After a disappointing Gold Cup opener, the United States will try to set things right against Martinique tonight. The USMNT were lucky to get a draw against Panama on Saturday, and that means Group B is up in the air. Martinique enters this game at the top of the table, but realistically the story in both games tonight is about goal difference. If the US wants to land an easier quarterfinal match, they’ve got to push ahead of Panama, and that means lighting up the scoreboard.
Key player: Juan Agudelo
Dom Dwyer has gotten all of the attention when it comes to the USMNT’s attack in this tournament, and rightly so. 2 caps, 2 goals, plus it’s a great story given how long he’s pursued citizenship. If the US wins this tournament, Dwyer will be a huge factor.
However, scoring goals can’t just be one man’s job. Agudelo came in and immediately helped the US snap out of an absolutely horrid phase of play that ended with Los Canaleros getting their equalizer. The 4231 Arena started the game with did not work due to some overly cautious players starting in nominally attacking positions, and moving to a 442 helped correct the team’s overall balance.
Agudelo is easily the best partner for Dwyer on this roster. He’s more than willing to drop off underneath - allowing Dwyer to continue running the channels and getting physical with the defense - and his technical approach to things squares well with Dwyer’s direct, “bulldog” style of play. However, the question with the New England Revolution forward has always been consistency. We all know Agudelo has the raw ability to be a major player in this tournament; it’s just a matter of whether he can stay fully focused for 90 minutes.
Location: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, FL)
Kickoff time: 9:00pm Eastern
Projected USMNT starting 11: (442) - Brad Guzan; Eric Lichaj, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Justin Morrow; Gyasi Zardes, Dax McCarty, Kellyn Acosta, Paul Arriola; Juan Agudelo, Dom Dwyer
Bench: Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson, Matt Miazga, Matt Hedges, Graham Zusi, Jorge Villafaña, Cristian Roldan, Alejandro Bedoya, Joe Corona, Kelyn Rowe, Chris Pontius, Jordan Morris
Given the physically demanding schedule - 3 games in 7 days, traveling from Nashville to Tampa to Cleveland, all during July - that comes with every Gold Cup, and the fact that Martinique is a severe underdog, it seems to me that Bruce Arena will have to rotate at a lot of positions just to keep his squad ready for the knockout rounds. Doing so and still scoring the requisite number of goals to compete with Panama on goal difference shouldn’t be a problem.
As such, look for Lichaj and Morrow to come in at right and left back (for Morrow, this will be a first-ever competitive USMNT cap). I see both wide midfielders being swapped out as well, and Agudelo paired with Dwyer should be given a practice run here due to it appearing to be far more effective than playing 4231 with Joe Corona as the #10.
Available TV: Fox Sports 1 (English), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, Univision Now, Univision Deportes app
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
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