By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Jul 3, 2023) US Soccer Players – The USMNT advanced to the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup on Sunday after winning Group A on goal differential. Following a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Jamaica in the opener, a pair of 6-0 wins against Saint Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago put the USMNT on course for the quarterfinals. The USA is now 40-1-5 all-time in Gold Cup group stage games. Furthermore, the US won its group for the 16th time out of 17 Gold Cups. Here’s a look at three areas of success for the US during the group stage.
Ferreira piles on the goals
Every national team needs at least one player who can consistently find the back of the net in a short tournament. The USMNT have found theirs in Jesus Ferreira.
The 22-year-old FC Dallas striker is currently the Gold Cup’s top scorer with six goals, the result of back-to-back hat tricks against Saint Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago. In doing so, he became the first USMNT player to score three goals in consecutive international games. Having such offensive consistency has been key. Ferreira has also stepped up in the absence of many of the European-based players not called up following the Nations League.
following Sunday’s win, interim USMNT coach BJ Callaghan said he’s been impressed with Ferreira’s “movement and his confidence in the penalty box.” “All of the work that he’s doing, leading our line defensively, dropping down, helping buildup play,” he added. “For me, he’s having a really complete tournament.”
Prior to the Trinidad and Tobago game, Ferreira had noted to reporters that his job as a striker is “to score goals, to come in and try to score goals against whoever’s in front of us. Yes, I’ve scored a lot of goals against Caribbean teams, but, like I said, my job is to score goals and I’m going to do that no matter who’s in front of us.”
Younger players shine
While Ferreira has been scary good offensively, there have been plenty of options for Callaghan to consider in other parts of the field. In attack, players such as strikers Dorde Mihailovic (two goals and two assists) and midfielder Gianluca Busio (a goal and two assists) have been very good, both by supplying balls into the box and creating plays in the final third.
With injuries to Jordan Morris and Alan Sonora, Callaghan has had to rely on his bench. Busio and winger Cade Cowell also scored their first goals for the US at senior level, both against Trinidad and Tobago, while striker Brandon Vazquez has scored twice so far at this tournament. His goal against Jamaica salvaged a draw in the opening game.
At the start of the tournament, Callaghan said the Gold Cup roster featured “a good mix of veteran players that have World Cup experience and younger players that have earned an opportunity to come into camp.”
These younger players have definitely shined. Defensively, center back Jalen Neal, who plays with the LA Galaxy, has impressed since coming in as a sub against Jamaica. The towering defender has shown maturity with his ability to challenge opponents and clearing balls.
For players such as Busio, Cowell and Neal, a tournament like the Gold Cup has become a really great opportunity to get experience outside of friendlies. As the tournament progresses, it creates more opportunity for emerging players.
This is another area where the team is stacked with talent with Callaghan calling in Matt Turner, Sean Johnson, and Gaga Slonina. Turner has played twice, against Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and has shown that he’s as reliable as ever. He saved a penalty against Jamaica, a play that proved key in the end, and earned a shutout against Trinidad and Tobago.
Turner has now made 30 appearances since making his debut in 2021. Shutouts are nothing new to Turner, who had two at Qatar 2022. He was also key in the US’s recent Nations League success, where he also recorded consecutive shutouts.
Meanwhile, Johnson played against Saint Kitts and Nevis, recording his seventh career National Team clean sheet. Incredibly, Johnson has conceded just two goals for the US in 13 appearances. Depth at this position is incredibly important, especially when playing across many tournaments and friendlies over the course of a World Cup cycle.
The USMNT has much to be happy about at this Gold Cup. They now wait to face the 2nd-placed team from Group D in the quarterfinals this coming Sunday. With 13 goals in three games, along with a mix of youth and experience, this is a team that’s now three games away from repeating as Gold Cup champions.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of the new book “The FIFA World Cup: A History of the Planet’s Biggest Sporting Event.”
More from Clemente Lisi:
- Maurice Edu on covering MLS, moving into soccer broadcasting, and the 2022 World Cup
- Performance, depth, and the midfield highlight the USMNT in the 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League finals
- Preview: USMNT vs Mexico, 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League semifinals
- Another MLS season is already showing the strength of goalkeeping in the league
Photo by Concacaf.com