I think we can all agree that the US should’ve advanced out of the group stage, so no surprise here that they did. What is surprising is how they went about it. After losing friendlies to both Jamaica and Venezuela in the build up to the tournament, concern was evident. The US has done everything asked of them in their 3 group stage games to put that concern to bed and build momentum for a knockout stage push. We are breaking down their results, the matchups heading into the quarterfinals, and whatever else comes to mind.
USA cruises through the group
The opponents who comprised Group D weren’t exactly murderers row. The US played teams who were ranked 75th, 92nd and 177th in the FIFA World Rankings with the US coming in at 30th. At the end of the day you can’t control who you get drawn against, you just have to win and that’s what they did.
USA v Guyana: In their first match the US played against 177th ranked Guyana who showed some fight but ultimately couldn’t keep up with the US and lost 4-0 with newly minted US man Tyler Boyd scoring a brace in the match.
USA v Trinidad & Tobago: This was the match I had circled, the first time the US would face 92nd ranked T&T since being ejected from World Cup qualification rather disgracefully. While beating T&T wouldn’t make up for missing the World Cup, it sure would feel good and help put to bed some pain and some psychological demons. The US took some time to get cooking, just squeaking a goal before the half when center back Aaron Long buried a header in the 41st minute. After the break the US went for the jugular and ended up ripping T&T to the tune of 6-0 by the final whistle. Of the 6 goals scored, 4 of them came in a 12 minute span from the 66th to the 78th minute.
USA v Panama: With both 75th ranked Panama and the US having already qualified for the knockout round, Gregg Berhalter had the luxury of sitting all 11 starters from the first two matches. That is invaluable experience for the 23 man roster, giving many players the chance to compete in an official CONCACAF tournament. A win would mean that the US would finish at the top of the group, and even more importantly play Curaçao, a surprise entry, in the quarterfinals. The US and Panama both lacked some cohesion and chemistry, which was to be expected given that many of the players on the pitch had yet to play in the tournament. Jozy Altidore, who has seemingly lost his place in the depth chart to Gyasi Zardes got his first start and took advantage by scoring the game winner on a quick thinking bicycle from only a few yards out. The US finished with a 1-0 win and a perfect 9 points in the group.
Here is how good the US was in their group stage:
- +11 goal differential
- 5 total shots allowed on goal across all 3 matches
- 0 goals allowed
- 9 points taken
- Won the group
- Rested all 11 starters in the last match of the group
- Will play the 2nd to lowest ranked nation to move on to the quarterfinals
The Knockout Round
Your typical teams made it to the knockout rounds, with the likes of Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and the US meeting expectations. However, there were a couple of nations who made a splash and pushed their way in too. The likes of Canada, Haiti and Curaçao are rarely considered locks to make the final 8, but this year some nations who have found recent success took a step back. Honduras, Trinidad & Tobago and El Salvador all have done better in the last few iterations of this tournament, but fell short in the group stage.
The US sets up nicely with what appears to be the easiest path to the final on July 7th. They will play 79th ranked Curaçao in the quarters and the winner of Jamaica and Panama in the semis, both teams that the US can and should beat.
Mexico and Costa Rica, who finished #1 and #2 in WCQ for Russia 2018 will face off right away in the quarters and should Costa Rica knock off Mexico, the odds of the US winning will have to go up. The most compelling match up for me in the quarterfinals is that of Haiti and Canada, two teams who don’t regularly make the knockout rounds will play each other. This because Haiti managed to top their Group B over Costa Rica. Either Canada or Haiti is guaranteed a spot in the semifinals and I think that is pretty cool. I’d be thrilled with a USA v Canada final!
Here are all of the US’s group stage goals, in order.
TYLER BOYD!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 19, 2019
He scores his first-ever goal for the USMNT and puts the USA up by ✌️ pic.twitter.com/I0Zcietspa
Just how they drew it up!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 19, 2019
Paul Arriola's shot deflects off Zardes and makes it 3-0 pic.twitter.com/Ys6ph3CAhG