Jozy Altidore

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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 ready for final Gold Cup tuneup

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The United States has one final tune-up for the Gold Cup as the 23-man tournament squad gets set to face Venezuela on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. ET in Cincinnati.

A lackluster performance on Wednesday resulted in a 1-0 loss to Jamaica, the first loss under new head coach Gregg Berhalter. A number of fringe players saw time in that game, but with Berhalter’s camp over and his Gold Cup roster set, so it’s likely there will be less experimentation this time around, instead hoping to give the first-team squad a chance to gel.

That likely means the re-introduction of Jozy Altidore plus Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams are now available as well. The biggest name of all will not be present, however, as Berhalter has already confirmed he will rest and preserve Christian Pulisic to keep him in top shape for the meaningful matches. Michael Bradley is also not available as Berhalter hopes to protect the 31-year-old from a recent hamstring injury, and while he’s been a full participant in practice, he did not play against Jamaica and will again be held out.

These two teams met in a 2017 Gold Cup tuneup at Rio Tinto Stadium in a match that saw Pulisic score a 61st minute equalizer to secure a 1-1 draw. Yet that game seems a lifetime ago, as just two of the starters from that game and four of the 19 players who saw time are on the current roster, including the 20-year-old Chelsea attacker.

Berhalter will want to see a much more organized and electric attacking display to give fans hope ahead of the Gold Cup, and while Josh Sargent’s omission from the squad is a head-scratching decision that could sap the attack of a late-game option, it’s not likely to affect the overall game plan for Sunday or throughout the tournament.

Predicted lineup

— Steffen —

— Adams — Miazga — Long — Lovitz

— McKennie — Trapp — Holmes —

— Morris — Altidore — Lewis —

The head man will want to get a mix of players on the field while still deploying the same tactical approach he will ask of his players in the Gold Cup and hope as many first-team players as possible can be on the field. Still, with a long summer ahead, it’s unlikely he will take too many squad risks. Omar Gonzalez played the full 90 minutes against Jamaica and could sit in favor of Aaron Long. Tyler Adams has been excelling in midfield since his move to the Bundesliga, but the USMNT has shown no signs of detouring from the plan to play Adams at right-back at the international level.

Berhalter may look to again deploy Tim Ream after playing just 60 minutes against Jamaica, but the 31-year-old is a known quantity and the coach could look to give Daniel Lovitz another chance to prove his worth against a difficult opponent. With Bradley out, Wil Trapp is again the man in the middle, without any fitness worries knowing that Bradley will take over once the Gold Cup arrives. McKennie is back in the fold while Duane Holmes should get another chance after proving one of the few bright spots against Jamaica.

Paul Arriola got 72 lackluster minutes the last time out, and Jonathan Lewis will have an opportunity to show what he can do out wide, with Jordan Morris possibly taking over on the other side. It’s possible that Morris could start the game on the bench with the aim of coming on to spell Jozy Altidore in the second half, in which case Tyler Boyd could see his name in the starting lineup.

Whoever starts at the back for the United States will have the tall task of marking MLS superstar Josef Martinez, a player coming off a record-breaking club season last year and – slow start aside – is back on track this year as well, with six goals in his last five matches for Atlanta United. He will likely be supported on the flanks by Real Salt Lake winger Jefferson Savarino and Jhon Murilla who plays in the Portuguese top flight. In the middle for Venezuela is a familiar face in Yangel Herrera, a midfield destroyer formerly of NYCFC who played the last six months at Spanish side Huesca on loan from Manchester City.

Venezuela is coming off a pair of disappointing performances and has won just once in its last five matches, a surprising 3-1 victory over Argentina in March. They dropped 3-1 to Mexico last time out on Thursday in Atlanta in Gerardo Martino’s return to Atlanta, wasting an early 1-0 lead via Murillo. Before that they drew 1-1 with Ecuador, again coughing up a first-half lead.

A win isn’t necessarily a must for the United States with the important matches to come, but an improvement from the Jamaica defeat is required to give the U.S. any kind of confidence and good vibes heading into the tournament this summer that will define Gregg Berhalter’s early head coaching days and set up the squad to begin vital World Cup qualifying on a high.

