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Hoppe’s heroics, Acosta’s statement game and more: Five takeaways from the USMNT win vs. Jamaica

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Sunday’s Concacaf Gold Cup quarterfinal against Jamaica was never going to be easy, and you get the feeling Gregg Berhalter was happy knowing that. The U.S. men’s national team coach has a squad loaded with players experiencing their first international tournament, and having them endure and conquer tough tests is the point.

As much as a fantasy where every single inexperienced player handles the challenges of tournament play perfectly is a nice idea, it was always going to be a case were some players rise to the occasion, while others struggle as the road grows more difficult.

We watched that play out on Sunday, as the USMNT endured a hard challenge from Jamaica, particularly in the early going as some players struggled to acclimate. The second half was a different story, as the Americans took control and Jamaica began to fade.

USMNT fans watched some young players grow up on Sunday, and also watched some veterans come off the bench to help deliver a victory that earned the team its 11th consecutive trip to the Gold Cup semifinals.

Here is a closer look at some of the key takeaways from the USMNT win vs. Jamaica:


Hoppe gives USMNT attack needed flavor


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

One constant throughout the Gold Cup has been Matthew Hoppe’s ability to make things happen in the attack, and he kept that going against Canada by providing all of the best USMNT chances.

Hoppe is by no means the finished product, and some of his decision-making showed the hallmarks of a player who could use more experience, but his ability to get into dangerous spots and keep defenders on their toes is an ability lacking in the current group.

Something else to note is that while he may be 6-foot-3, he isn’t a prototypical striker. Hoppe isn’t a back-to-goal forward, and is much more adept at squaring up and taking people on than being the target who teammates can play off of. That has become very clear during the Gold Cup, and eased the fears raised by some who questioned Gregg Berhalter’s decision to bring Hoppe to the Gold Cup with the intent of deploying him as a wide forward.

Hoppe doesn’t have the speed of a traditional wide player, but he’s good on the dribble, and his well-timed runs can be useful working out wide. That, coupled with his incompatibility with the striker position in Berhalter’s 4-3-3 makes him more well-suited to be a wide forward for the USMNT. Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna are Berhalter’s first-choice options at the wide forward roles in the full-strength USMNT, but if Hoppe continues to develop then there is no reason why his evolution couldn’t allow Berhalter to slide a Pulisic or Reyna into a central midfield role.


Acosta rises to the occasion


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

The USMNT was going to need bite in the midfield to deal with Jamaica, and Kellyn Acosta was the man on the USMNT roster to provide that and he showed once again why he’s currently the best defensive midfield option in the pool after Tyler Adams.

Berhalter had deployed Acosta in a more advanced role during the group stage, which allowed him to take a look at some other players in the defensive midfield role, but with the knockout rounds presenting a more difficult challenge, Acosta was called on to man the role. His ability to cover ground, break up Jamaican possessions and even find time to jump into the attack helped the Americans endure a slow start and eventually take control of the match.

Acosta did have more turnovers than you would like to see, but most came as he was trying to push the attack, and it should be noted that if he is called on to fill the defensive midfielder role in World Cup qualifying he will be playing in a lineup with far more attacking firepower, which would allow him to focus on his defensive responsibilities.


Busio battles and shows growth


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

The Jamaica game played out as an exact opposite of the Canada match for Gianluca Busio. Against the Canadians, Busio started well and looked sharp in the first 25 minutes, but he eventually tired and found himself overwhelmed by the more experienced Canadian midfielders.

Berhalter gave Busio the start against Jamaica despite that lackluster showing against Canada, and in the opening 25 minutes it looked like Berhalter might have made a mistake. Busio repeatedly lost the ball and appeared rattled by Jamaica’s pressing and speed.

Rather than replacing Busio at halftime, Berhalter allowed the teenager to figure things out, and as much as he struggled early, Busio never stopped battling and didn’t shy away from the challenges. He was eventually rewarded in the second half as Jamaica began to slow down and the USMNT made tactical and personnel changes that freed up Busio to have more room to operate.

The result was a strong finish to the match for Busio, who looked more comfortable in a more advanced role.

As encouraging as his overall performance was, Busio will struggle to remain in the starting lineup, but the Gold Cup has already provided him with valuable learning experience ahead of his expected move to Serie A, and ahead of the Fall, when he could be in position to challenge for a role in World Cup qualifying if he is able to earn playing time upon his arrival in Italy.


