Gold Cup

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What counts as Gold Cup success for USMNT?

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The United States men’s national team has the good and bad fortune of playing in CONCACAF, which means it will qualify for every nearly World Cup by showing up and playing within a standard deviation of their average.

The same is true for their chances at making deep runs in the Gold Cup. Since 1985, the Yanks have qualified for 11 of 16 Finals, winning six. Only twice has it finished worse than a third place game appearance, not once since 2000.

[ MORE: U.S. falls in FIFA rankings ]

So that’s why looking like a pile of lukewarm leftovers against Jamaica and Venezuela shouldn’t change perspective on this month’s tournament. Not only are Gregg Berhalter’s men at home, but the path to the final gives them three games to prepare for a true knockout round test and — should they find their footing — two more before meeting Costa Rica or Mexico.

That said, the U.S. may well finish second in the group and get smoked by Honduras or Jamaica in the Round of 16. Falling behind both Panama and Trinidad and Tobago in the group stage would be inexcusable and could see Earnie Stewart canning a coach far earlier than expected, though the reasons utilized would be injuries to Tyler Adams and John Brooks.

However, if the reason is because Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes are starting over healthy Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore in meaningful matches, well…

Anyway, let’s deal in potential. This is the best possible XI you could cull from the United States’ roster.

Steffen

Lima — Gonzalez — Miazga — Lovitz

McKennie — Bradley

 Pulisic — Holmes — Boyd

Altidore

This is no mere superiority complex: That team, even with Berhalter’s suspected removal of Holmes, Lovitz, and Boyd to play Arriola, Roldan, and Ream, is enough to crush Guyana and handle T&T en route to a group-deciding match with Panama.

The next round isn’t so simple, which is why finishing a tournament history-worst seventh or eighth isn’t out of the question. Honduras or Jamaica will be a challenge at the back, and both have the horses to press a suspect possession team (Hopefully Bradley will help alleviate those concerns).

Prediction after prediction has the United States in the final. And I think the probability points to that. Losing to Jamaica twice on home soil within a month would be really bad, and neither Honduras nor Panama had better World Cup qualifying runs than the Yanks. Honduras, to its credit, was young, but Panama only finished above the U.S. via a goal that did not cross the line. CONCACAF.

As for the other side of the bracket, even second-choice Mexico is too much for this U.S. team (though anything can happen over 90-120 minutes) and Costa Rica. El Tri will be waiting in the final, even having to work out the kinks under Tata Martino.

My main worry is the depth already being tested in this tournament. In my above lineup, Lima and Holmes is only in because Sebastian Lletget, DeAndre Yedlin, and Tyler Adams are unavailable. And Zardes and Jordan Morris as the back-up options to Altidore at center forward present less attraction than Josh Sargent, Bobby Wood, and even Tim Weah.

The over/under for matches at the Gold Cup is four, with a push being a legit probability for the first time in a while. Under or a push would be a monumental, unavoidable, and inexcusable departure from the plan for 2022 World Cup qualification.

Which way would you bet? Oddsmakers still have the USMNT as the second-favorite to win the whole thing, closer to favorites Mexico than third-best Costa Rica. One site even has El Tri and the U.S. as joint favorites.

That’s something. And adding Pulisic and McKennie is huge. Should we be hesitant because Berhalter’s half-strength Yanks looked terrible against Jamaica and Venezuela? Probably not, but let’s wait until we see the lineups against Guyana and T&T.

USMNT learns Gold Cup group stage opponents

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The United States men’s national team gets its a formal chance to take a measure of vengeance against the two teams which knocked it out of the last round of World Cup qualifying.

Trinidad and Tobago, of course, is the nation whose B-teamers beat the USMNT in Couva, allowing Panama to clinch a World Cup berth via a ghost goal.

[ MORE: UCL summations for each quarterfinalist ]

The Yanks will also meet Guyana in the first Group D match, which will be June 18 at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota.

