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Matt Miazga’s late goal seals first place in Gold Cup group stage

Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

CLEVELAND โ€” The U.S. Men’s National team needed a big win to secure first place in its Gold Cup group, and avoid a brutal quarterfinal draw, and the Americans delivered in dramatic fashion.

Goals from Joe Corona, Kelyn Rowe, and Matt Miazga gave the USMNT a 3-0 victory it needed to overtake Panama for the top spot in Group B. The big win over Nicaragua gives them seven points on the tournament and means they overtake Los Caneleros on the goals scored tiebreaker.

The Americans looked they might fall short of their goal, after two missed penalty kicks left them leading 2-0 as time wound down at FirstEnergy Stadium, but Miazga delivered the crucial goal in the 88th minute to secure first place in Group B.

The U.S. will now face either Honduras, El Salvador or Jamaica in the Gold Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday in Philadelphia.

Bruce Arena trotted out a heavily rotated starting lineup than the one that took the field in the team’s 3-2 win over Martinique. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid made his tournament debut, as did defender Matt Miazga.

The USMNT struggled to create many strong chances in the first half. In fact, Nicaragua came closer to scoring the opener than they did. Luis Galeano took advantage of sloppy American defending and a poor touch from midfielder Dax McCarty to almost float a shot past Bill Hamid, which ultimately sailed high and wide to the right.

Their lone goal of the first half came in the 36th minute when Joe Corona received a pass in acres of space along the left flank before cutting inside past a pair of defenders to free himself for a shot. His subsequent shot took a deflection before slipping just inside the post.

The USMNT came close to doubling its lead in the 50th minute when Dom Dwyer was hauled down when making a run at goal for a penalty. The Sporting Kansas City forward promptly stepped up to the spot and fired a poorly directed shot right into a diving Diedrich Telez.

The USMNT didn’t let the saved penalty sap its momentum, however, as the second goal arrived quickly after Dwyer’s missed opportunity. After hard pressing to win the ball upfield, Alejandro Bedoya slipped a ball to Kelyn Rowe on the left wing, and his shot was deflected past Telez for the 2-0 lead.

The USA earned another chance from the penalty spot in the 63rd minute thanks to a sliding handball in the penalty area on a beautiful cutback from Bedoya. Corona confidently stepped up to take it, but his poorly-placed shot found only the body of Telez in the Nicaraguan goal for his second penalty save of the night.

The Americans continued to probe forward at every opportunity as they searched for an all-important third goal. They gained a numbers advantage in the 86th minute when Nicaragua’s Luis Copete was shown a second yellow for a rough challenge on Juan Agudelo to halt a USMNT breakaway. Graham Zusi’s ensuing free kick was perfectly placed and found the diving head ofย  Miazga for the crucial goal, putting the Americans atop Group B for good.


  1. Well done getting the job done. In typical usmnt fashion it took until almost the last minute, but they got the result they needed. The game went mostly how I expected, here are my thoughts:

    – Hamid did not have much to do, but he looked confident and in control of his defense in front of him. I know Timmy is coming in but I would like to see Hamid get another game to see if he can build on his success yesterday.
    – Miazga is a great passer, and even though you could see some of the rust of not playing for a while, he looked solid all night and came up big in the end. I think he could be moving up the list. Besler was solid and organized well.
    – Villafana is getting worse very game. He really looked poor last night, and if this continues Fabian will be moving back to LB soon enough. Zusi was awful save his free kick at the end. He should not be called in anymore, especially after Lichaj played well in the Martinique game.
    – Dax did well, and could be the new Beckerman on the team.
    – I said it before and I will say it again, Corona does not show me anything to justify continuing to get call ups and starts. I know he scored, but it was a deflection after he took one too many touches, but he missed the PK, and had almost no impact on the run of play.
    – Bedoya and Rowe were good, but not great.
    – Dwyer has to put the PK away, but his energy helps the entire team. I see him as a really good late game sub right now.
    – I like Morris, he has energy, speed, and his header/holdup game has improved. I think he makes the bus right now, but who knows what will be this time next year.

    Overall, it was a grinder game with grinder goals and not much to entertain the fans, but they got the job done. The biggest problem in this tournament is BA is not building any team chemistry with all the changes in the lineups. I know he want to see guys, but you have to give them a chance to succeed, and the best way to do that is to give them a chance to gel a little. Of course that will not happen now since we will get new guys in this week. Oh well, onto the knockout stage, hope we continue to grow in the tourney.

