The USA closes out group play in the Gold Cup in Cleveland on Saturday when it faces Nicaragua, the only Central American team it has never faced.
Group B, Saturday:
Panama vs. Martinique, FS2, Univision, 4:30 pm ET
USA vs. Nicaragua, FXX, Univision, 7 pm ET
Despite underwhelming performances in its first two games, the USA will be prohibitive favorites against a team that had never scored at the Gold Cup until Wednesday.
Chavarria scored early in the second half to give Nicaragua a short-lived lead against Panama, which rallied to win, 2-1. The USA beat Martinique, 3-2, in the late game, giving it the edge over
the Canaleros for first time in Group B on goal difference.
Group B, Standings:
PTS TEAM W-T-L +/-
USA 1-1-0 4/3
4 Panama 1-1-0 3/2
3 Martinique 1-0-1 4/3
0 Nicaragua 0-0-2 1/4
U.S. coach Bruce Arena said he knew little about Nicaragua before watching it play
Panama, but he said he thought it had played well.
"All Caribbean and Central American teams have improved," he said. "That's a real positive for Concacaf. The small countries have
elevated their football."
Arena said one of the goals of the tournament was to find out whom he'll want to bring back in for the key World Cup 2018 qualifiers in September (Costa Rica and
Honduras) and October (Panama and Trinidad & Tobago).
“One of the things we’re trying to do in this tournament is really look at some players in our pool that we as a
staff haven’t seen much of, to help us make decisions moving forward with World Cup qualifying in September and October," he said. "But I think they’ve also made it much more complicated
to decide what changes to make in this tournament, and that’s positive.”
The USA is all but assured of reaching the quarterfinals, where it can make up to six roster changes,
adding players from its original short list of 40 players that includes the likes of Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and Darlington Nagbe. (The lone
European-based star on the short list is Christian Pulisic, but it is unimaginable that U.S. Soccer would ask Borussia Dortmund to release in the middle of pre-season.)
has 24 hours to make his changes, saw a lot of positives from the Martinique game despite a sloppy first half and late scare when the Antillais came back from two goals down to briefly tie the game,
“I think I saw a lot of good performances out of some of our players," he said. "Clearly, Jordan Morris scored two goals and Eric Lichaj [and] Justin
Morrow did a good job on our backline. I thought Cristian Roldan for his first cap with the U.S. team did well and I thought Juan Agudelo had an excellent game tonight. There were a
lot of positives there.”