You couldn’t blame Gregg Berhalter for being a little envious after Sunday night’s Concacaf Gold Cup results at Children’s Mercy Park. The Canadian national team shook off an early goal from Martinique to rattle off four unanswered goals in an impressive attacking display.
Berhalter’s U.S. men’s national team squad didn’t come anywhere close to matching Canada’s offensive fireworks, squeezing out a 1-0 victory against Haiti in a match that required a defender — left back Sam Vines — to deliver the game’s only goal.
The performance, which left the Americans sitting in second place in Group B behind Canada after matchday one, left Berhalter thoroughly unsatisfied, and he wasn’t afraid to express his disappointment.
“What I told the guys, and it’s not just related to those three in midfield, it’s related to the whole team. I missed the urgency to score more goals and to be dangerous and first pass forward and aggressive,” Berhalter said after the match. “To me, it was way too slow, way too backwards. Not enough intent to turn it around and get them defending in the penalty box. And then once we’re in the penalty box, I didn’t like the runs, the movement in the box. I didn’t like the service.
“So from the attacking end, we were disappointed with the intent that we showed tonight.”
Lackadaisical is the best way to describe the USMNT attack for stretches of the match, with Shaq Moore’s attacking forays from the right back position the only real constant threat for the Americans for the first two thirds of the match. Paul Arriola’s early injury departure didn’t help matters, but there were several disappointing individual performances that contributed to the lackluster showing.
Jonathan Lewis struggled mightily on the left wing, as did Vines, who never could get going after scoring his first national team goal. Jackson Yueill failed to provide a proactive presence in the defensive midfield role, which offset a strong showing from Kellyn Acosta in a more advanced midfield role.
The good news for the Americans is that there was a clear boost provided by the team’s second-half substitutes, including Gianluca Busio, who replaced Yueill and partnered with fellow substitute Eryk Williamson in central midfield as Berhalter shifted the team to a 3-5-2.
Busio was particularly impressive in his national team debut, showing quality on the ball and bringing some much-needed poise to the middle of the field.
Berhalter will have some interesting lineup decisions to make as he looks ahead to the team’s next match, on Thursday against Martinique. Cristian Roldan did not play on Sunday, and appears to be a good candidate to step in and start, potentially for Sebastian Lletget, while Busio and Williamson both made good cases to earn their first national team starts.
Some changes were always likely for the USMNT’s second group-stage match, but after Sunday’s less-than-ideal start to the Gold Cup, Berhalter will be even more eager to see what some new starters can do to improve on the match against Haiti.
“We still need to go to another gear, you can see we were a little rusty, the movements weren’t as clean as they normally were,” Berhalter said. “We didn’t create enough and we didn’t finish enough chances. So from that standpoint there’s room to improve.
“Happy with the shutout, happy that we didn’t give up a goal and happy to get the three points and we move on to Martinique.”