    • The missed Penalty Kicks really bothers me also. When you need a goal to win your group. and are handed 2 PKs, and miss both, that indicates a systemic problem in the team approach to that area of the game. With the USWNT having given away both a WC and an Olympic Gold because
      they don’t know how to take PKs, it makes me wonder just how serious U S Soccer is about winning. With as many Major Tournaments being decided by PKs in the knockout round(s) as we have seen lately, I can’t imagine any major soccer program working 4 years for WC Gold if they can’t convert a PK which is an 80% chance for any average player who has practiced them.

  2. Am I the only one who thinks that Dwyer, with the exception of a well-taken goal against Panama, has shown very little so far?

    Also, on a slightly related note, if it weren’t for a couple of very poor offside calls that went against Morris, he could’ve easily had four goals in the last two games.

    • People tend to get carried away. Dwyer is a hard working poacher. His hold up play is not better than average and he doesn’t have the speed to beat good defenses. He is very similar to Wondolowski. Since Morris is considerably younger and faster, he will be more important in the future. That puts Dwyer in about 5th or 6th place in the striker pool (Altidore, Wood, Dempsey, Morris ahead of him with other possibilities looming to be included with that group, depending on developments–AJ, Hajji Wright, Perez, Boyd and with Pulisic and Zardes also possibilities to play in that position.)

      • Gary, I agree with your Dwyer comments and put him around 5th or 6th. I though he had two really good chances with the ball at his feet in the box and messed them up. Even the pk bailed him out after he had a poor first touch. Also, lazy offsides drive me crazy!
        What annoys me is he had two fouls called on him in the box and they were completely unnecessary. The one on the goalie in the air could have drawn yellow, especially if his outreached hand makes contact with the ball.

  3. Based on the 4 games:
    – Chances of Fabian at LB in Russia are high
    – Bedoya keeps his spot in the 23 (But never starts)
    – Bradley’s spot is locked up
    – I’ve seen nothing to keep Chandler from backing up Yedlin
    (Unless Lichaj gets more play vs better competition)
    – Morris will need to expand his game to keep Dwyer out
    – Rowe has the best chance sitting in front of him to grab a spot
    – Acosta still needs work to contribute
    – Timmy is a lock between the pipes

    • I hope you are right about LB, as we have enough midfielders and I don’t think Villafana is the answer at LB and our other choices seem to be also lacking, especially in speed. At the last WC Fabian was one of the best defensive backs in the tournament. I hope Bruce changes his mind on this.

    • I think you’re wrong about Bedoya. I think his poor performances across the 4 matches has basically ended his international career except for possibly 1 last January Camp. There are just too many other options challenging him….Pulisic, Nagbe, Fabian, Gooch, Green, Saief, Arriola, Zardes…for the roll at Outside Mid (starter or back-up).
      I happen to agree with you that it looks like Fabian will need to be moved back to the LB spot. His last couple performances at Mid haven’t been all that great, and Villafana hasn’t looked all that solid on the back-line either. As more midfielders emerge Bruce will have to look at strengthening the LB position by shifting FJ back.

      • If you assume the standard number of 4 forwards, 8 defenders, and 8 mids, what’s the table look like at midfield:
        Locks: Bradley, Pulisic, Nagbe (Fabian->Wildcard-LB)

        Probables: Acosta

        Still In the conversation:^^^ Jones, Zardes

        Gotta fight & make the team: Dax, Danny W, Rowe, Corona, Arriola
        Outside Looking In: Llegett (inj), Morales, Sasha, Hyndmann

        Total Wilcard as of now:
        – Gooch Played great the first 5-8 games then disappeared
        – Green schizophrenic, plays great or disappears
        – Saief unknown looking at 7 months recovery from surgery
        – Cameron moves to midfield ๐Ÿ™

        If I’m forgetting someone please point them out….
        We need another Pulisic to go from Young-un to superstar fast…
        Outside of the “locks/probable” almost nobody has versatility so where does Bedoya fall on this list?

      • I actually thought Bedoya was one of the best players on the field last night (I realize that may not be saying much), and I thought he added a lot of possession to the midfield when he came on as a sub against Martinique. Don’t think he’s a starter for the A team, but he is at least a solid backup across the midfield.

        Got to echo some others’ disappointment that few of the new players made much of an impact. I would like to see how Rowe looks with better players around him. Corona looked well enough at times for a backup spot. Dwyer looked off last night, but I hope he gets a shot in the knockout rounds. That’s about it really.