Zardes and Roldan make case to regain starting roles


Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Gyasi Zardes and Cristian Roldan could have sulked after being left on the bench in favor of younger options on Sunday, but neither player would ever be accused of being that selfish, and the two veterans showed their savvy and worth as impactful substitutes in the second half.

Zardes immediately provided more energy, defensive work and better positioning at the striker positioning while Roldan delivered some needed energy to the right wing, where he helped create a pair of chances in his cameo appearance, including the beautiful assist on Hoppe’s winner.

Zardes should start against Qatar, and as much as Daryl Dike has more potential as a national team prospect, right now Zardes is the better fit for the current squad, and has the experience edge heading into the toughest matches.

Roldan is a tougher one to call. He had an okay showing as a starter against Martinique, a forgettable cameo off the bench against Canada, and now his impressive stint off the bench against Jamaica. Paul Arriola’s flat showing on the right wing against Canada could open the door for Berhalter to give Roldan a starting nod in a wide role, a position he has played regularly in MLS with the Seattle Sounders.


Dike struggles again, but is still a top striker prospect


Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Daryl Dike’s national team stock has endured more swings during the Gold Cup than Bitcoin, but while he is definitely in the midst of a dip, much like cryptocurrency, you will want to buy the Dike dip.

There is no denying he has struggled in consecutive matches, with his flaws exposed, but Dike is still young and in just his second full season as a professional. The natural ability is there to develop into an elite striker, but he needs more seasoning, particularly for the international level.

There is also something to be said for the idea that the current USMNT squad isn’t well-suited to play to Dike’s strengths. Wing service is scarce given the lack of true wingers on the roster, and the lack of a game-changing playmaker means there aren’t many defensive-unlocking passes making their way out of the USMNT midfield.

All that said, Dike needs to get better, which is entirely fine for someone who just turned 21 last month, and was still playing college soccer less than two years ago. It might feel like he has been a major disappointment in the eyes of some, but that’s more down to the unrealistic expectations sparked by his goal-scoring run in England, and the allure of him being a relatively new face in the USMNT striker mix.

Comments

  1. Dike is raw. He is the best big physical striker we have. He is not ready to face the European teams or the better South American teams, but he is absolutely capable of making a difference against the CONCACAF teams. And the more we play him, the faster he will develop. Same for Hoppe (although the fact he looks dangerous wide and is a #9 as well makes a case as 3rd striker on the depth chart). Busio is too far behind the A team guys to get time now, but his move to Italy will take care of his lack of experience (if he plays). Sands showed he can make the A team, in part because he can be a backup at the 6 slot or centerback. He would make sense as a starter against lesser teams where his ability to step into the midfield can crowd the midfield when that is tactically called for. He could also free up Adams to push things higher in the latter stages of a game if we are down.
    Big picture, if we can get to the point where we rarely give up goals (long way to go), we have the firepower to get 1-2 against most teams. The depth and improvement defensively are the biggest needs right now.

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  2. the real beneficiaries of this tournament will be the backs and keeper. 9 is regressing back to zardes given how the coach structured the competition and access to minutes. 6, i think if adams is healthy acosta is winning the backup slot. the rest is noise, players showing some qualities — some mixed bags — at positions where we have a lot of people already. it will make them permanent pool and next man up but not in the 23.

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  3. the real, quiet shift is yeuill to bench. the other noise being heard is various players mediocrely fighting for the role at his expense. acosta seems to be winning that based on the last ditch defending. busio is interesting but a mixed bag who does both well and bad.

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  4. we start quali in 2 months. dike having a future aligns more with a 2026 role. he’s a work in progress now at the international level. his only salvation may be that striker is a mess and the coach doesn’t care as much about game performance as he should.

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    • Maybe it’s not that the coach doesn’t care about game performance but instead cares about game performance but doesn’t measure it completely on did you score a goal and/or did the team give up a goal with you on the field. Maybe he looks at the total picture of each players performance. Perhaps in Dike he sees a natural finisher that with a little bit of tweaking here and there to the timing and directions of his runs will be a nearly unstoppable force. Perhaps Dike is continuing to get minutes and the staff is going over the game film with him giving him the information needed to make these improvements.

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      • striker is not an intangibles position, sorry. there is no gestalt or wondo would have been a decent intangibles striker for how hard he chased defenders. when i need a goal you can either get open or not, and pound it in or not. he’s short on both accounts and arguably not even the best striker in camp at the moment, which is necessary to making the 23.

        it’s a production position and we’re winning 1-0 without his productive input. and while in theory they could be going over tape with him, i don’t see any improvement, tangible or otherwise.