It’ll be T&T versus the U.S. in Cleveland four days later, before the Yanks wrap up group play with Panama in Kansas City on June 26.

That’s about the only good news, as the Yanks are in arguably the toughest group of the bunch (though they should surely advance to the knockout rounds as a top seed).

Group C is also tough, with El Salvador joining Jamaica, Honduras, and Curacao.

Group B sees Costa Rica drawn with Haiti, Nicaragua, and Bermuda.

Group A is a great draw for Mexico and Canada, who will have to get past Martinique and Cuba.

CONCACAF Gold Cup matches to be played in Kingston, Jamaica

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MIAMI (AP) The CONCACAF Gold Cup will be played in the Caribbean for the first time when a group-stage doubleheader takes place on June 17 in Kingston, Jamaica.

[ MORE: Valencia eyed by MLS club ]

The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football said Tuesday that Jamaica will join Honduras in Group C, which also plays in Houston on June 21 and Los Angeles on June 25.

CONCACAF plans to announce the full schedule on June 10. The United States opens on June 18 at St. Paul, Minnesota, plays four days later in Cleveland and finishes the first round on June 26 at Kansas City, Kansas. Semifinals are July 2 at Glendale, Arizona, and the following day at Nashville, Tennessee. The final is July 7 at Chicago.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

3 keys for USMNT vs. Nicaragua

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The U.S. Men’s National Team survived disaster Wednesday night with their 3-2 win over Martinique.

But the performance left much to be desired, and Bruce Arena will again need to tinker with his lineup and tactics to find a more consistent winning formula from this squad of 23 players ahead of Saturday’s match in Cleveland against Nicaragua.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

With a number of the starters resting, the U.S. starting eleven against Martinique looked and played like a team that didn’t have a lot of chemistry together, and it really took until the second half to start finding their flow in the attacking third of the field.

On the other end, centerbacks Omar Gonzalez and Matt Hedges and goalkeeper Brad Guzan each had forgettable moments against a team without a heralded set of players, other than Kevin Parsemain.

Here’s a look at three keys to victory for the USMNT when they face Nicaragua:

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CONCACAF rules French Guiana draw a forfeit, bans Malouda

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CONCACAF came out with a strong response early Friday morning to French Guiana’s decision to break the rules and play Florent Malouda Tuesday evening in the Gold Cup.

The CONCACAF disciplinary committee announced that the match between French Guiana and Honduras, which finished as a scoreless draw on the night, would be forfeited by French Guiana, awarding Honduras a 3-0 result.

In addition, French Guiana was fined an undisclosed amount and the 37-year-old Malouda was assessed a two-match stadium ban.

[ MORE: Read PST’s Gold Cup latest ]

“As a consequence of fielding Florent Malouda, who was confirmed by the Disciplinary Committee to be ineligible to play in the Gold Cup 2017 according to the applicable regulations, the Disciplinary Committee has levied sanctions and fines against the French Guiana Football League (LGF) and has suspended the player ruled ineligible,” CONCACAF said in a statement.

Malouda of course earned 80 caps for the French National Team during a long career in Europe where he starred for Lyon and Chelsea, but began playing for his native French Guiana earlier this year, captaining the side to third place at the Caribbean Cup, which served as a qualifying tournament for the Gold Cup.

For whatever reason, CONCACAF allowed Malouda to compete for French Guiana in that competition but has decided to honor FIFA rules, which say a player cannot switch international teams once they’ve played in an official FIFA match, at the Gold Cup, which ruled Malouda ineligible for the Gold Cup. Normally FIFA rules don’t apply to French Guiana because the nation, an overseas department of France, is not a member of FIFA.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

At the same time, Malouda was allowed to be registered on the French Guiana roster, placed on the starting lineup and take the field, even though the game was almost surely going to be forfeited.

The strange situation has perhaps met its end, with French Guiana now with no chance of advancing to the knockout round of the Gold Cup with two losses through its first two games against Canada and Honduras.

French Guiana wraps up the group stage against Costa Rica on Friday evening.