      • Milkshake: He won’t be able to even begin his professional career until February. Barring a ton of injuries to the 6 or 7 strikers in front of him he is not going to Russia, and the number is probably closer to 9 or 10 guys in front of him.

      • Bedoya was the consensus man of the match vs Nicaragua ESPN, MLS, America Soccer Now, and NBC Sports. Like most of the guys on the original 23 man roster if you want you can find faults and if you want you find things to love. With the exception of maybe Wood and Pulisic and perhaps Cameron every player we have is despised by at least 1/3 of the fans if not 1/2. The gap between the back up and the 4th team guys in this pool is next nothing, it’s really personal choice of what you look for in that position.

      • You might be right about Bedoya but Arena might keep him around based on his accountability on and off the field. Bedoya showed best when played centrally and now there are better players that can play wide. Not that Bedoya is the answer as a backup but the USMNT Achilles heel is Bradley.

    • Yeah, I think Villafana is slowly playing himself out of a starting spot. He looked really bad last night, and has not gotten involved in the offense enough to overlook his poor 1 v 1 defense. I would like to see Lichaj there, but I agree that in the end FJ will be moved back to make room in the midfield.

      • FabJohnson is not a bad option to fall back on at LB. He can get forward with speed and use that speed to recover. He also reads the game pretty well allowing him to interchange with a well balanced player like Nagbe on the left.
        Villafana, athletically has a ceiling and FabJohnson much more well rounded footballer.

  4. At least they played with much more intensity and heart in this game. And that’s why they got the result they needed. Now if only Bruce would play with 2 strikers more often.

    • I didn’t see the match, but from the line ups it didn’t look like we did play with two strikers. Anyone else have input on this one.

      Gary, I understand your preference for two strikers, but I’m not sure if its the best for the US. It pushes CP to the wing, and he appears to be the only CAM capable of playing at a WC level. If we have two strikers and CP underneath them Bradley gets isolated and we do not maintain possession. The opposite then is to play Acosta or someone next to Bradley with CP in front of them and Nagbe/Yedlin and Johnson/Yedlin on the wings, that means one striker or 3 CBs. That’s why Bruce gets the big bucks I guess. Also Gary do you have any Galaxy fan report on Lletget and his recovery from injury?

      • About the 70th minute Morris came on and they played 2 strikers up front. I don’t say we necessarily should always play 2 strikers. I have said earlier that when you are playing at home against a weaker opponent and need to score goals, that is when you should play at least 2 strikers. Obviously, if we are playing Mexico in Azteca, then you play a more defensive formation.Also, your personnel makes a difference, too. In the group stage in the Gold Cup, midfielders like Rowe, Corona, McCarty, and Bedoya have not shown a real propensity for scoring.
        If you have wingers like Pulisic, F Johnson and even Zardes, then maybe you can get away with one striker. I have been referring to the situation and personnel during the group stage of the Gold Cup, not all USMNT games. I’m not that dumb.

      • Gary, of the midfielders yoy mentioned, Rowe was a big threat, otherwise I agree. He was looking to score or make the pass. Corona dallied too much on the ball. I almost lost it when he scored, he should have shot quicker.

  5. By my count, only Johnson (3rd string keepe) and Saif (injured) have not seen the field of the original 23-man roster. Credit to Bruce for getting the results while rotating heavily.

    It’ll be interesting to see who gets shipped out once the reinforcement arrives. Seems like Guzan takes the biggest hit with Howard rolling into town. No big surprise with Bradley, and Jozy being called up. A little surprised about Dempsey. Seems like he could use the rest.

    • Had the US beaten Panama, I think we would have also seen Johnson in one of the group games. 2 keepers now need to make way for Howard and Gonzalez, That’ll be Guzan going to join Atlanta and one of Hamid/Johnson.

      One would expect that it will be Howard-only from here on in the tournament, but since now it is a weaker quarter-final opponent, Bruce may feel that he can afford a little risk to see another keeper.

      If it is going to be Howard, who would you have join Gonzalez on the bench, Hamid (who must be rated higher than Johnson, but has had his chance) or Johnson (keeping him longer for no reason)?

      If it’s not going to be Howard for the next match, it’s a bit of a puzzle. Bruce seems high on Gonzalez, but could he walk in for the first time on Sunday and play a quarter-final on Wednesday? Otherwise, I guess it would be Johnson’s chance.

      • I think Gonzalez was just brought in to get used to the camp, the system, and the guys around the team. As for who should start, I would rather see Hamid get another chance, and save Howard for the semi final match. Just like with the field players, we need to get answers about these backups and Hamid did enough to earn another shot.

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