Let's be honest. This Gold Cup doesn't really matter. Bruce Arena called up the B-squad for the tournament, giving these marginal players a chance to prove themselves in a cup and maybe make next summer's World Cup squad. The Americans produced a bad performance in the opening match, a boring draw against Panama.
In a win over minnows Martinique on Wednesday, a USMNT with a lot of changes since Game 1 was equally poor, but at least it was entertaining.
The Americans won 3-2 in a silly match that featured a first half as boring as anything you've ever seen on a pitch, and a second half that saw the U.S. go up 2-0, Martinique equalize at 2-2, then the U.S. go up again 3-2 in the span of 20 minutes. And there was plenty of good and bad from USMNT players looking to prove themselves in an ugly, but entertaining match.
The player who proved himself most was Jordan Morris. The Seattle Sounders forward's one job is to score goals for the Yanks, and he did that twice against Martinique with a brace to double his scoring total with the USMNT, both coming in important spots during the match.
The most important of his two goals was the winner in the 76th, just moments after Martinique had leveled the score at 2-2. (More on that in a moment.) Not only did Morris finish the goal, he started it as well, playing a one-two with Gyasi Zardes in the final third, then finishing a Zardes cross that trickled across the box.
Morris' first score came in the 64th minute, 10 minutes after Omar Gonzalez opened the scoring on a good, old-fashioned scramble from a corner. Eric Lichaj made a fantastic overlapping run on the right flank and whipped in a cross to Morris, who had made his way between Martinique defenders to put himself in a prime position for goal.
These two finishes were the exception for the USMNT in this match, though. The Americans took 21 shots, 10 shots on goal. As good as the team looked as far as runs and build-up play go -- and at times, likes the ones above, they looked damn good -- they were abysmal finishing.
The USMNT also failed to cover itself in glory in the win. In particular, Brad Guzan has a lot to answer for. After some solid performances for the U.S. in his last few starts, Guzan ... well, he Guzan'd. Shortly after the U.S. went up 2-0, Guzan committed an absolute howler, allowing Kevin Parsemain to beat him near-post with a savable shot from range.
As bad as that is, as a team, that goal can be forgiven. It was a result of Guzan being the player he is. He just gets beat near-post sometimes. It's something you accept when you name him your starting keeper. The second goal was worse, featuring breakdowns from multiple players.
For starters, defender Matt Hedges, one of the most periphery players on a squad full of them, got burnt by Steeven Langil, creating the chance. Guzan actually got in place to save a perfect shot after the cross, but the rest of the American defense was flat-footed, and allowed Parsemain to score off a deflection, potentially derailing the USMNT's hopes in the Gold Cup.
Most concerning about this result is the competition it came against. Martinique is one of the weakest teams the USMNT will play. And you don't want even your B-squad having to sweat out a win against a team like this. The poor showing could be a result of the squad shakeup. With few players able to create connections between matches one and two, it's hard to get into a groove.
The Americans still got the win, though. and should advance with a win against Nicaragua on Saturday, another weak opponent. Perhaps now is the time for Arena to decide on a definite starting 11 for the remainder of tournament, and maybe this team can win a Gold Cup in addition to showing which players are ready for the World Cup stage.
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Cy Brown writes about soccer and other stuff for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @CEPBrown.