U.S. Soccer makes it official: USMNT’s first Gold Cup tuneup to be vs. Jamaica

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It will be a rematch of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup final as the U.S. begins its preparations for this summer’s Gold Cup.

U.S. Soccer announced that the U.S. Men’s National Team will host Jamaica in a friendly match on June 5 in Washington D.C. at Audi Field, the home of D.C. United. Jamaica, ranked No. 53 in FIFA’s latest world rankings, has made the finals of each of the last two Gold Cups, and they’ll be hosting matches at the Gold Cup for the first time in tournament history in this year’s edition.

“As we prepare for the start of the Gold Cup, this is the perfect opportunity in terms of opponent and venue,” USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said in a statement. “Playing against Jamaica we get exposure to another different style of play, and one that we may see later in the tournament. For us, there’s always something special about playing in the nation’s capital. There have been so many memorable games for the National Team in Washington, D.C., and now we look forward to beginning another chapter in the new stadium.”

For the U.S., it’s a strong test and part of a really solid 1-2 punch of friendly matches, beginning with Jamaica and then Venezuela ahead of the Gold Cup. Berhalter is hoping it will prepare the U.S. for battles with Panama and Trinidad and Tobago. Should the U.S. advance, it could face potentially Jamaica, Honduras, or even El Salvador in the quarterfinals or semifinals, with a trip to the final on the line.

Gregg Berhalter has just a few weeks before he has to make one of his first big decisions, albiet one with a lot of flexibility. By May 16, Berhalter must submit to CONCACAF his provisional Gold Cup squad, which can include up to 40 players and four goalkeepers. By Monday, June 3, just two days before this friendly match against Jamaica, Berhalter must submit his final roster of 23 players, including three goalkeepers.

Berhalter, any any coach, has up until 24 hours until the USMNT’s first game (on June 18) to make any emergency replacements. As such, it’s likely that Berhalter will carry more than 23 players with him when the U.S. plays Jamaica and Venezuela.

Jozy Altidore sidelined with hamstring injury

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Jozy Altidore‘s hamstring has seemingly failed to cooperate at the worst possible times.

The Toronto FC and USMNT striker has gone down yet again with an injury to his troublesome hamstring and will remain out for 2-3 weeks according to a report by the Associated Press. He was injured in the late stages of a wild 4-3 comeback win over Minnesota United over the weekend.

The injury is troublesome, because it comes less than two months before the United States is set to compete in the 2019 Gold Cup. While he should return in time to be an option for the United States according to the announced timetable, it brings back bad memories for national team fans who recall Altidore pulling up lame in the match against Ghana to open the 2014 World Cup, unable to play the rest of the tournament, an injury which left the United States massively undermanned the rest of the way.

Altidore has had plenty of ill-timed trouble with his hamstring over the years, most notably in 2016 which forced him out of the Copa America, a tournament which saw the United States host and finish fourth, unable to score against either Argentina or Colombia. He also had foot surgery last year around this time, forcing him out for over three months despite the initial 4-6 week timeframe announced.

The injury troubles are clearly frustrating for Altidore, given his outburst after the win over Minnesota last time out, where he criticized the club for parting ways with Italian trainer Giuseppe Gueli – who was let go when Sebastian Giovinco was sold – and also hit out at club president Bill Manning for his lack of availability and failure to communicate with the squad. He apologized for the outburst, saying the two met and cleared the air.

“I let my emotions get the best of me when speaking to the media after our wild comeback win against Minnesota,” Altidore wrote on Twitter the following day. “Bill and I connected this morning and I can confidently say we’re on the same page. I know Bill and Toronto FC are committed to pulling out all the stops and dedicated to putting the team in prime position to have a successful season. We move forward together.” Manning also met with the media to downplay the incident, saying that he was planning on bringing back Gueli in a part-time role.

Altidore has not played for the national team since the fateful night in Trinidad & Tobago which saw the United States fail to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. During that time, USMNT interim boss Dave Sarachan and new full-time head coach Gregg Berhalter has used the friendlies to explore the talent pool and find options outside of the regular starters. Still, Altidore is widely believed to top the USMNT striker depth chart, and any injury that leaves his status in doubt would give Berhalter a selection headache in his first competitive event in charge.

Behind the Scenes: USMNT coach Berhalter gives tactical insight on squad

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In a short clip, U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter broke down what he liked, and didn’t like, from two moments during the USMNT’s 1-0 win over Ecuador last Thursday in Orlando, Fla.