  5. i would still question GB’s selection as he lacked wings, deployed 9s there, and favored dike at 9 where he has struggled. 9 is where we actually needed some evaluation and evolution. adding more bodies to pulisic reyna aaronson weah konrad arriola etc. runs out of space (unless you move pulisic and reyna inside). what we need is strikers we can rely on to score in quali. hoppe scored a striker header goal and isn’t even playing 9. the reality is zardes might be re-winning a striker roster spot right now cause of how this is playing out. does that feel well managed?

    i kind of thought he would give all 4 a chance but he really basically picked 2 from practice and the rest became wings. hoppe then is the productive one. maybe he doesn’t properly evaluate practice. he constantly seems surprised how subs play.

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  6. Both Dike and Busio need a year or two more experience, at least. They both would improve quicker if they can go to Europe and play regularly. Fickle fans here don’t recognize Zardes’ value. Specifically, his help defense. He is very good on defensive headers and provides help on D generally while still providing an outlet when the ball is turned over. Hoppe and Robinson are the two biggest revelations for me, exceeding expectations.

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    • Yep, I agree with all except Zardes. The guy works his socks off but I’ve seen him play way too much to put a lot of trust in him.

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      • I’ve been following Zardes since his first year in MLS. Second fastest US man to double digits in both goals and assists for the national team. Leading American goal scorer in MLS several times. Favored by all his coaches. Statistics don’t lie and I trust national team coaches judgment over most fans.

    • you’re kinda confused there acting like a MLS platoon/bench player’s move is to go to europe to see playing time. internally contradictory argument unless they are signing in the scottish second or LOI or finnish beer league.

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  7. – Hoppe made the right choice to skip the Schalke pre-season and play in the GC. He is lost in obscurity at the sinking Schalke. Perhaps his transfer value will rise with the GC and Schalke will listen to a reasonable offer.
    – After the GC, here’s hoping Acosta stays in good form right through MLS. He was written off for a long period. It seems both Acosta and Sands can fill in for Adams, providing additional roster flexibility.
    – Agree Dike just needs coaching and game experience, especially in hold-up play. The potential is there.
    – Biggest takeaway so far is the emergence of Robinson as a viable CB, perhaps even as a starter in WCQ.

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    • i made a similar argument before the tournament about horvath vs reynolds and richards. i think this tournament is a showcase. the level of play is not as high as bayern munich but going back to bayern practice is likely just an exercise in getting loaned again in august. this is a change of pace, more new eyes scouting, and people will make offers. hard to get an offer at some closed door bayern practice.

      i thought that whole line of thought was an emotional response to berhalter’s selection weirdness. parroted by people who watch too much champions league. going back to european camp for a team that has basically decided you’re not in their plans is an exercise in frustration and getting loaned. you want a transfer out. go showcase yourself someplace where they can see the goods.

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  8. Or we can just move Matthew Hoppe to Center Forward since that’s his natural position. Now for this C team we need him at LW but on the A team we should put him at CF. I don’t blame Dike he needs service which he got none. Zardes hasn’t earned anything. Roldan should be a sub

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    • I thought the same thing about putting Hoppe in the center with some talent on both sides and mids who can actually pick out a pass

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    • Absolutely agree Hoppe should see some time as a striker. He looks very good as a potential second striker in a formation like a 4-4-2

      A kind of poacher that can score behind a target striker who is taking the attention of the CB’s

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  9. Good takes by SBI. Dike especially was accurately described as failing to impress both because of his inexperience and because of lack of service. He seems most dangerous on a counterattack or receiving a long ball. His ability to finish is very promising. I also thought Acosta was very good and agree he is easily the best 6 after Adams. The Jamaica win is the most impressive yet from this young team. No idea about Qatar but this US squad would be a definite underdog against Mexico, but still good enough to pull the upset.

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  10. I think the criticism of Dike understates his value. Jamaica is a physically tough team that is hard on their opponents. Dike matched them bump for bump, bruise for bruise. In that respect, he left Jamaica worn down when he was subbed out. There’s no cause-effect there, but he may well have a key factor in weakening Jamaica in the last third of the game

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    • Absolutely agree. I get very bummed when I hear people describe big strikers as bruising and wearing other teams down… Not realizing that putting in such a hard shift, even if there is no goal scoring, create opportunities for other players at late stages of the game. That hard work is work for the team and benefit to the team.

      Big Up the Big Bruising Brother of Bright!

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    • If you’ve ever had an injuried shoulder and tried to play you’d realize he shouldn’t been on the pitch at this level.

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