Analysis: Hoppe, Robinson, Turner, and Acosta lead the USMNT to 1-0 win over Jamaica in the Gold Cup
July 24, 2021
THE UNITED STATES National Team advanced into the semifinals of the 2021 Gold Cup following a 1-0 win over Jamaica on Sunday night in the quarterfinals. Overall, the U.S. team had a few nervy moments caused by mistakes but was better over the course of 90 minutes and deserved the victory.
Gregg Berhalter reverted to a more traditional lineup. The loss of Walker Zimmerman due to injury essentially eliminated the ability to play three central defenders, so James Sands and Miles Robinson played in a traditional back four. Kellyn Acosta at the No. 6, Gianluca Busio at the No. 8, and Sebastian Lletget made for a predictable midfield. Up top, Berhalter went with Hoppe and Arriola (returning from injury) on the wings while Dike got the start alone up top – as opposed up top with Gyasi Zardes as was used against Canada.
The U.S. team was able to keep Jamaica off the board through solid defensive shifts. Kellyn Acosta had a great game in defensive midfield, and he helped shielded a inexperienced but still decent backline. When all else failed, Matt Turner was there to make a big save.
The U.S. team had their chances Before his 83rd minute goal, Hoppe had a pair of close, hard-driving shots that were well-saved by Andre Blake. Gyasi Zardes had a very solid shot from outside the box that forced a save from Blake. Starting at the hour mark after the subs of Zardes and Roldan, the U.S. team began to control the game far better and make Jamaica chase the game.
The goal in the 83rd minute was a well orchestrated team goal when Shaq Moore played Roldan down the right wing. Roldan’s cross to the far post was beyond the out-stretched Blake and Jamaican defense. Zardes and Hoppe were in the vicinity but it was Hoppe who got his head on the goal for the deserved goal, which turned out to be the winner.
It wasn’t a great performance but, regardless of the U.S. lineup, games against Jamaica have rarely been easy. The U.S. team deserved the win, however, and will now face Qatar on Thursday in the semifinals.
Here are some thoughts on the game.
Matthew Hoppe continued to have an impressive Gold Cup and the Schalke attacker brought a ton of energy into the first half. What has made him so interesting is his instinctive drive to get forward every time he has the ball and make something happen – anything.
This led to some great chances which were a pair of close shots that forced Blake into making big saves. The Vines, Lletget, and Hoppe trio when geared down the left side was productive point of the attack.
The U.S. team got a bit lucky on the goal. Hoppe had noticeably faded into the second half and they wanted to get Hoppe off – but play kept going as there wasn’t a break. Hoppe’s goal came with his last touch of the game when he was on the end of a nice cross from Christan Roldan that got past Blake and onto the head of Hoppe.
It wasn’t a perfect outing from Hoppe. Sometimes in his eagerness to get forward, he lost the ball or looked for the official to bail him out with a foul – several times he asked for a foul but was not awarded with one. In the second half, his effectiveness on the ball declined due to his fatigue and preseason form.
Overall, however, Hoppe has been very effective for the U.S. team in wanting to always advance the ball into the attack quickly.
Acosta’s important game
This game was remarkably important for the U.S. team for the performance of Kellyn Acosta. His passing was pretty good but not great. His passing range of completing 8/10 long balls was important to spreading the offense and making Jamaica chase the ball. He also had 91 touches so he was heavily involved. Some of his adventurous balls forward were intercepted at times and he had a few turnovers that conceded possession.
Defensively, however, Acosta was excellent. He clogged passing lanes, he covered a remarkable amount of ground to chase down Jamaican players, he won 8/13 duels, won 2/2 of his aerials, had three interceptions, and was a perfect 3/3 on his tackles. With the U.S. team having an inexperienced backline, Acosta helped shield defense.
In terms of the broad player pool, having a backup in the No. 6 after Tyler Adams has been tough to find. Acosta is looking more and more likely to be that guy – so that McKennie can stay further up the field in the attack.
Part of what gets Berhalter into trouble as a manager sometimes, I think, is overrating a player's secondary skillset while underrating the primary needs for the position. Having a defensive midfielder who is a great passer is nice, but that’s a secondary skillset. Defending is the primary need of the position and the secondary skillset only is relevant if the player is good at the primary needs of the position. This is true of the needs of many other positions, not just defensive midfield (a striker needs to score first, hold up second. A fullback needs to defend first, get forward/cross second. A goalkeeper needs to stop shots first, play skillfully with the ball at his feet second. A central defender needs to defend before he artfully passes - like how Jay DeMerit was a good central defender for the U.S. team despite passing shortcomings – etc).
Acosta as a backup No. 6 to Tyler Adams gets the balance right. It was shown why in how he played tonight - and in general with how he's played with the U.S. team in 2021. Against Jamaica, Acosta was exceptional in the primary need for the position. He was extremely effective in keeping Jamaica off the board. This made any turnover far more easy to accept. For his defense alone, Acosta was easily one of the best players on the field.
It was a tough game at the office for Daryl Dike who lost the ball a number of times and failed to generate much offense. His replacement, Gyasi Zardes, was simply more effective in his limited minutes in terms of getting into dangerous positions and creating chances.
Taking a step back, it’s easy to see Dike’s quality on what he’s done for Orlando, Barnsley, the U.S. team so far, and even with the University of Virginia. He’s got a remarkable upside.
