After coming off of a relatively dominant display in the Nations League with all of the starters, it was time for the Gold Cup. Unfortunately, the US national team stumbled to a defeat against Panama on July 12th in penalties. They were just barely able to sneak past Canada in the round previous, but their 10 – year run to the finals has been ended. So what went wrong with the USA Gold Cup performance? Pretty much everything.
What were the targets leading into the USA Gold Cup?
Leading into the 2023 Gold Cup, there were some mixed expectations. I talked about the 26 man roster that was selected here, where we mentioned that the squad was not very strong.
We knew Gregg Berhalter would be returning as the US manager, so there may have been selections made from above BJ Callaghan’s control. In total almost the entire squad was from the MLS, with almost no new players. We can get into that issue later though.
The Group stage games
The beginning of the group stage would serve as our first look at these players playing together. We saw some interesting players such as Tolkin, Sonora, and Aidan Morris, but yet for different reasons that was the last we would see of them.
We ended up winning the group with 7 points, and Jesus Ferreira managed to score back-to-back hat tricks against St. Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad & Tobago.
USA vs Jamaica (1-1)
The Jamaica game was the first one of the group, and considering the strength of the Jamaica lineup it should’ve been a good test. Although it was a draw in the end, it was certainly a back and forth game. The premier league attack for Jamaica was causing all sorts of problems for the USA defense, but USA just needed one more chance.
Super sub Brandon Vazquez saved the game with a lovely header from a delightful Dejuan Jones cross. It wasn’t the best showing of all time, but considering it was USA’s backup team, they moved onto their next game against St. Kitts and Nevis
St Kitts and Nevis vs USA (0-6)
Following the draw against Jamaica, USA needed to prove a point against the team that was the lowest ranked on the group. They certainly did with Ferreira scoring his first hattrick, Mihailovic getting two, and Reynolds scoring a lovely long distance effort. It’s hard to really base the level of play that the Americans played with, but you can never fault a team for winning how they were expected to win.
The team was still gelling, but it was hard to have any complaints about that performance. Finally, the last group game against Trinidad & Tobago came, and it was time to avenge the past USA teams.
USA vs Trinidad & Tobago (6-0)
In the last game of the group stage, we saw what was most likely the strongest lineup possible based off of who was called up to the squad. The goal scorers were Ferreira (3), Cowell (1), Vazquez (1), and an own goal caused by Busio. It was the game of revenge for the Americans, and avenge they certainly did.
We saw some more good performances, but the warning signs were there. Zendejas was supposed to be an “A team” quality player, but he seemed like he was putting too much pressure on himself to be “the guy” for the US. After winning the group, we were matched up with Canada in the next round.
The knockout games
Spoiler alert, but we beat Canada only to eventually lose to Panama in the semi-finals. We weren’t able to put in a single dominating performance, and both games went to penalties. They not only went to penalties, but we were down a goal in ET both times before clutch goals from some American players.
There was definitely some VAR drama, but the real spotlight should be on how poor the Americans played, and how the tournament was essentially a waste of time because no player was able to truly break into the A team.
USA vs Canada (2-2) Penalties: (3-2)
The game against Canada was always going to be a difficult game in USA’s Gold Cup defense, but that doesn’t excuse the poor play from the Americans. We dominated the attacking phases of the game, but couldn’t score a goal, while on the defensive side we were extremely shaky.
During this game Miles Robinson should’ve given away two penalties from handballs, but luckily the ref did the Americans a favor. Dayne St. Clair made some amazing saves throughout the game which kept Canada alive long enough to eventually go into the lead. In the end when the game went to penalties, Matt Turner’s insane penalty record prevailed and the Americans were advancing to face an “easier” Panama team.
USA vs Panama (1-1) Penalties: (4-5)
Where do you even begin in a game this poor as this one. USA came out flying and managed to hit the post inside 22 seconds, but that was most of what they had to offer. The rest of the game it seemed like only James Sands remembered how to play, while the rest of the team were gassed by the end of the first half. Panama knew they smelled blood, and first blood was drawn when Anderson scored his first ever goal for Panama to put them into the lead.
Meanwhile, USA still were wasting chance after chance while the Panama fans laughed their butts off at USA. Eventually Ferreira scored a delightful volley, but that was just delaying impending doom. Matt Turner wasn’t able to save the team, and a poor penalty from Roldan sealed the deal. The USA Gold Cup run was over.
No Mixed Emotions
Overall, it seems like the USA Gold Cup performance was one giant dumpster fire. We never looked truly convincing against any of the three semi decent teams. We didn’t find a single player who was able to prove themselves a worthy competitor to the A Squad. After e everything has passed, it’s hard not to ask what was the point? What is the point in playing this squad if it offers us ZERO benefits apart from entertainment.
Hercules Gomez made this same point, and even suggested we turn the tournament into a U-23 squad for us. Instead of wasting our time with players who likely will never make the A squad. Why aren’t we using this time to nurture our nation’s youth and test them against their future oppositions.
We can only hope by the time the next USA Gold Cup roster is announced, that more hope or ambition will be shown.