The United States kicks off the knockout portion of the Gold Cup against a familiar El Salvador side. These two met in the Gold Cup quarterfinals in 2013, and the US convincingly won 5-1. However, Bruce Arena and his staff are not taking the Central American team lightly. Veteran reinforcements like Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore, and Darlington Nagbe were brought into camp. Expect Arena to start all five of those “new” faces in the match, considering the shaky performances in the group stage from the “B-team”. The United States should get in-and-out of the match with no problems. Easier said then done, when you consider El Salvador will look to avenge their loss from four years ago.
What to expect?
Look to see a more experienced and safe line up choice from Bruce Arena. Should see a turnaround in performances from guys like Kellyn Acosta and Matt Besler. This is because they can focus on playing their roles. In the group stage, these two had to be the leaders on the field, as they had the most caps. Now, with the addition of captain, Michael Bradley, and leading goal-scorer, Clint Dempsey, their minds should be at ease. Speaking of Clint Dempsey, he’ll be hunting for the US goal record, as he is one away from tying it.
El Salvador has never moved beyond the quarterfinal stage of the Gold Cup, and don’t expect that to change. The team will come out and play hard, but not much to write about in terms of talent. There will be a large pro-USA crowd, since the game is in Philly. El Salvador will bunker down, and probably keep 10 guys behind the ball. However, if they can absorb pressure and score on a counter attack, it could be a long night for the Americans.
How will the United States line-up?
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
Defense: Jorge Villafaña, Matt Besler, Matt Miazga, and Graham Zusi
Midfield: Darlington Nagbe, Kellyn Acosta, Michael Bradley, and Gyasi Zardes
Attack: Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore
My most risky picks are Matt Miazga and Gyasi Zardes, because both have not played much. However, Zardes played under Arena for the LA Galaxy, and has been a mainstay in the team. Only reason he has not played as much is because he is returning from an injury. Personally, I think Miazga has huge potential and should start getting meaningful minutes, especially after his last showing. Omar Gonzalez has been very inconsistent for the US at the back, and Miazga can leap him on the depth chart. The rest of the team is pretty much an automatic lock. Since they have all started in bigger games than this one (maybe besides Villafaña). If Arena is going to experiment in the knockout phase, this would be the game to do so (although, I would strongly oppose that). Can’t put more emphasis strongly.
Score Prediction: 4-1 USA win. (Also, Clint breaks the goal record with 2 goals.)
Game is July 19th on Fox Sports and the Fox Sports GO app at 9PM (ET).