Orlando and the U.S. team might have to take a step back and look at his workload over the past year. The game against Jamaica was the one-year anniversary of his professional debut. Prior to that he was a college player followed by preseason and a Covid shutdown.
Over the past 365 days, Dike has note been eased in – he’s been in fifth gear non-stop. He had a breakthrough with Orlando, then went to the December U.S. camp where he was injured, he rehabbed and then went to the U.S. camp in January. The next day after making his U.S. debut after the January camp, he went on loan to Barnsley where he was an immediate starter in one of the world’s most physically demanding leagues – the Championship. He immediately returned to Orlando, played, joined the U.S. team for Nations League and friendlies, then returned to Orlando to start, and is now expected to be a key part of the Gold Cup team. In the last game he injured his shoulder and against Jamaica, looked to be playing through the effects of that injury.
For a player who had not played at a professional level 366 days ago to going through everything mentioned above, it’s fair to both be excited about his potential, while worried about his workload. Is he really going to play non-stop through the end of the season and them possibly get sold in January? All while dealing with World Cup qualifying? When is this’s guy’s body going to get a break?
Perhaps the best American player against Jamaican and in this tournament was Miles Robinson who has been the biggest breakout performer. His athleticism is remarkable and that allows for him to cover-up for the mistakes of his teammates.
In terms of U.S. players on this roster who can boost a case to be part of World Cup qualifying, Robinson is at the top of the list – for many reasons.
First, the U.S. has a nice list of central defenders but still no first identifiable pairing. John Brooks had a great season in 2020/21 but after him are good, but unproven options like Matt Miazga, Chris Richards, Mark McKenzie, Erik Palmer-Brown, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and the aging Tim Ream. We don’t yet know where Miazga, Richards, Palmer-Brown, or Carter-Vickers will play this upcoming season.
Second, with the combination of three-game windows and the inclination to be able to play formations with three central defenders, Berhalter is going to need a long list of central defenders that have to be expected to play. On top of that, there will always be injuries. Robinson is very much in the mix – and deservedly so.
Looking ahead to Qatar
Next up for the U.S. team will be Qatar. This is a team that wants to attack and play with energy. It is also a hard-working team the is reminiscent of the positive traits from the early/mid 90’s U.S. teams. They don’t have depth, but they are trying to develop chemistry ahead of hosting a World Cup as a heavy underdog. The same players are frequently called up and the players know how to play with each other very well. They will always look to get results by outworking opponents.
This is not going to be an easy game and the U.S. team will have to cut back on mistakes.
Berhalter’s starting XI from Jamaica is probably close to the best lineup and most of the same players should start in the same positions.
There are a few possible changes to consider. Zardes might come in for Dike, who looked fatigued and still troubled by injury. Reggie Cannon might come in for Shaq Moore as Cannon provides better defense, despite being not as solid of a crosser as Moore. Cristian Roldan might replace Arriola on the right wing as Arriola hasn’t had many reps over the past 18 months due to injuries.
The Starting Lineup
Matt Turner: The New Jersey native made some big saves and worked well with his backline. Rating: 6.5
Shaq Moore: The Tenerife right back had a quiet night but wasn’t able to be as effective in the attack as he has been. Rating: 6.0
Miles Robinson: A huge night from the Rochester native who was a rock in central defense in all areas of defending – including in emergency situations. Rating: 7.5
James Sands: Solid overall defensively although his passing wasn’t as solid as in the previous games. . Rating: 6.5
Sam Vines: Good defending overall, although late in the game he was beaten by Jamaican attackers. In the attack, he has a few nice crosses but was fairly quiet. Rating: 6.0
Kellyn Acosta: Excellent defensive presence, decent with the ball, good passing range. He was a huge reason why Jamaica’s dangerous opportunities were few and far between. Rating: 7.5
Gianluca Busio: Far more improved from the Canada game. He worked harder in his duels, although he still has a long way to go. He helped in the possession game. Rating: 6.5
Sebastian Lletget: Combined well with getting the ball to Hoppe and worked well with Vines when on the left side. His set piece delivery is typically good but it let him down tonight. Rating: 5.5
Paul Arriola: Scrappy play overall although not consistently dangerous in the way the U.S. team needs offensively. Rating: 5.5
Matthew Hoppe: The Californian brought needed energy and was always looking to advance the ball quicky – while he wasn’t always successful and looked for the refs to bail him out several times, his mindset was a huge net positive. He tired in the second half but stayed on long enough to get on the end of Roldan’s cross for a goal. Rating: 7.5
Daryl Dike: It just wasn’t Dike’s night against Jamaica as he struggled to be an offensive outlet and wasn’t able to hold the ball up well. Rating: 5.0
The substitutes and coaching
Cristian Roldan: Effective off the bench in creating chances and having the winning assist. Rating: 7.0
Gyasi Zardes: was an upgrade for Dike in this game. He immediately forced Blake into making a nice save and was good in the air. Rating: 6.5
Reggie Cannon: four touches in limited minutes. Rating: NR
Nicholas Gioacchini: Positives in his seven minutes – 4/4 passing all in the attacking half, 2/3 duels won. It wasn’t much, but for what it was, it was positive. Rating: NR
Gregg Berhalter: Generally he got the starting lineup right and made the right adjustments from Canada. Hoppe started, Busio was moved further up the field, the team had defensive cover even after the loss of Zimmerman, etc. The subs all had a positive impact although he lucked out that Hoppe stayed in the game longer than planned. Rating: 7.0