Monday’s soccer news starts with an established soccer cliche, the statement game. It seems like games are making statements more often than not, sort of like when every single game involving an MLS team somehow has playoff implications. Meanwhile, occasionally there are games that don’t just make a statement. They yell as loudly as possible that a group of players has accomplished something special. That was the USMNT lifting the 2021 Gold Cup on Sunday night at Allegiant Stadium.
From the press conference where Gregg Berhalter announced his roster and pointed out its issues, this version of the USMNT has shouldered expectations relative to scale. Mexico brought a stronger lineup. Some of the other teams in the region loomed more than they would’ve had the Nations League squad spent more of their summer in a USMNT shirt. That wasn’t possible given the scheduling, with Berhalter and his staff doing their best given the situation to put together a coherent and competitive squad.
Both of those things showed as the tournament went along. The USMNT had its issues in the group stage and against Jamaica and Qatar in the knockout round. They finished the tournament against Mexico just like they did in the final group stage game, the quarterfinals, and semifinals. A 1-0 win leaning on superb goalkeeping from Matt Turner and eventually finding a way to win. This time it was Miles Robinson scoring late in extra time to highlight what we already knew. This entire tournament was a team effort with everyone playing for each other.
Gyasi Zardes said as much on Thursday night when his goal put the USMNT into the final. “It’s not just me, it’s a whole team effort,” Zardes told FS1. It was, and it is, showing what a group of American players can do when they decide to embrace a situation and turn what seemed like problems into motivation.
When Berhalter announced his roster, the official release carried what sounded like coach-speak. “Our priority is to win the Gold Cup. Anytime we’re competing for a trophy, we want to win it,” Berhalter said in a press statement. “It’s going to take a good effort by the group, but it’s certainly a focus of ours. We know the games are going to be difficult, and as we looked at the roster for this tournament, we focused on guys who are in form and can help the team win.”
Honestly, what else was he going to say? During the press conference for that announcement, it turned out plenty. Berhalter beat the pundits to the obvious conclusions, highlighting the lack of true wingers, among other issues his tactics would need to address. Then he and his staff did the work, got buy-in and belief from the players, and formed the kind of cohesion necessary to win this tournament.
Moving to USMNT players in Europe, Tim Weah subbed on in the 76th minute of Lille’s 1-0 shutout of PSG to win the Trophee de Champions in a neutral site game at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv. Xeka scored the game’s only goal in the 45th minute with Leo Jardim making three saves to keep the clean sheet.
“It is not easy to take over from Christophe [Galtier], Lille coach Jocelyn Gourvennec said after winning his first competitive game in charge of the club. “I say it very simply, I share this title with him because he has done a remarkable job with his staff. It’s kind of his title. It’s good to start on a positive note. There is collective strength in this team, and talent too. We found that tonight.”
Aberdeen’s Christian Ramirez scored in the 2-0 home win over Dundee United in the opening round of the Scottish Premier League. Jonny Hayes got a goal in the 27th minute with Ramirez doubling the lead in the 51st. Ramirez subbed out in the 74th minute.
“Christian did a lot of good work for the team on and off the ball and getting that goal is due reward,” Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass said. “It wasn’t a tap in, the ball traveled a long way to get to him and you see strikers miss those, but he always looked like he was going to score.”
Mark McKenzie’s KRC Genk lost 4-3 at home to Oostende in the Belgian Pro League. Bryan Heynen put Genk up in the 20th with Theo Bongonda scoring in the 30th. Oostende responded with goals in the 32nd and 49th. Bongonda put Genk back in front in the 60th, but Oostende added goals in the 62nd and 79th minutes. Jordan Siebatcheu subbed out in the 62nd minute of Young Boys’ 0-0 home draw with Grasshoppers in the Swiss Super League.
Brenden Aaronson subbed out in the 64th minute of Red Bull Salzburg’s 7-1 home win over Ried in the Austrian Bundesliga. Red Bull led 5-0 when Ried scored in the 88th. Salzburg added two goals in stoppage time. A league down, Ulysses Llanez wasn’t in the squad for St Polten’s 2-1 loss at Liefering. Luis Gill missed Taborsko’s 2-0 win at Pribram in the Czech National League. Aron Johannsson wasn’t in the squad for Lech Poznan’s 3-1 win at Gornik Zabrze.
SI’s Brian Straus explains what the USMNT accomplished at the Gold Cup. ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle on the belief within the group. Goal’s Ryan Tomlich relays USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter’s postgame comments. The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio and the summer of two tournament wins for the USMNT.
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