The United States has underwhelmed during the 2017 Gold Cup, but they will still take the field tonight against Nicaragua knowing exactly what they need to know to win Group B. There are myriad possibilities, but the only way to absolutely guarantee that finishing atop the group is for the USMNT to win comfortably. Los Pinoleros have two losses so far, but they’ve been hard to break down and still have a mathematical chance of advancement.
On the other side of the coin, the US has not guaranteed their spot in the next round. It would be complicated (a loss today, a draw between Panama and Martinique pushing the USMNT into third, a 1-0 win for El Salvador over Jamaica tomorrow, and Mexico getting no worse than a one-goal loss against Curacao), but it’s still possible. American fans are probably more focused, though, on winning the group and facing the third-place team from Group C rather than finishing in 2nd - which would result in a game against Costa Rica - or 3rd, which would almost certainly result in a US-Mexico meeting coming far earlier than expected.
Key player: Dom Dwyer
Dwyer’s USMNT career is off to a great start. 2 caps, 2 goals, and up to now he’s looking like the most dangerous striker Bruce Arena called up for this tournament. However, with teams in the knockout round getting the chance to replace 6 players on their roster, Dwyer isn’t just competing with the other guys in the current squad. He’s also proving that he deserves a call-up when Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey are available, and that he’s worth keeping around instead of cycling in CJ Sapong or Chris Wondolowski (all four of whom Arena could call in).
Dwyer has done everything to seize his chance with the USMNT so far. Today, his job is to keep up that good work and help ensure a first place finish.
Location: FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland, OH)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected USMNT starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Graham Zusi, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Jorge Villafaña; Dax McCarty, Cristian Roldan; Chris Pontius, Joe Corona, Kelyn Rowe; Dom Dwyer
Bench: Brad Guzan, Sean Johnson, Eric Lichaj, Matt Miazga, Matt Hedges, Justin Morrow, Kellyn Acosta, Alejandro Bedoya, Paul Arriola, Gyasi Zardes, Juan Agudelo, Jordan Morris
It’s time for Hamid to get his chance. Guzan was poor against Martinique, but we know he’s not getting dropped for the knockout rounds, so this is the game for D.C. United’s star. Elsewhere, the fullbacks will rotate back in, Acosta will be rested, and Corona will return. I still think this roster is better out of a 442, but pairing Agudelo and Dwyer means keeping the former player fresh rather than starting him for three straight games.
Available TV: FXX (English), Univision (Spanish), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer Match Pass, Univision Now, Univision Deportes app
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: We’ve sorted out all the scenarios for the US, because it’s too hot to try and do math during the game.
What are you drinking?: I’m probably going to spend the early afternoon grilling and enjoying some bourbon at a friend’s, so by the time this game comes around I’ll be looking to rehydrate. I’ll probably be drinking nothing fancier than iced tea with some lemon.
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