Curacao

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3 things learned from USMNT’s lackluster win

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What did we learn from the U.S. men’s national team’s uninspiring victory over Curacao in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Gold Cup on Sunday?

Quite a lot, very little of which was actually positive…

[ MORE: USMNT uninspiring in Gold Cup QF win over Curacao (video) ]

Bradley is a wonder on the ball, but a liability without it

Each of the following is true, no matter which side of the “Michael Bradley is amazing/Michael Bradley is a waste of a roster spot” debate you fall on:

  • Bradley’s range of passing and vision to thread through balls to all parts of the field remains an absolute joy to watch and tends to be the only time the USMNT attacks in a non-vanilla manner
  • Bradley’s defensive discipline rating is a 0 on a scale of any number, and his ability to recover once out of position — which, again, is just about always — is a negative integer

Bradley picked out passes that split three or four opposing players on at least two occasions Sunday night — one of which even found its intended target — and remains the only midfielder player on the field who consistently looks to raise the tempo of attacking play and try anything even remotely aggressive.

It’s not all Bradley’s fault that the midfield is a gigantic mess out of possession, but he’s supposed to be the one who can see issues like this and fix them. If anyone else would apply pressure in an organized manner, he wouldn’t feel the need to go on heroic runs up the field to chase the ball 1-on-10, but they don’t, and he does.

[ HIGHLIGHTS: USWNT holds off France in riveting quarterfinal ]

The system and striker are at odds with one another

Without quicker transition from defending to the counter-attack — due in large part to the aforementioned lack of pressing — opponents have plenty of time to transition themselves back into defensive shape before the Americans even enter the final third of the field. This means lots of possession and passes all around the penalty area, but very little penetration into the box.

For this reason, the center forward has to drop into the midfield to 1) pull defenders out of position, 2) create space for others to run into, and 3) serve as the primary playmaker. None of those things are the strengths of Gyasi Zardes, who Gregg Berhalter insists on starting at center forward. Zardes is great at exactly one thing: getting on the end of crosses and finishing with his first touch. The problem with that is: chances like that are only ever created on the counter, otherwise there are two and three and four defenders in the box to contend with. If the USMNT isn’t going to play quickly — to Zardes’ greatest ability — he shouldn’t be on the field.

If only there was a player on the roster who excels at play-making when he drops between the lines. If only

[ MORE: Jill Ellis, Phill Neville at odds over USWNT scoping out England hotel ]

At least the defense looks pretty good

Fact: the USMNT is yet to concede a single goal at this Gold Cup.

Also fact: the first goal the USMNT concedes at this Gold Cup will probably be the one that knocks them out.

Also fact, sadly: Curacao was the most impressive team the USMNT has faced at this Gold Cup, and they were in complete control of the entire second half of this game.

That doesn’t bode well as the Yanks head to next week, where they’ll face Jamaica and (likely) Mexico, should they advance to the final.

USMNT uninspiring in Gold Cup QF win over Curacao (video)

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The U.S. men’s national team is through to the semifinals of the 2019 Gold Cup, despite having looked even the slightest bit impressive for only 45 of the 360 minutes they’ve played in the tournament.

[ HIGHLIGHTS: USWNT holds off France in riveting quarterfinal ]

Gregg Berhalter’s side did just enough — ever so slightly — to dispatch a Curacao side which entered as heavy underdogs but grew in confidence as the game wore on, 1-0 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Penn., on Sunday.

Christian Pulisic came within inches of opening the scoring in the 4th minute, but Eloy Room made a spectacular save to tip the ball over the crossbar. Paul Arriola sent the cross in for Pulisic and, though it was a bit behind him, Pulisic got enough on the ball to redirect it on target, but Room was up to the acrobatic task of keeping it out.