USMNT set for Gold Cup warmup against Jamaica

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After the Baby Yanks secured a defining comeback victory over U-20 World Cup tournament favorites France, it’s not the senior team’s turn to take the field, albeit with significantly less at stake.

The USMNT faces off against Jamaica on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET in a pre-Gold Cup friendly that will feature a majority of the Gold Cup squad but not the entirety. Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams are not currently with the team, although Gregg Berhalter confirmed in his press conference Tuesday afternoon that Pulisic will join the group on Thursday, while Adams will take part starting one week from today.

[ MORE: US U-20 side tops World Cup favs France 3-2 ]

Otherwise, the 28-man squad will get a chance to show Berhalter why they should take part in the summer CONCACAF tournament, with Berhalter required to trim the squad to 23 by midnight after the game. With Pulisic and Adams joining late, that means Berhalter will have to make a total of seven cuts from the current group, and the team will then get one more friendly against Venezuela before the Gold Cup begins.

Projected USMNT lineup

— Steffen —

— Lima — Gonzalez — Miazga — Lovitz

McKennie — Bradley — Roldan

Zardes — Altidore — Arriola

The friendly will be most important for Berhalter’s defense as he looks for his best center-back pairing and full-back combination moving into the Gold Cup. The new USMNT head coach has spent the better part of his tenure to this point experimenting with the roster, but now is the time to get the back line minutes together. The absence of injured defensive duo John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin will be felt, and Berhalter must determine how to fill the holes. Most likely, new Toronto FC central defender Omar Gonzalez will pair with Matt Miazga in the middle, with Nick Lima on one side and either Tim Ream or Daniel Lovitz on the other.

In the midfield, with Adams yet to join the squad, Christian Roldan could see time in the middle alongside regular starters Weston McKennie and Michael Bradley, while Wil Trapp could see time as well. Berhalter has experimented with Djordje Mihailovic in the middle of late, but the 20-year-old is still raw and his club performances with the Chicago Fire have been spotty recently. Duane Holmes could get a look off the bench as well with Berhalter looking to decide if he merits a Gold Cup place.

If Berhalter looks to play a midfield diamond with Roldan at the top, he could pair Gyasi Zardes and Jozy Altidore in the striker role, with Josh Sargent and Jordan Morris waiting in the wings. More likely, Berhalter will stick with his favored 4-3-3, although the roster lacks wide attacking players with just Zardes, Paul Arriola, Tyler Boyd, and Paul Arriola serving in that capacity. That would see Altidore playing point of attack with support from Zardes and Arriola.

The squad will take on Jamaica who has reached the Gold Cup final in each of the last two editions of the tournament. Andre Blake is the most recognizable name manning the net, while MLS fans will recognize Darren Mattocks and Kemar Lawrence down the left flank as well. Bayer Leverkusen youngster Leon Bailey mans the midfield after a fantastic club season that saw him score five Bundesliga goals in 29 appearances, and he could pair with fellow 21-year-old Peter-Lee Vassell in the middle  who already owns 10 international caps and five goals at his young age.

United States roster

GK: Sean Johnson (NYCFC), Tyler Miller (LAFC); Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew/Manchester City)

DEF: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham), Omar Gonzalez (Atlas), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes) Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Tim Ream (Fulham), Antonee Robinson (Everton), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC).

MID: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Duane Holmes (Derby County), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes).

FWD: Jonathan Amon (Nordsjaelland), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Tyler Boyd (Vitoria Guimares), Joe Gyau, (Duisburg), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew).

Jamaica roster

GK: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), Amal Knight (UWI), Dwayne Miller (Syrianska)

DEF: Shaun Francis (Louisville City FC), Michael Hector (Sheffield Wednesday), Kevon Lambert (Phoenix Rising), Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Damion Lowe (IK Start), Alvas Powell (FC Cincinnati), Jamoi Topey (Bethlehem Steel)

MID: Leon Bailey (Bayer Leverkusen), Andre Lewis (Portmore United),Tyreek Magee (Harbor View), Alex Marshall (Cavalier SC), Ricardo Morris (Portmore United), Peter-Lee Vassel (LAFC), Devon Williams (Louisville City FC), Je-Vaughn Watson (OKC Energy FC)

FWD: Brian Brown (FC Reno), Maalique Foster (Rio Grande Valley Toros FC), Darren Mattocks (FC Cincinnati), Shamar Nicholson (Domzale), Dever Orgill (Ankaragucu).

