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State of play in CONCACAF Nations League

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Well, well, well…

Canada’s controlling 2-0 defeat of the USMNT on Tuesday adding some intrigue to the final two match days of the CONCACAF Nations League next month

[ USMNT-CANADA: Time for change? | Player ratings ]

Mexico nearly provided another shock at Azteca thanks to a relative inability to break down Panama, but young stunner Jose Juan Macias scored for the fourth time in three caps to lead El Tri to a 3-1 win on the night.

Roberto Alvarado saw his 28th minute goal canceled out by pre-halftime own goal, and Mexico had better than 75 percent possession when Macias bagged his winner. Rodolfo Pizarro rounded out the scoring in stoppage time.

Here’s where we sit in the battle for four semifinal spots. The semifinals and finals will be staged in June.

Group A

Canada’s defeat of the USMNT means the Yanks need to make the most of the Canucks visit to the Orlando next month and smash Cuba in the Cayman Islands. Overall goal difference is the second tie breaker, and the Yanks are four behind Canada. A two-goal win in Florida would mean the Yanks would simply need a victory over Cuba to advance to the semifinals. Canada advances with a draw against the U.S., while Cuba has already be relegated to League B.

Group B

Mexico now has six points to Panama’s three and Bermuda’s three. El Tri will visit Panama next and can clinch a spot in the semifinals with a draw or better. Even if Panama beats Mexico, Tata Martino’s men would need to get nothing from Bermuda at Azteca to fail to make the semifinals. Bermuda needs Panama to beat Mexico before getting a blowout win at Azteca. Not looking good.

Group C

Honduras is onto the semifinals. Whether Martinique or Trinidad and Tobago, both on two points, can avoid relegation by getting a superior result against Honduras in November. Honduras heads to Martinique before hosting T&T.

Group D

Curacao had five points compared to its rivals two each and can advance to the semifinals with a home defeat of Costa Rica. If Los Ticos claims the three points, then it will have at least a two-goal advantage on Haiti heading into a home finale.

Curacao goalkeeper dies in team hotel

Curacao National Team
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Tragedy has struck the Curacao national team, as goalkeeper Jarzinho Pieter died in their team hotel in Haiti.

Pieter, 31, was found dead at their hotel in Port-au-Prince on Monday, with Curacao to play Haiti on Tuesday in a CONCACAF Nations League qualifier.

The players have decided to go ahead with the game on Tuesday, as CONCACAF said they had consulted with them about playing the game.

A a minute of silence will be held before the game to pay homage to Pieter, who played 12 times for Curacao. The Centro Dominguito goalkeper was on the bench for their 1-0 win agains Haiti in Curacao on Saturday.

The tiny Caribbean island nation made a run to the 2019 Gold Cup quarterfinals this summer, losing 1-0 to the USMNT after an impressive tournament.

Fellow Curacao goalkeeper Eloy Room, who plays for the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer, put up the following video of the squad paying tribute to Pieter.

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