Pulisic’s fingerprints were all over the rare moment the Yanks created chances, including the game’s only goal in the 25th minute. After getting the ball out wide, the 20-year-old ran at the defender and cut the ball onto his favored right foot before lifting a delicate, curling cross over the sea of bodies inside the box. Weston McKennie arrived at the back post and the ball had eyes for his forehead, making the finish as easy as Pulisic’s ball was spectacular.

[ MORE: Jill Ellis, Phill Neville at odds over USWNT scoping out England hotel ]

Curacao dominated possession and the sparse number of scoring chances throughout the second half. While they created very little of consequence — outside of Leandro Bacuna‘s long-range strike in the 84th minute, forcing Zack Steffen into a desperate save over the bar — Curacao was the side that looked supremely comfortable in possession and in control of everything on the field.

The one time the Yanks actually threatened on the counter-attack resulted in Gyasi Zardes having the only decent chance he’d see all night. Arriola broke down the left wing and delivered a perfect cross toward the penalty spot, but Zardes skied his effort without ever looking convincing.

Up next for the USMNT is a semifinal clash with Jamaica — far and away the best team they’ve seen at this Gold Cup — on Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn.

FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT-Curacao, Jamaica-Panama in Gold Cup QF

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Mexico and Haiti were the first two sides to book their places in the 2019 Gold Cup semifinals on Saturday; now, two more sides will join them on Sunday.

[ LIVE: Jamaica v. Panama, USA v. Curacao in Gold Cup quarters ]

Jamaica and Panama are set to meet in Sunday’s first quarterfinal at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Penn., followed by the U.S. men’s national team taking on Curacao.

After struggling through their first game and a half of group play, Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT hit its stride during a second-half blowout of Trinidad & Tobago and took care of business with a fully rotated team against Panama. Now, they’ll face the biggest surprise of this summer’s Gold Cup — all due respect to semifinalists Haiti.

Hit the link above to follow along for the next few hours and check back on PST for full coverage of the USMNT’s clash with Curacao.

Sunday’s Gold Cup schedule

Jamaica v. Panama — 5:30 p.m. ET
USA v. Curacao — 8 p.m. ET

WATCH: Stoppage time missile earns Curacao draw with Jamaica

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This Gold Cup isn’t short on drama.

A day after Haiti stunned Costa Rica to win Group B, it was Curacao’s turn to up the ante.

Needing a point to stay alive for a knockout round berth, Jurien Gaari ripped a stoppage time rocket into the back of the goal to defy Andre Blake and Jamaica a win and the Group C crown (at least for a couple of hours).

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Shamar Nicholson had given the Reggae Boyz a 14th minute lead, but Jamaica couldn’t find a second goal.

If Honduras beats El Salvador in the business end of the doubleheader in Los Angeles, Curacao will finish second in the group and advance to face either the USMNT or Panama.

If El Salvador manages a draw or win, well, at least Curacao will have this wonder from RKC Waalwijk’s right back:

FOLLOW LIVE, Gold Cup: Three times alive for two spots on Group C’s final day

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Little is guaranteed from Group C at the 2019 Gold Cup, but the United States and Panama will learn their potential opponents by the end of Tuesday night’s action.

Only Honduras has been eliminated from contention for the knockout rounds.

[ LIVE: Latest Gold Cup scores ]

Jamaica is in the driver’s seat when it comes to advancing and winning the group, but a loss to Curacao coupled with an El Salvador win over Honduras would send the Reggae Boyz home early.

Meanwhile, Curacao would be eliminated with a loss to Jamaica at 8 p.m. ET or by a draw if El Salvador gets a result against Honduras at 10:30 p.m.

The tiebreakers for classification are head-to-head, then goal difference, then goals scored.

The USMNT will need a win or a draw when it plays Panama on Wednesday in order to face the Group C runner-up in the quarterfinals, while a loss would mean it faces the Group C winner.

Tuesday’s Gold Cup schedule
Jamaica v. Curacao — 8 p.m. ET
Honduras v. El Salvador — 10:30 p.m. ET

Hit the link above to follow along for the next few hours and check back on PST for a full roundup of Sunday’s action