Berhalter releases 28-man USMNT roster for pre-Gold Cup camp

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Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams are not yet aboard with the U.S. National Team, but Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley are in the fold as Gregg Berhalter named a 28-man roster for a pre-Gold Cup camp that culminates with a friendly against Jamaica on June 5.

Altidore’s appearance is significant given the 29-year-old has not appeared for the United States since the fateful loss to Trinidad & Tobago to eliminate the U.S. from 2018 World Cup contention. Also notably in the fold is midfielder Weston McKennie who has struggled with injuries down the stretch of the season but finished the Bundesliga campaign strong with three straight 90-minute appearances. The 20-year-old could have been rested for the camp ahead of what is expected to be a significant Gold Cup contribution, but instead he has been called in by the head man.

Without Pulisic and Adams, who are both expected to have a significant role in the upcoming Gold Cup, the current 28-man roster will need at least seven cuts to reach the 23-man limit required by the tournament.

Also not on the roster is goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who struggled early this season with Atlanta United, although the team’s defense has since locked things down. Instead, three other domestic shot-stoppers were named to the list in NYCFC’s Sean Johnson, LAFC’s Tyler Miller, and Columbus Crew’s Zack Steffen who has already said goodbye to the MLS club before a summer switch to Manchester City.

Those who could be on the edge with cuts coming could be midfielders Duane Holmes, Djordje Mihailovic, and Jackson Yueill; forwards Jonathan Amon, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Gyau. The full-back depth is a mixed bag, with no clear frontrunner yet between Antonee Robinson, Nick Lima, and Daniel Lovitz. Meanwhile, in central defense, it’s likely that at least one of Cameron Carter-Vickers, Matt Miazga, Walker Zimmerman, Omar Gonzalez, or Aaron Long will be dropped to give the final roster four. Tim Ream is a versatile defender who could fit into either category, potentially an advantage for the Fulham defender coming off a tough club campaign.

DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks will miss the Gold Cup entirely, left off the preliminary roster due to injury. Yedlin had groin surgery after a late-season injury with Newcastle, while Brooks injured his knee and missed Wolfsburg’s final two games of the season.

United States Men’s National Team roster

GK: Sean Johnson (NYCFC), Tyler Miller (LAFC); Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew/Manchester City)

DEF: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham), Omar Gonzalez (Atlas), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes) Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Tim Ream (Fulham), Antonee Robinson (Everton), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC).

MID: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Duane Holmes (Derby County), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes).

FWD: Jonathan Amon (Nordsjaelland), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Tyler Boyd (Vitoria Guimares), Joe Gyau, (Duisburg), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew).

Toronto, Vancouver draw on pair of late goals

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A late May Canadian clash finished all even as Toronto and Vancouver drew 1-1 on a pair of late goals after a mostly wasteful performance on both ends.

Toronto had the better first half, but things finished scoreless at the break after Terrance Boyd fired straight at Maxime Crepeau in the visitors’ best chance just before the halftime whistle, while Ali Adnan fired just over from distance. In the second half, the story continued as Boyd whiffed all alone in front of net in the 70th minute and Jozy Altidore‘s follow-up was saved at the near post.

Finally, the breakthrough came with six minutes to go in what appeared to be a winning moment. Drew Moor hauled down substitute Yordy Reyna blatantly in the area, and Fredy Montero delivered the 84th minute opener from the spot. The goal came on Vancouver’s first and only shot on target throughout the match, managing to put just one of its eight efforts on frame.

Unfortunately for the hosts, that lead would not last as Toronto equalized in the final minute of regulation. Nick DeLeon fired in to Altidore at the near post, and the USMNT striker did enough to put Crepeau off and allow DeLeon’s ball to sneak through into the back of the net. It was DeLeon’s goal as Altidore was unable to get a touch, but the ball found its way through anyways.

The draw left the two sides with a disappointing haul, as Toronto lept Chicago into a playoff position but could not find its way past NYCFC into sixth. Vancouver, meanwhile, was unable to climb into the playoff spots, instead stuck in eighth behind FC Dallas via tiebreaker and a point back of Real Salt Lake.