The USA got the necessary 3 points on the night over a feisty Martinique side. It took the Americans longer to get in front than most expected as they didn’t take advantage of their hefty possession advantage and their multitude of chances. The States lacked the final shot or final ball every time they got into the visitor’s box. But, after a couple missed chances, Paul Arriola sent in a vicious shot that was deflected, saved, then finally pushed in off the rebound from Gonzalez for his 2nd ever international goal. The game quickly opened up and Jordan Morris put the home side two up after a brilliant run and ball from Lichaj, narrowly getting to the cross before Martinique’s goalkeeper. Martinique replied brilliantly with 2 goals in 10 minutes but Morris completed his double a minute later and the U.S escaped 3-2 to move top of the group before the final round of games.
3 quick thoughts:
Better movement in from midfielders: One big issue from the Panama game is that there was little spark and movement from the central mids. This game, however Acosta played better in the center of the pitch and spread the ball around well while Zardes and Roldan exposed Martinique on the flanks time and again.
Can’t complete the game: The same thing happened in the Panama game after the U.S. scored. They went into a shell and were second best, allowing Panama to draw level. Martinique did the same tonight, not giving up, but instead going on the front foot and frustrated the U.S. for the next 15 minutes and drew level.
Many changes, little difference: There were 8 changes to the starting lineup but it brought very similar results. The U.S looked better, yes, but that was more due to an inferior opponent than the U.S. really playing that much better. That’s not to say the play wasn’t better, because it was, but the defense is still a mess, the midfield didn’t boss the center of the park as they should have, and the forwards were far too absent for big portions of the match.
Guzan 6- Came up with a key close-range save in the second half and had to be aware to parry away an effort in the first half. Was a spectator for large portions of the first half and while there wasn’t much he could do on the second goal, he should have gotten down for the first goal better.
Hedges 2- Useless on the night. The former MLS defender of the year was piss poor tonight, getting beat for the second goal for pure speed and looked lost in the middle. Saw out one fire in the back that I can recall and nearly missed a cross at the back post that was slightly to tall but far from what the USA needs, and I doubt he’ll start versus Nicaragua.
Gonzalez 5- Not sure what he was doing with his hair but overall did well to clean up Hedges’ mess. Used his height well defensively and found himself in the right place to get on the score sheet with a rare goal after turning home Arriola’s saved shot.
Morrow 5- Nothing stand out from the right back defensively but handled his flank fairly well and linked up well with Zardes. Got a forward a bit too. Again nothing flashy but did what he needed to. Picked up the U.S.’s only yellow card for his troubles.
Lichaj 7- Thought the Nottingham Forrest product was very solid on the night. Again not a ton noteworthy defensively but put out a few fires while contributing a number of long balls forward to get the offense moving. Flew around all night and probably the best all around night for the defenders. Assisted Jordan Morris’ first goal.
Zardes 7- Much improved from his subbed on performance against Panama. Far more active, sparking multiple offensive moves and darted in and out of the midfield all night. Found himself a few opportunities to get shots away but that being said, he had a few passes go array and lost his man defensively to give Martinique an open header.
Acosta 6- Definitely a better night for the FC Dallas midfielder. Sent in some solid corners and crosses and even put in a decent defensive shift. Faded in the second half and was hauled off just after the hour mark.
Roldan 5- On and off performance for the mid. Sent around some good passes but was absent for decent portions of the match. Didn’t have as much movement as Zardes and Acosta which limited his touches.
Arriola 4- Started off well but quickly downgraded as the match wore on. Ruined a couple breaks with horrid ideas and should have finished twice but missed both opportunities in the second half. Also faded a bit in the second and was also hauled off before 90 minutes was up.
Agudelo 7- Thought the Revolution man was better tonight compared to Panama. Took advantage of the spaces on the outside of the pitch and look threatening in attack. Linked up well with Acosta, showed some good footwork, and had it not been for a few blocked shots, could have gotten on the score sheet.
Morris 8- MOTM. The Sounders man has had a rough year at his club but found his rhythm tonight with two lovely finishes in the second half to clinch the win for the U.S. Took a bit to get going in the first but his movement was excellent and he nearly found the net in the first half. Looked to score all night and finally got his chance when he pounced on a lovely pass from Lichaj to slot home the USA’s second of the night. He then got the end of a low cross to fire home his second and the USA’s third which proved to be the match winner. However, he floated in and out of the game too much. Chants of “We want Dom” from the American outlaws, while partially due to him being a hometown kid, was also due to the American’s not finding the answers in the first half.
Arena 6- Better from his subs tonight, but the team still looks lost at times. The cohesion and communication is not there. Gonzalez, Guzan, Besler, and other veterans need to step up and say something. Right now the team is missing a leadership role and it can’t wait until the quarters when the first team potentially comes in. The USA should beat Nicaragua and is in a good spot to win the group but there are still vast improvements that need to be made.
Bedoya 7- Came on for the last half hour and was brilliant. Influential in his movement and passing, he really got the USA off and running and was instrumental in the buildup to the second goal and was close with a few near-miss chances.
Pontius- Came on with a out 15 minutes to go though don’t know that he found the ball at his feet more than a couple times. Had one decent run forward that eventually went out for a goal kick.
McCarty NR- Came on to sure up the defense in the last 5 minutes.