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Five Players the USMNT needs to deliver at Gold Cup

The 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup is underway and for the U.S. Men’s National Team, its goal of repeating as champions starts on Tuesday.

Gregg Berhalter and his bunch kick off group stage play in Group D against Guyana, aiming for a positive start to a deep run in the competition. Following its clash against Guyana, the USMNT will also take on Panama before ending the group stage against Trinidad & Tobago

Despite disappointing performances in the June friendlies, the USMNT still has plenty of talent to put on the field.

Veterans Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Omar Gonzalez all can be called on during this tournament while rising stars Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie will need to contribute. Tyler Boyd is a fresh face who could end up being important deeper in the tournament, and Jordan Morris and Gyasi Zardes are MLS guys who have experience in this competition from the 2017-winning run.

Here’s a closer look at five players who need a strong tournament for the USMNT:

1.) Christian Pulisic

The best playmaker on the USMNT roster, Christian Pulisic is coming in fresh and ready to go. Pulisic comes in after an extended break and should be rearing to go. As the No. 10 for Berhalter’s side, Pulisic will need to contribute for the team to have a deep run in the Gold Cup.

Guyana, Panama, and Trinidad & Tobago will all be looking to shut down the 20-year-old and be physical with him to get him off his game. The centerpiece of the USMNT for years to come, Pulisic needs to come up clutch for the team to lift the trophy in July.

2.) Matt Miazga

With the USMNT’s No. 1 centerback John Brooks out with an injury, Matt Miazga will carry the most responsibility defensively. After what was a stop still domestically with Nantes, Miazga picked himself up and helped Reading fight off relegation in England. Valuable minutes helped Miazga continue his development, but now he will go against CONCACAF’s best.

With all three group stage teams providing different tests, Miazga may be asked to do a lot of physical work with opposing forwards. It was something that Miazga had trouble with against Venezuela’s Salomon Rondon and something that needs to be fixed to have success this summer. It’s not decided yet who will be asked to team with Miazga in the backline, but his aerial ability will help the USMNT win duels and contribute on corner-kicks.

3.) Weston McKennie

Another player whose stock is rising not only in Europe but also with the USMNT is Weston McKennie.

The Schalke midfielder was a versatile piece in Germany this season, playing numerous roles for the club in what proved to be a disappointing campaign as a whole. McKennie’s physicality is what the USMNT need in midfield for this tournament and his versatility is something that Berhalter can use deep in the competition.

If needed, McKennie can hang back and defend, but he also poses the threat of advancing higher in midfield. McKennie’s importance will continue to grow in the group stage as the USMNT faces tougher competition along the way. After not playing a major role in friendlies, McKennie should be 100%.

4.) Jozy Altidore

One of the veterans on this squad, Jozy Altidore will need to stay healthy and bring his best to the table. After suffering a few knocks domestically with Toronto FC, Altidore is back and will bring his physical play to the Gold Cup. Unlike Gyasi Zardes and Jordan Morris, who both are more versatile, Altidore can hold balls up and help distribute them to wide attackers.

After being rested against Jamaica and playing only sparingly against Venezuela, Altidore is another player who’s fitness should be good to go. Out of the current 92 goals on this roster, Altidore has 41 of them, meaning he can contribute and help the USMNT to another title. However, if he starts going dry than other players could be tossed into the No. 9 position over him.

5.) Gyasi Zardes

Another forward who has experience in this tournament is Gyasi Zardes. Now 27-years-old, Zardes has seven international goals in 44 caps and will be eager to add to those totals this summer. A player who was reborn in Berhalter’s system with the Columbus Crew, Zardes was a bright spot in March friendlies and should be rested after limited play in June.

Unlike Altidore, Zardes can get after defenders and try new ideas offensively. If needed he can move out wide and swing crosses in which is something that USMNT need to take advantage of in this tournament.

A lot will be asked of him based off of his experience compared to other forward options like Tyler Boyd and Jonathan Lewis. If he fails to make an impact though, don’t expect to see Zardes play deeper in the competition.


  1. @ Ronniet ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Take care & enjoy the game. I’m no expert, but I’d be down with you dropping some knowledge I could learn from. Btw, my comment was about the entire team stepping up… your inference was skewed to secondary sarcasm.

  2. I really hope we don’t end up leaning on Pulisic and McKennie too much to carry this team. The worst part of 2017 was watching the kid Pulisic score all the goals but overpaid veteran players fail over and over again in an arrogant MNT system. All while there were promising young players, like McKennie, Adams or Miazga, not called up because the coach didn’t think they were ready.