[READ: International Champions Cup schedule announced]

Both plays focused on how the U.S. reacted to having the ball in the attacking third and losing it, and what players could have done better to shut down a counter-attack from Ecuador. Like it or not, it’s great that Berhalter is lifting the curtain and showing fans how he watches film after games to find little mistakes to fix. No previous USMNT coach has allowed this much access to the media, so props to Berhalter for that. While it’s still much too early to judge him based on results on the field, he’s certainly earning approval from fans and media alike for how open he is to answering tactical questions as well as providing this kind of insight to supporters.

Watch the video below:

Big takeaways, winners, losers from USMNT friendlies

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For the first time in a long time, I did not have any writing responsibilities during a United States men’s national team camp. That gave me the opportunity to ask a friend to meet me out at the local soccer pub here in Buffalo and just kinda take in the match without obsessing over the player rating of each player to don a U.S. kit.

[ MORE: Recap | Player ratings ]

What that allowed was a more free appraisal of how I felt about the USMNT, and frankly it was a bit surprising to see what registered in this maniacal mind.

What’s the future for the January guys who earned time in this camp?

The answer to the heading, if we’re honest, is a mixed bag.

I’ve been the first to question whether Gyasi Zardes would be called into U.S. camp with a good look at starting atop the formation for any other coach than Berhalter, who relied on him with Columbus, but the industrious if touch-trouble forward was very good for large parts of both March friendlies and played a role in both goals.

Aaron Long continues to impress at center back, to the point where it would not have been surprising if he earned another start in front of Matt Miazga.

It was less happy for Corey Baird, who at 23 still has some time to season but has not shown the requisite finishing touch to meet his fantastic engine. Nick Lima and Christian Ramirez did not feature while Jonathan Lewis only got a token call. Daniel Lovitz was good in his cameo.

We’re not in the wilderness, but a Golden Generation isn’t guaranteed

There are so many reasons to be excited as a USMNT supporter, especially if you can ignore the fact that Mexico is somehow the first and second best team in CONCACAF. Christian Pulisic is a generational player, and the side has two other 20-year-old central midfielders who are key components to their Bundesliga clubs in Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie.

Beyond that is a strong center back in John Brooks, as well as some serious competitors to start next to him in Chelsea property Matt Miazga and the Red Bulls’ Aaron Long.

With apologies to Newcastle United’s DeAndre Yedlin, new Man City backstop Zack Steffen, and exciting teen talents Josh Sargent and Tim Weah, it dips off a bit after that in terms of guarantees (And Weah and Sargent still have a bit to go to reach the level of even Jozy Altidore). Djordje Mihailovic, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Jaylin Lindsey, and Ulysses Lainez are exciting prospects, but little more than that now.

If we’re being honest, QPR’s Geoff Cameron is probably still the best partner for Brooks. And whether you hate or love Michael Bradley — more on him in a minute — you cannot say that any player has done anything to claim his place in the midfield (Hey USSF, remember Jonathan Gonzalez? Great work!).

Assuming he sticks with Adams as a right back, these is almost unquestionably the most hopeful team for 2022 given Berhalter’s formation preference. And there is A LOT of hope in hopeful given the inclusion of Weah and Sargent.

Steffen

Adams — Brooks — Long??? — Lovitz???

Bradley

McKennie — Pulisic

Weah — Altidore — Sargent

Michael freaking Bradley

This is the sixth season since Michael Bradley returned from Europe to make some big dollars in Major League Soccer, and it’s mostly been rather triumphant for Toronto FC’s captain.

The exceptions are big ones: Toronto FC failed to build on its treble-winning 2017 in MLS, spectacularly failing to make the playoffs and using Bradley as a center back for a quarter of the season, and the USMNT failing to get a draw out of Trinidad and Tobago and breaking its long streak of going to the World Cup (which is a pretty cool soccer tournament, team).

Bradley’s been quite good for TFC early this season, and Gregg Berhalter has him looking back at his best in a USMNT shirt. While Tuesday’s performance against Chile wasn’t perfect, the veteran showed a terrific range of passing including a downright ethereal bomb that Corey Baird couldn’t handle in the first half. And he did it against a midfield that included Europe-based stars Arturo Vidal and Charles Aranguiz.

