they never transfer my loan and I was charge more and more fee which I got nothing in return I lost over $20,000 to them because I was anxious of the loan I have to apply through another company and this second company did the worst to me, I was ask to pay only $800 for transfer fee which I later give them the total of $7000 and till date I never get mails from them and this really make me frustrated Until 1st of December when a friend of my referred me to HAVILLS LOAN FIRM at first I was scared but I later contacted them and after the processing of my loan, I received my loan the second days they transfer to me $300,000.00USD on 2% interest, please if any one is looking for a loan then contact them by email: havillsloanfirm@yahoo.com it is the solution to your loan problem's. Thank you again Mr. Andy Murray the manager of HAVILLS LOAN FIRM. Any one in need of loan can reach them now via email: havillsloanfirm@yahoo.com
  1. Nick Daverese
    commented on: July 17, 2017 at 6:56 p.m.
    Keisha are you really from Taxes? What part of the USA is Taxes. If there is a place called Taxes I must never go there because I hates Taxes. I want to be free of Taxes. Who is the governor of Taxes.

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