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.