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USMNT misses chance to impress in win over Martinique

Photo by Kim Klement/USA Today Sports

For the current U.S. Men’s National Team group, the Gold Cup is all about proving yourself. Yes, the team performance is important, of course, and results are vital for each and every player on the roster, but any players that don’t have one eye on next summer’s World Cup aren’t doing themselves any favors. It’s a collective chance to prove yourself as an individual.

On Wednesday against one of CONCACAF’s weakest teams in Martinique, the USMNT’s individuals did little to step up, and the collective group suffered because of it.

Aside from Jordan Morris, Eric Lichaj and Kellyn Acosta, few, if any, players throughout the USMNT squad played at a level befitting of a consistent senior international. It was legitimately a match against a team loaded with amateurs, but those amateurs, at times, looked to be the team that had a chance at contending for a Gold Cup.

It wasn’t just one section of the field, and it wasn’t just limited to newcomers. Everyone from Brad Guzan to Paul Arriola struggled in big moments, as several players failed in what should have been a major audition.

Of the group, Guzan is obviously the safest as he’s one of the few players on this USMNT squad that is all but guaranteed to be on the plane to Russia. However, his mistake on the second goal and the frequent miscommunication with his centerbacks certainly damaged his pursuit of Tim Howard and the USMNT starting job.

Defensively, Matt Hedges, a player on the cusp of that fourth centerback spot, struggled frequently. He should have professionally fouled on Martinique’s second goal and he was certainly out of touch with the rest of his backline. His MLS accolades and previous performance against Ghana lifted him into the conversation, but Wednesday’s match was his worst for the USMNT.

Arriola’s effort wasn’t as bad, but it also had moments of bad. He was among the most dangerous players, but he was also wasteful, botching several clear cut chances. His most inexcusable? A shot from inside the six that clanged off the crossbar for what should have been the USMNT’s first goal.

Then, there was the lone debuting player: Cristian Roldan. It was a quiet performance in a match where he needed to standout. It wasn’t bad by any means as he had no real mistakes and generally moved the ball well, but with so much ground to make up in the midfield race, it wasn’t a match that will have many calling for increased minutes for him any time soon.

The match obviously wasn’t all negative. Morris jumped right back into the forward race alongside recent standout Dom Dwyer. Eric Lichaj, in his first USMNT match in far too long, stepped up to make his mark at the fullback position. Gyasi Zardes, for all of his faults and mistakes on the night, showed a strong soccer IQ and helped create several chances. There were positives for Bruce Arena to take away, but not as many as anyone would have hoped.

Overall, there’s only one way to look at Wednesday: a missed opportunity.  It was a missed opportunity for the USMNT to build confidence following a disappointing opener. Most importantly, though, it was a missed opportunity for players to step up and throw their name into the ring for bigger things ahead.


  1. One thing for sure, we can’t just rely on MLS players for the national team. One thing I’ve noticed is that the US will play a number of CONCACAF teams with MLS players and too often their MLS players will do well and ours will under perform. One of the original goals of MLS was to help develop players for the US national team. Not exactly a roaring success. I know it’s verboten to mention Klinsmann here, but it looks more and more like we need to be sending more players to Europe and encourage them to stay there, as he kept urging.

    • Keep in mind that other teams are using more proven veteran MLSers on their team, players who have a significant amount of international experience. The US has what, maybe 20 caps between 95% of the roster?

      Part of the point of Bruce’s lineup was to get some of these younger, inexperienced players some real game time for the US. I’m as disappointed as you in the last two games, but this is as good of a place as any to blood some of these newcomers. These are basically tryouts for the next rounds of qualifying. Hopefully a few of them can standout and make the full team by the end of the tournament.

      • If Bruce had actually used this tournament to blood a bunch of young, inexperienced players, that would be one thing. However, for the most part he hasn’t. He’s called up a bunch of MLS journeymen. 15 of the 23 players currently in the camp are 27 yrs or older with an average of 21 caps between them. Bedoya (30 yrs, 63 caps), Guzan (32 yrs, 57 caps), Zusi (30 yrs, 50 caps), OG (28 yrs, 42 caps), Besler (30 yrs, 41 caps), McCarty (30 yrs, 9 caps), Villafana (28 yrs, 8 caps), Morrow (30 yrs, 2 caps), Lichaj (29 yrs, 12 caps), Corona (28 yrs, 19 caps), Pontious (31 yrs, 3 caps). Some of these guys may be inexperienced at the international level, but they are not young.
        Most of these guys are either past the point of being worthwhile or never were worthy of being called into the USMNT.

        I would have been much more interested in this team if Bruce had used the group stage to identify this cycles U-23 players from MLS/LigaMX/Europe fringes with a couple of overaged guys thrown into the mix. Instead we got a bunch of “OLD” players who aren’t worthy, and are showing that they don’t belong.

      • Lost In Space – I thought the same thing. Here is my idea of what he is doing (maybe more of a hope): I think he has brought the guys in as their last chance to prove that they should be on the bus. Not young and inexperienced guys, but middle of their career fringe players. This way he can cross them off if they disappoint, or give them a bigger chance if they do well. Then, in the January camp, he will bring in all the younger guys that did not get called up for the Gold Cup and we will not see most of these guys again other than a handful. He is only really looking for five or six guys at this point. Bruce is focused on Russia 2018, and he seems to have a plan both short term and long term, I hope!

    • I am not sure if it a case of their MLS guys vs ours or one of their teams play together more often than ours with a whole bunch of fringe guys? I do not know enough about the other teams to say whether they brought their best players, but I assume those they brought have played together for longer than ours have. I think that is an underestimated part of the equation.


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