USA 4 Guyana 0
By Paul Nicholson at the Allianz Field, St Paul, Minnesota
June 17 – The last match of first round games at the Gold Cup saw the entry of the USA into competitive action. Guyana were the lambs lined up for the ritual slaughter at the Allianz Field in St Paul, Minnesota.
The US are a team rebuilding from the humiliation of failure to qualify for Russia 2018 and undoubtedly have some exciting young talent. A packed Allianz Field was rocking – Americans love soccer. The drummers in the safe standing behind the Guyana thumped out a beat that was relentless.
Guyana are a nation who have never been to the Gold Cup – these two countries have never met before – but it is a competition that has engaged and is changing a nation. From the almost disbelief of having qualified, Guyana was watching and they could have nothing but pride.
Guyana coach Michael Johnson promised in the pre-match press conference that his ‘boys’, patched together predominantly from England’s lower professional leagues were not here on holiday.
They were not here for a slaughtering either.
For the first half hour Guyana gave as good as they got and could have gone ahead on 19 minutes when Callum Harriott, a persistent threat with the ball at his feet, won a corner, received the ball back immediately and drove at the goal unleashing a shot that flew over the angle of the posts.
The US were increasingly working their way into the game with Christian Pulisic and Tyler Boyd particularly living up to their creative billing. Gyasi Zardes laboured a little in front of goal, but the running of Paul Arriola was finding space on the flanks.
But Guyana had real quality of their own. Terrence Vancooten, a ball playing centreback, dominated Zardes matching him for pace and beating him for skills timing and football nous. Harriott was dangerous whenever he had the ball, Elliott Bonda was ever present in midfield and veteran Neil Dann brought the wisdom of experience to gel the youngsters. These weren’t lambs to be slaughtered.
The Guyana dream wasn’t to be however. On 26 minutes Zardes fed Boyd in the 6-yard box whose shot was well saved by Akel Clarke. A minute later the US had their first goal. Weston McKennie fed Arriola running through at pace from the left to fire past Clarke. Moments later it should have been a second but Boyd, who at this stage was hitting everything except the goal, missed the target again.
A 1-0 half time score was a fair reflection though the US would have gone in feeling they should have had more.
Five minutes into the second half they had a second. Michael Bradley floated a ball to Boyd on the right who finally got a shot on target to put the US two up.
Its became three soon after when Zardes scored probably the luckiest headed goal he will ever get. A shot fired in by Arriola was headed out by Vancooten but hit Zardes full in the face to rebound into the goal, cruel luck for Vancooten who had had the dangerous Zardes wrapped up all match.
Beaten but not bowed Guyana had periods of possession of their own but lacked a consistent goal scoring threat. Their best chance fell to Keanu Marsh-brown who saw his shot beaten away for a corner by Zack Steffen.
On 80 minutes Boyd – now becoming the man of the match – scored his second and the US’s fourth. Arriola, again in space on the left, found him on the edge of the box to curl a beauty round Clarke.
Guyana were beaten but certainly not broken. Johnson had nothing but praise for his players. “I thought our players did a fantastic job. For the first hour we were right in it…We stuck with it all the way to the end. Every one of them in that dressing room is a Trojan tonight.”
For US coach Gregg Berhalter it was a satisfying first day at the office. “I thought it was a fine performance. We stayed organised and did not get too stretched. Overall I thought it was a good start to the tournament.”
Both teams now head for the FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. Guyana face Panama and the US play Trinidad on Saturday.
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