    Since then we all got hyped up on the next wave of youth but Berhalter has brought back a lot of the pre-2017 players and these are the names that need to show up big if we are to do well in this tournament.

    i see the roster in these groups

    We know they are stars, hopefully they shine and we don’t need to lean on them exclusively. Bad tournament won’t be a knock on them, rather the coaches system

    – Pulisic
    – McKennie

    Young players who could have breakout tournaments if they find good form. good tournament and they could join the above category, bad tournament they fall into the category where they are not unquestioned leaders of the program

    – Miazga
    – Steffen

    Vet players that need to have a good tournament to justify their spots near the top of the depth chart. Great tournament from these guys we could win the final and these guys re-earn their place as top players within concacaf. Bad tournament the MNT program really takes a hit and difficult decisions must be made

    – Bradley
    – Altidore
    – Zardes
    – Ream
    – Gonzalez

    Younger squad players who could either fall out or find a place in the MNT roster going forward based on this tournament

    – Long
    – Morris
    – Trapp
    – Zimmerman
    – Lovitz
    – Arriola
    – Lima
    – Cannon
    – Boyd

    the program is still very much in state of transition and the next generations are coming in strong. Its a big tournament for all of these players but especially the players outside of the top three or four.

    • As someone else said, the US needs the kind of player who can take the team on his back and carry them to victory. I hoped that when Bradley returned to MLS, he would take that role for Toronto and then for the US; he did not, barring a great game against Mexico in Azteda. I have not seen Pulisic be the kind of dominant figure for Dortmond (but that is kind of a tall order) and McKennie has been moved around so much at Schalke it is a bit unfair to expect that from him there. Of the 3, I think it is Mckennie who is most likely to rise to the occasion and carry the team.

      Others, Long had, for him, a poor outing vs Venezuela, I expect he will have shaken the rust off and will prove his worth. Ream will appear serviceable at LB, but Long and Miazga will have to bail him out when someone’s speed beats him. Gonzalez is a sub on this team and I hope we don’t need him.

      All of Bradley, Ream, Gonzalez, Lovitz, Zardes and Altidore will be over 30 for WC22, we will see less and less of them on the USMNT in the next few years; maybe one or two will make the squad.

  3. I would add Roldan. He seems to be a starter in Berhalter’s mind, but I remain unconvinced. His work rate is very good, and also seems to have some bite defensively. But I haven’t seen him score or make that final pass from the attacking midfield position, despite logging a lot of minutes with the USMNT. I wouldn’t mind seeing what he could do at the #6, since I believe he has experience there, and Trapp has not played well lately and Bradley is injured/older.

  4. I agree with others….sort of. The questionable choices and back up players force to be used because of injuries will be the key……..but remember the ability of studs to take a team on their backs and make others around them great has yet to be shown for this generations national team.
    It is easy to SAY we have a player that is finally a progression better than Donovan.

  5. A good article. Pulisic, McKinnie and Miazga in particular must prove they can not only play their positions well, but must be able to improve the players around them.

    Pulisic by being better at remaining open (a weakness of his when he is not on the touchline) and at finding teammates with passes, not simply dribbling until he is dispossessed.

    McKinnie must help teammates by being an outlet whenever they are in trouble and he must be able to find teammates with penetrating passes.

    Miazga must remain calm, focused and keep his back line organized (though, I expect Long to help with that).

    Lets face it, the forwards need to score or at least setup someone else to score.

    If those things do not happen, the US will find it tough going in the GC.

    • I think if Pulisic tries to take the ball to goal himself against CONCACAF opponents that he will be repeatedly hacked down and will not last until the end of the tournament without injury. He must give the ball up earlier or he will certainly spend a lot of time on the ground looking up at the referee asking for a call.

  6. Those are your 5 players? If Pulisic doesn’t deliver to your expectations, then what? Bring back Baird?
    Here are the 5 that need to deliver:
    1) Berhalter’s system. tactics. lineups, substitutions
    2) ALL of HIS strikers
    3) His “favorites” Bradley, Trapp, Ream, Gonzales
    4) Steffen as supposed clear-cut #1 GK
    5) Lovitz / Lima / Arriola / Roldan and the rest of the MLS Jan Camp starters

    • Yep, pretty much agree with your comment that the article misses the boat on “who needs to deliver”. Short of burning the American flag at the center of the field, those 5 players are a lock to make GB’s rosters through 2022.

      It’s the retreads of Bradley and Gonzalez, and the newer players that seem to be automatic starters (like Trapp and Roldan) who need to deliver. But at the end of the GC, I think GB still keeps Bradley, Omar, Trapp, and Roldan, regardless of whether they delivered or not. He truly believes they belong on the field (or at least on the roster). And that’s troubling…

      • Silly me, I thought the article was about who must deliver for the US do do well in the GC, NOT about what the roster might be next year!

      • Pulisic is obviously talented but will be watched in every detail. Miazga has good moments but still needs to work on some things. Zardes everyone seems to hate but delivers on MLS standards, needs to be better at delivering to teammates in final third and holding balls up. Altidore needs to score plain and simple. McKennie is like Pulisic, a lot will be asked of him so he can’t afford to be quiet. Steffen is a good goalie but can slip up every now & then.

      • “What’s SUM got to do, got to do wit it”….certain fans are so focused on things that have absolutely nothing to do with call ups and tactics, and if they SUM does, where’s the evidence, because otherwise it’s a narrative drawn up out of self interest and this stupid woe is me attitude LOL

      • I reckon you disagree (…that’s cool). Tell me about your take on “call ups” & “tactics,” then.

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