Berhalter’s plan for his deep-lying center midfielder fits Bradley to a T, and allows both Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie to take care of the “be everywhere” role that Jurgen Klinsmann expected from the No. 4 (and perhaps we should go back to credit MB90 for not lighting the coach on fire a bit more often). Wil Trapp is a solid 5.5 years younger than Bradley, but not everyone has the same level of class as the TFC man. Berhalter will be wise to consider that old Bradley in 2022 might be a step up from a second-tier holding midfielder in Qatar (or just try someone who isn’t Trapp. That could also be a thing).

It’s easy to forget that Bradley is an all-time American soccer legend given what happened in Couva; The 31-year-old has 144 caps and he’s got a solid shot to become the States’ all-time leader by the time he hangs up his boots. Bradley is 20 caps back of Cobi Jones and 13 shy of Landon Donovan’s second place spot. In the words of The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, we should “forget where we differ, and get big picture.”

In other words, find me the player champing at the bit to take the place of a former Serie A starter who then led the best team in MLS history? He’s not there right now.

What’s the Best XI of players Berhalter has yet to call into camp?

Every manager has guys he serially overlooks, or at least is accused of overlooking, and critics of Jurgen Klinsmann were quick to shout the names Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan from the rooftops on occasion.

No one’s clamoring for those two this go ’round, and that’s more a generational thing than anything else, but there are still some guys who’ve been on the outside looking in (and not at U-23 or U-20 camp).

Here’s a halfway-promising (or experienced) XI to consider:

Brad Guzan

Shaq Moore — Palmer-Brown — Carter-Vickers — Kyle Duncan

Russell Canouse

Darlington Nagbe  — Memo Rodriguez

Lynden Gooch — Andrija Novakovich — Kenny Saief

Player ratings: USMNT starts strong, quickly fades v. Chile

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Who stood out — for better or for worse — in the U.S. men’s national team’s 1-1 draw with Chile on Tuesday?

[ MORE: USMNT, Chile wrap up March window with 1-1 draw (video) ]

GK – Ethan Horvath — 6: It was Horvath’s long ball that started the sequence on the USMNT’s goal — and it appeared he meant to hit it where it went — which is a part of the position we’ve never really seen with this team.

RB – DeAndre Yedlin — 5.5: As uninvolved in the attack as he’s been during his entire USMNT career, which is frustrating given the fact he’s playing the best soccer of his career with Newcastle United right now.

CB – Omar Gonzalez — 5.5: Not Gonzalez’s most confident, sure-footed showing defensively, but he was better and more controlled in possession than we’ve come to expect.

CB – Matt Miazga — 6: It’s quite jarring to contrast the passing maps of Miazga and Gonzalez, as Gonzalez tends to play simpler, shorter passes (oftentimes to Miazga), whereas the Miazga is tasked with progressing the ball from the backline, and doing so quite aggressively. He remains very, very good at it, by the way.

LB – Tim Ream — 5: Should have conceded a penalty when he went studs-up into Arturo Vidal in the box, and was one of few who failed to clear the danger on Chile’s equalizer. His showing when in possession was… not great.

MF – Michael Bradley — 7: Bradley’s full range of passing was on display in the first half, when he slotted a curled ball into acres of space to release Corey Baird down the right win, then dropped a feathery ball over the heads of two defenders and landed it on Baird’s foot. Finally, after a decade, a role suited to many of the things Bradley does well.

MF – Cristian Roldan — 6: If nothing else, Roldan’s presence deeper in midfield frees up Bradley to get farther forward — while still not the most advanced midfielder — and affect the game by finding spaces and applying pressure. Roldan was mostly tidy in possession, as always.

MF – Christian Pulisic — 7: The goal was stunning in how confidently he chipped the goalkeeper and strolled away, but he lasted just 34 minutes due to injury — something that’s becoming just a little too common for comfort…

RW – Corey Baird — 6.5: Baird brings an intriguing blend of skills — quick and shifty, strong and physical, always looking to attack upfield — without having fully settled on a positional home. He was constantly getting into good positions, but couldn’t produce the final ball or take the chance when it came to him.

CF – Gyasi Zardes — 6: His first touch to set up Pulisic for the goal was, in theory, sensation, assuming you believe he intentionally flicked the ball behind him as he took it down from the goalkeeper.

LW – Paul Arriola — 5.5: Considering the USMNT have barely 33 percent of possession in this game, Arriola wasn’t on the field for his creative work. He made as many, if not more, ball recoveries deep inside his own half than he completed passes.