The US is Gold Cup champions for the 6th time, pulling within 1 of Mexico’s record 7 titles. More importantly we now have 1 foot in the door for the 2021 Confederations Cup and Arena has a larger sample size of performance to draw from for WCQ and the roster for Russia. Outside of that, there really isn’t a whole lot to say about this game or the tournament performance overall. I’ll be doing a more in-detailed post later, on our players stock and can get into a more forward-thinking discussion. All in all, this final was a fitting conclusion to the tournament; it had its moments but was far from an entertaining all-around product.
Set piece defending – It has been a problem all tournament long, and I really should’ve commented on this sooner, but last night we saw Jordan Morris take a siesta right as the ball was coming in. It cost us a goal, and nearly a trophy. Since Arena 2.0, we have seen very shaky defending on set pieces. While our attacking on set pieces seems to have picked up since Klinsmann’s departure, our defending is becoming a massive concern moving towards Russia. It needs to be straightened up. Hopefully, Cameron and Brooks can bring some stability to the situation. It was interesting during the broadcast to point out that Howard had no one on the posts for the incriminating corner. I’m definitely on Donovan’s side here that, if possible I definitely want defenders on the posts.
Too slow – Another major problem throughout this tournament has been pace of play for the US. It went particularly poorly last night. The number of times Nagbe and Bradley slowed the game down was driving me up a wall. I’m pretty sure U-5 players could have run circles around them. As usual Arriola and Morris’ natural pace essentially don’t allow them to play that slowly but even they weren’t their usual bright, buzzing selves. Once again Dempsey came on and immediately upped the tempo every time he touched the ball but literally no one else was interested in playing at speed. I will be very grateful for the European based players to return because outside of Dempsey this team was/is dull as donuts.
Lucky but not – The US thoroughly deserved to win this game. My first two points were heavily negative and the score line was close. This may lead some people to think that the US was lucky. And considering how we never put the game away after Altidore’s opener in some ways we were. But actually analyzing the game Jamaica was never in this. They created maybe 2 or 3 dangerous moments and scored on 1. The US had somewhere in the neighborhood of 70% of the possession. It was clear Jamaica wanted to sit and hit on the counter and they did this successfully. Thankfully, the US managed to find just enough in final product to get over the edge. It really wasn’t as close as the score line suggests.
Player Ratings: (1-10 Scale)
Howard: 5 – Had little to do. Got involved once or twice. Was simply a spectator on the Jamaican goal.
Villafana: 5 – I thought this was one of his more industrious performances. Never seriously burned but his defending just appears a bit shaky. Got forward decently well and had a few dangerous crosses but just never really able to get the quality above average.
Besler: 6 – Not tested much as all of Jamaica’s attacks came from pace burning down the wings. Was a little bit asleep late on not coordinating with Gonzalez as to who should step to the Jamaican midfielder who unleashed a strong shot from 30 yards out right at the start of stoppage time.
Gonzalez: 5 – Almost identical to Besler. Did have a great moment of recovery in the first half when Zusi was torched like a Model T in a Nascar race. This was nullified when he couldn’t make a tackle to complete the recovery coupled with a few lost marks on various set pieces.
Zusi: 5 – Had a decent night. He’s shown nothing to make me think he can be a right back against any serious competition but he’s fine for CONCACAF opponents. Was left for dead by Mattocks in the first half but thanks to Gonzalez sliding over to slow him down a bit Zusi was actually able to recover himself and snuff out the threat. Had a few poor touches sprinkled throughout the night that didn’t help him.
Nagbe: 6 – Gets a boost in his grade for the sheer number of free kicks he drew. Half of those were because he was dallying on the ball for eons. His pace of play picked up a bit when moved central and Dempsey entered but seriously outside of Bradley he was the slowest decision maker on the whole squad last night. He did flash moments of brilliance and if he could get his intensity up he may have a starting role moving forward.
Acosta: 5 – Again given a massive chance to lock down a starting spot for the full squad and came up short. Showed none of the sparkling MLS form, or even the moments from prior Gold Cup USMNT appearances. Played ahead of Bradley for the most part but failed to find any dangerous passes or shots. On the flip side he really didn’t commit any major gaffes so it was just an average night.
Bradley: 4 – Slow, plodding, horrid on set pieces. Didn’t commit any real gaffs. Got a little scared seeing him playing with himself on the ball in our defensive third but managed to wiggle out of it. Perhaps his poorest performance of the tournament. Absolute joke that he won the golden ball. I literally don’t know what people see in him.
Arriola: 6 – You could pretty much copy and past any of his grades from earlier games in the tournament to describe his performance. Buzzed around. Brought pace, energy, and industry. His final pass was lacking. He faded in the second half. I wonder if a roll off the bench might allow him to be a difference maker moving forward.
Morris: 6 – It’s not the greatest night for a forward when you score and yet your grade is hovering around average. His first half was marked most notably by his defensive help as he tracked back a couple times to good effect. But he was virtually non-existent in the attack. The second half was not good to start as he decided to go do walkabouts at the worst possible time, leaving Je-Vaughn Watson to simply play backboard and direct the cross into an empty stretch of net. Thankfully this seemed to light a fire under the Sounders youngster as he improved. To his credit he kept pushing and eventually blasted home a knockdown/layoff (unintentional as it may have been) into the net for a game winner.
Altidore: 6 – His touches weren’t anything great throughout the match. Did unleash a great rasping shot that lead to Blake’s unfortunate injury. The free kick wasn’t anything super special. Keeper probably should’ve saved it but he didn’t. At least it looks like he’s starting to get some confidence back and hopefully that translates to improved play entering WCQ.
Dempsey: 6 – Very unlucky not to have the winner himself; it took an absolutely brilliant save to deny him taking the all-time USMNT scoring record. I’m not sure how much he knew about knocking Zardes’ cross down to Morris for the winner but it still counts as an assist in my book. It was also a sign, yet again, of how he, Zardes and Morris all seem to have a pretty special chemistry out on the pitch together.
Zardes: 6 – Hit the cross that led to the final goal and may have actually gotten a legitimate assist depending on how they scored it. Thought he brought some good intentions to the match upon entering but just wasn’t clean enough to execute clinically.
McCarty: 5 – Time wasting, game solidifying sub. Didn’t have any real time to make an impact but Jamaica didn’t score so it all worked out.
Arena: 6 – It wasn’t the greatest game of the tournament but it clinched it. It was very nice to see consistency from Semis to Finals oosted some of my confidence. He definitely didn’t have the team peaking too early; the flip side being that I’m not sure he ever really got it to peak at all. The Costa Rica match was clearly the best but even that wasn’t great for a big stretch.
Concentration firmly back on Russia now. Big qualifiers coming up and we need full points. Hopefully folding the Euro based players back in will allow some more dominant performances than we saw this Gold Cup.