That the United States men’s national team should win against Martinique in Wednesday’s Gold Cup match in Tampa is a near certainty, but American fans will be aiming higher than a win.
Entertainment and power will be expected from the Yanks against Les Matinino, even after CONCACAF minnows handled Nicaragua 2-0 in Nashville.
With respect to former Seattle Sounders striker Kevin Parsemain, who saw a promising MLS career stopped by injury before it began, the Americans are heavy favorites for a multiple goal win on Wednesday (even with a B team roster).
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It’s no given; The last Gold Cup saw the Yanks with a B Team in a much trickier group and they still flubbed their only “easy” match-up when they needed a Clint Dempsey goal to beat Haiti 1-0. Klinsmann’s men conducted their business properly in the 2013 edition, but Bob Bradley‘s bunch only beat Guadeloupe 1-0 in 2011.
So enter Bruce Arena, no stranger to the Gold Cup but certainly not too familiar with watching any team look as disjointed and uninspired as his Yanks did in a 1-1 draw with Panama on Saturday. The formation didn’t flow, the subs were largely ineffective, and the Americans will probably need to win a goal differential with Panama to win Group B.
How will Arena line up his men on Wednesday? Anything is possible. He could roll out the same unit that struggled to control the midfield against Panama, knowing that Dax McCarty and Kellyn Acosta both had off games. He could also change 7-8 starters just to make sure everyone gets a look on the Gold Cup stage, or go with an attack-heavy unit to chase goal differential.
The change from Jurgen Klinsmann was the right move, and Arena has had relative success in World Cup qualifying. But looking adequate, even with a B team, won’t be enough to inspire confidence in fans hoping for another knockout round run at the 2018 World Cup.
The U.S. wants to feel like it lives in Mexico’s neighborhood, which it should be, given its size and wealth. The Yanks should be able to be a convincing Gold Cup group winner whether it sends its Top 23 or men Nos. 15-38. It’s their move again Wednesday. Impress your backers.