Expectations for the United States the men’s national team is high in the Gold Cup no matter who fits it. Not only are the United States expected to win every match in the group stage of the tournament, but also with clear margins. Not reaching such a level, and the tendency to look askance at players begins.
Sunday’s Gold Cup opener against Haiti was an example. The United States has worked at a 1-0 victory over a team that were not only reeling from the assassination of the country’s president, Jovenel Moise, but faced the fact that five players – including the striker Frantzdy Pierrot – had been ruled out due to positive COVID-19 tests.
Certainly, Haiti has proven to be a difficult team to overcome in the last editions of the tournament. The Grenadiers reached the semi-finals two years ago and the quarter-finals four years ago. So for an American team giving minutes to players lower on the depth chart, Sunday’s meeting was going to be a trickier task than it looked otherwise. And yet, if these players are to convince US manager Gregg Berhalter that they deserve to be called up to the full squad, they will have to outdo themselves and excel against opponents like Haiti.
To be fair, there were some solid performances to remember. Zimmerman Walker impressed with his defense, distribution and set-piece presence. Kelly’s Acosta was active in the American midfielder. And Shaquell moore has proven to be a threat on the right flank and has bailed out the US defense a few times by defusing some transition opportunities for Haiti.
Of the three, Moore was the least likely to stand out. He worked quietly for Tenerife in the Spanish division of Segunda, accumulating first-team experience while the likes of Barcelona Sergino Dest and Boavista Reggie Canon caught most of the American minutes in the right-back. In fact, not only was it Moore’s first camp under Berhalter, but Cannon had to start as recently as Saturday, only to be sidelined with a right thigh injury.
“Shaq got the notification that he was starting eleven hours before the game, and coming and having this performance… I think he made a big effort, and there is more to come of him. “said Berhalter.
Even more impressive, with Moore’s season ending in May, he was training on his own before being called up to camp for the Gold Cup. But you would never have known that given the way he was bombarding the right flank from top to bottom. While his in-box deliveries needed to be more precise, the hope is that those passes will be sharper with more playing time.
“We worked hard,” Moore said of the time spent with his coach. “It’s never easy. [It’s a] different level, different speed entering. I think I did well. It’s good [starting] obviously not. I’m still making progress to be in good shape, but I think as the tournament progresses everything will be fine. “
But in terms of team performance, there was a lot to be desired. The United States started in the limelight and aptly broke through in the eighth minute when Sam Vines returned home after Gyasi Zards kept Moore’s deflected cross alive in the box.
But the United States failed to capitalize on its initial advantage. The early hamstring injury Paul Arriola didn’t help matters, but a passivity quickly crept into the American attack, with the home side contenting themselves with safe passes. So even though the United States created some turnarounds with their press, they did not translate into stares at the goal. Haiti has finally returned to the game and created decent chances in transition.
“I missed the urgency to score more goals, to be dangerous, to go forward first and to be aggressive,” said Berhalter. “For me it was way too slow, way too far behind, and not enough intention to turn Haiti over and have them defend in the penalty area. And then once we’re in the penalty area, I didn’t like the runs, the movements in the box. I didn’t like the serve. So on the offensive side, we were disappointed with the intention that we showed tonight.
It wasn’t until the second half of the hometown star’s introduction Gianluca Busio, making his international debut, that aggression and bite returned to the American midfielder. He also nearly brought down the house with a scorching practice that goaltender Brian Silvestre pushed back. Eryk Williamson added some energy as well.
“I think it was a really special feeling for me,” Busio said of his first selection. “I thought it was a really good game for me and getting used to CONCACAF. It was a bit hectic, but I’m happy that we can come away with the win and do it in front of my home crowd. “
Busio’s performance was such that it wouldn’t be surprising to see him take the start against Martinique. Jackson Yueill was among the biggest culprits in the security-first approach, and he doesn’t offer as much defensively as Busio.
Wing play will also be an area of interest. By Berhalter’s own admission, the position was slim before the tournament. Jonathan lewis had little impact, and the sight of Zardes moving away widely revealed how much the ranks have declined, though it should be noted that the Columbus’ crew the forward experienced considerable downtime earlier in his career for club and country. Nicolas Gioacchini, who replaced Arriola, did not seem comfortable. Will Matthieu hoppe – another striker being inscribed on the wing – take a look?
The next game against Martinique – 4-1 losers at Canada in the first game of the day – seems a great time to experiment.
“It’s about being patient. It’s about learning. It’s about gathering information about the players and how we can play with this group,” said Berhalter. “And then adapt.”
Berhalter will also look for an improvement in the performance of the team.