What U.S. soccer can take from Nations League to Gold Cup

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There was Christian Pulisic having fun with a champagne bathe. Folarin Balogun working in behind a Canada center-back to complete off a pristine move from Gio Reyna. Weston McKennie channeling a Renaissance portray when kissing the badge of his ripped shirt.

United States males’s nationwide crew followers loved loads of sights throughout the Concacaf Nations League remaining 4, seeing the Stars and Stripes thump rival Mexico 3-0 within the semifinals and roll previous Canada 2-0 within the remaining. The Gold Cup will look totally different.

For one, it is a for much longer event. The USMNT kicks issues off Saturday in opposition to Jamaica, earlier than enjoying two extra group matches in opposition to Caribbean groups. Offered it advances, it will have to win three extra matches to raise its eighth Gold Cup and tie Mexico as essentially the most profitable crew within the continental championship.

Gold Cup schedule, outcomes, bracket
Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, extra (U.S.)

Whereas these visions of the crew’s high gamers celebrating a trophy could also be sufficient to tide U.S. supporters over till the 2024 Nations League remaining 4 or subsequent summer time’s Copa América performed on residence soil, the U.S. program nonetheless would like to defend its Gold Cup title and proceed to go away little question as to which program at the moment sits atop Concacaf. So as to take action, the U.S. should reply a variety of questions on its street to the ultimate in Inglewood, California

What function will the Nations League holdovers play?

5 gamers who loved the Nations League celebrations will shake off any lingering buzz and be a part of the People’ Gold Cup marketing campaign. Two of them are goalkeepers, with Matt Turner and Sean Johnson each on the squad. Heart-back Miles Robinson is again after lacking Sunday’s remaining vs. Canada with a hamstring situation.

That trio is well-known to U.S. followers although the query is whether or not Turner, carrying the No. 1 shirt on the roster introduced this week, will preserve backstopping the U.S. for the entire event or will step apart to permit Johnson — or U.S. U20 goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina — alternatives, particularly within the group stage.

Extra intriguing are the 2 Liga MX-based gamers who had been within the Nations League squad however did not see minutes. Membership América winger Alejandro Zendejas and FC Juarez midfielder Alan Soñora each might play necessary roles for the U.S. throughout the Gold Cup.

Zendejas particularly looks like a participant who might be requested to shoulder a heavy load. Within the midst of a powerful season with América, the Mexican American winger dedicated his future to the U.S. program, however performed a supporting function as Pulisic and Tim Weah slashed by way of their rivals within the Nations League. The 25-year-old ought to get an opportunity not solely to see minutes however to take a management function on a younger crew, displaying followers why the U.S. workers was so excited to safe his dedication.

Is Callaghan actually that dude?

The memes about B.J. Callaghan, the interim to the interim supervisor, are humorous. However there’s reality behind the picture macros.

Callaghan was, and perhaps nonetheless is, a relative unknown appointed after earlier interim supervisor Anthony Hudson left for a job within the Qatar Stars League. An assistant on former and future U.S. supervisor Gregg Berhalter’s workers, he had little head-coaching expertise coming into into the Nations League. But he had the U.S. unified, understanding the sport plan and executing it in two of the very best video games the crew has performed since doing the Nations League/Gold Cup double in 2021.

An extended event will imply extra selections for Callaghan to make, each in terms of conserving the group blissful and recent off the sphere, whereas additionally understanding the very best ways for opponents that differ of their types and approaches. Saturday’s opener in opposition to a Jamaica crew led by Icelandic supervisor Heimir Hallgrímsson might be a troublesome tactical battle to win early within the event. Whereas the Reggae Boyz enter the Gold Cup in poor type, winless in 10 together with official matches and friendlies, the roster for this event contains stars who not often have been collectively on the sphere.

The upcoming return of Berhalter casts a (slim, sneaker-wearing) shadow over the event. We all know Berhalter might be again, and whereas Callaghan is deploying lots of the identical ideas Berhalter placed on the sphere, he is not the long-term boss.

Might Callaghan elevate his profile additional and leverage one other profitable event into one other head-coaching probability? Does he even need to? We’ll know halfway by way of July.

Who’s going to attain the objectives?

Balogun and Ricardo Pepi every getting on the scoresheet throughout the Nations League, plus Pulisic discovering his scoring type, helped reply what has been one of many greatest questions for the U.S. since its failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. With none of these gamers on this roster, the job will fall to a brand new crop of forwards.

Jordan Morris and Jesus Ferreira are among the many most skilled gamers on the roster, they usually’ll will push for begins on the wing and at center-forward respectively. Every comes into the summer time in nice type, with Ferreira scoring 10 objectives and including two assists this season for FC Dallas whereas Morris has 9 objectives for the Seattle Sounders.

They’re joined on the roster by FC Cincinnati ahead Brandon Vazquez, who scored 19 objectives for FC Cincinnati final season and has 4 objectives and a pair of assists for the Lions this 12 months. Vazquez brings a unique profile than Ferreira, and scored in opposition to Serbia in a January pleasant.

In any event so long as the Gold Cup, the U.S. will want a number of gamers to seek out the again of the web if they’re to raise the trophy. This crew has proficient particular person attackers, however they can not afford to revert to unhealthy habits seen usually within the Berhalter period: conserving the ball, however being too cautious coming into the ultimate third or the penalty space.

Will the Gold Cup be somebody’s breakout event?

A dozen gamers on america’ 23-man roster have six caps or fewer, so there are going to be gamers requested to step up carrying the nationwide crew shirt who’ve by no means achieved so earlier than — or have had possibilities on a a lot smaller stage, equivalent to this winter’s pleasant match in opposition to Serbia. 9 gamers on the roster are but to look in an official match for the U.S.

Amongst these are San Jose Earthquakes attacker Cade Cowell, one of many standouts of america’ run to the quarterfinals of the U20 World Cup in Argentina earlier this month. Cowell and goalkeeper Slonina are the one two gamers on that crew to be named so rapidly to the senior roster, and Cowell’s attacking instincts could make him a pleasant addition for Callaghan, whether or not from the beginning or as a second-half-change possibility.

Whereas there may be expertise at most positions — together with right-back, the place DeAndre Yedlin arrives with 78 caps — somebody has to play on the opposite aspect if the U.S. sticks with a again 4. DeJuan Jones, Jalen Neal and John Tolkin are MLS-based outside-backs who will look to pin down a spot on this event’s commonplace beginning XI, and FC Dallas product Bryan Reynolds additionally will look to earn minutes after a season with Belgium’s Westerlo on mortgage from Roma.

And, nonetheless simply 24, Djordje Mihailovic might present the U.S. a dynamic possibility in midfield, having spent the previous six months within the Eredivisie with AZ Alkmaar.

Each nationwide crew supervisor desires to see depth within the participant pool, and choosing a completely totally different squad from one event to the following assessments that depth. But, it might lead to U.S. gamers rising to the event, and giving Berhalter extra choices for the video games he’ll oversee within the fall and on the street to the 2026 World Cup on residence soil.

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