July 23 –Sunday night will be the first big test of the USA’s gamble to send their European players back to their clubs Europe in favour of a majority MLS-recruited team. It will also see whether Canada have progressed enough to make the big tournament step up.
Arlington’s AT&T Stadium in Texas is the venue of the second of the Gold Cup quarter final double header. The USA face Jamaica and Costa Rica meet Canada.
USA vs Jamaica
The USA were the beaten Gold Cup finalists in 2019 but celebrated a last gasp win in the inaugural Concacaf Nations League final in June over reigning Gold Cup holders Mexico.
But this is a very different looking US team to that one. In the group stages the US came through unbeaten though were not entirely convincing. Coach Greg Berhalter experimented with his squad though at times the team struggled to find a rhythm despite their often muscular approach to the game.
Jamaica will easily be their toughest opponent to date and come to the Gold Cup having heavily recruited from the English top tier leagues. They have been hampered by a positive covid test to star striker Bobby Reid that saw the squad in isolation before their final group game which they lost to Costa Rica.
It is hard to know how much to read into that performance as coach Theodore Whitmore made eight changes to his starting line-up for that game. Jamaica have a strong Gold Cup tradition having been losing finalists in 2015 and 2017, but recruited for this tournament with a view to winning it and taking that form into World Cup qualifying that begins in September.
Overturning the US would be an embarrassment for a US set-up that is never short on confidence. On paper Jamaica look like favourites. But that US self-belief will still take some overcoming.
Canada vs Costa Rica
Reports of Costa Rica’s demise may be premature. In their final group game they overcame Jamaica with a Bryan Ruiz (pictured) goal to maintain their place at Concacaf’s top table.
But this is an aging Costa Rican team and while Ruiz and midfielder Celso Borges are still outstanding and the glue that holds this team together, even they are human.
In contrast Canada are banging on the door to entry to Concacaf’s elite membership club but need to beat Costa Rica to cement their candidacy.
Shorn by injury of their two superstars Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, they nevertheless have still impressed – until it came to meeting the US in their final group game.
A goal within a minute in that match was all the US needed to cling on to victory. Canada were the better team for the rest of the game but couldn’t unpick the US defense. it was another learning experience for a Canadian team that had a similar learning experience last Gold Cup when they were knocked out by a never-say-die Haiti, Canada were the better team on that day as well.
More than ever they need to turn that ‘we were the better team’ mentality into more of an uncompromising winning mentality if they are to progress to the next level their federation has invested for. That needs to start with the Costa Rica game and for a few more of Canada’s undoubted young talent to step up and turn cameo performances into dominating leads. Coach John Herdman probably needs to do the same.
Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1632254810labto1632254810ofdlr1632254810owedi1632254810sni@o1632254810fni1632254810