A Golden Win for the United States National Team (if unexpected!)
The United States National Team won the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Sunday night, an improbable win set against the backdrop of a tournament that was supposed to be a throw-away for this group. Beating Mexico, by a 1-0 score line, is never a bad thing.
Beating Mexico in a game that matters? Always impressive.
Doing so in a cup final? Even more notable.
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Two cup final wins over Mexico in the same summer? Noteworthy to say the least.
And in the here and now, there are no more questions about head coach Gregg Berhalter, his tactics or his ability to manage a locker room or a game. And there are a lot more answers from this Gold Cup than even the most optimistic of United States national team fans could hope for.
(Also, don’t forget to check out the player ratings from Nathan Dunn).
For a tournament that paled in importance for the United States compared to the Nations League, this was beyond an impressive result. The ripples through the region are seismic to say the least.
Three Things We Learned from the United States National Team in the Gold Cup triumph:
1. GGG can coach – The knock on Gregg Berhalter as head coach had nothing to do with his accomplishments as a player and a head coach and more to do with the last name and bloodline he shared with U.S. Soccer Federation’s Chief Commercial and Strategy Officer, Jay Berhalter. After the failed qualification effort for the 2018 World Cup, there was the sense that the head coach’s scant resume was not enough given the rebuilding effort this program needed.
And yet here is Gregg Berhalter, a year away from the World Cup with almost an entirely new roster that has won the Nations League and now the Gold Cup. With a roster that was labeled as second-tier coming into the Gold Cup (most of the young Americans who are starters for this team were in Europe ahead of their club season), Berhalter took down a nearly full-strength Mexican side. It wasn’t pretty, and the Mexicans dominated the match but Berhalter pulled all the right strings in getting a second trophy for the United States in as many months. Impressive.
2. There is depth here – Coming into the Gold Cup, there was a perceived question mark regarding the overall squad and roster depth, an idea that there was a big drop off between the players in the English Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga and those in MLS.
Turns out that Matt Turner (New England Revolution), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids) and Miles Robinson (Atlanta United) can all hold their own at the CONCACAF level. Robinson, in fact, was dominant in the tournament and Turner could very capably start for this group in qualifying.
That two European players – Shaq Moore and Matthew Hoppe (currently with clubs in their domestic league’s second division) – both look like contributors for World Cup qualifying this fall.
Several key players emerged from this tournament that should help the United States grind their way through qualifying over the next few months.
3. There’s some separation occurring – The separation seen during the CONCACAF Gold Cup wasn’t between the overseas talent pool for the Americans and their domestic players. Rather, it was between the United States and some of the second-tier competition in this tournament.
Never at any one time have the Americans boasted so many key players starting or playing significant minutes for top clubs in Europe (Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Timothy Weah) but there is also more depth than ever before. This so-called ‘B-team’ for the United States was more talented than a number of the full national teams from Central America and the Caribbean that the Americans will face in qualifying. This is a deep and talented player pool for sure. The run through the Gold Cup underscores how impressive this depth was against the first-choice selections faced the past two weeks.
The expectation for this young and untested group was a semifinal. Winning this tournament with the youngest ever Starting XI to ever start for the Americans in a Gold Cup final is surreal.
Now more than ever, there is the United States national team and Mexico in this region…and then everyone else. Impressive depth-building by Gregg Berhalter in just three years.