Analysis: USMNT pounds St. Kitts 6-0, but not much is learned
June 29, 2023
THE UNITED STATES men’s national team defeated St. Kitts & Nevis 6-0 for the team’s first win at the 2023 Gold Cup. The win was expected against a semiprofessional level opponent, but the real story is the race against Jamaica for a superior goal differential, which will likely determine the Group A winner. The six-goal margin helps, but will it be enough? That remains to be seen.
The United States and Jamaica are the two heavily favored teams in Group A and Jamaica is significantly improved after the recruitment of several high-profile dual nationals. The result is that their front four attackers are all Premier League starters, and the rest of the team is strong as well. Without Mexico, Canada, and the United States in World Cup qualifying, Jamaica is favored to qualify for the 2026 World Cup.
Entering this game, the United States knew that Jamaica posted a 4-1 win on Trinidad & Tobago to move to +3. The USMNT posted a 6-0 to move to +6 on the goal differential. Jamaica is likely going to dominate St. Kitts & Nevis as well. As a result, the +3 edge the USMNT has right now isn’t that great. It’s likely going to take a combination of the USMNT finding a way to get a three or possibly four-goal win over Trinidad & Tobago while Jamaica doesn’t far surpass the scoring edge the U.S. team had against St. Kitts & Nevis.
It's going to be very close and there is a chance that the U.S. team will look back on the win over St. Kitts & Nevis wishing it did more.
Why does this all matter?
While Mexico’s national team is in a tough place following the World Cup and the Nations League, it’s still a strong contender at this Gold Cup. With Mexico’s 4-0 romp over Honduras in its opener, it is likely to win Group B. If the U.S. wins Group A, it cannot face Mexico until the final. If it finishes second, the path gets very difficult. It would have to face the winner of Group D in the quarters. Then likely Mexico in the semifinals.
The U.S. team definitely wants to win Group A and Wednesday night’s win might have hurt their chances.
Thoughts on the game
Playing an opponent that is barely professional is tricky. In this game, the U.S. team is expected to win and dominate. The problem is that players can only ever stand out if they don’t do well. If they do well, that doesn’t tell us anything beyond what was expected. For that matter, player ratings are not really fair.
The U.S. team opened the game strong and never played down to its opponent. B.J. Callaghan’s team was always in control and once they settled in, they took St. Kitts & Nevis out.
The best run of the game for the U.S. team was between the 12-25th minutes when the U.S. team scored four times. Djordje Mihailovic opened the scoring in the 12th minute on a nice sequence of passing that started with Reynolds playing a terrific pass to Gianluca Busio down the right side. Busio sent a low ball into the middle of the box, Jesus Ferreira took a touch and Mihailovic slammed it home. Two minutes later, a wild Alejandro Zendejas corner floated beyond everyone but found Reynolds outside of the box. The right back sent a driving shot from distance past St. Kitts & Nevis keeper Julani Archibald for probably the nicest goal of the night. Ferreira then struck in the 16th and 25th minutes when he was played beyond the defense for a close shot.
But the United States team would only score two more goals from the 25th minute through the end of the game, and that is what might cost the team. Ferreira completed his hat trick in the 50th minute and Mihailovic capped a nice night in the 79th minute with his second goal.
The U.S. team had their chances to score three or four more goals, but were hurt by poor finishing and also a great outing from Archibald who made several nice saves over the entire 90 minutes.
Who played well/who didn’t?
Ferreira, Mihailovic, & Reynolds: These games are never going to help a player too much, but without doubt Jesus Ferreira, Djordje Mihailovic, and Bryan Reynolds did what was expected of them. These players were asked to lead the way in a dominant win, and they did. Ferreira made nice runs and that is what put him in good positions throughout the game. Mihailovic was aggressive and put St. Kitts & Nevis defenders on their heels. Reynolds made good, inch-perfect passes throughout his 76 minutes. His goal was struck very nicely.
Sonora, Zendejas, & Cowell: Three U.S. players unfortunately did not have the performance they wanted and were responsible for the team not scoring enough. Alex Zendejas was clearly frustrated and tried to force the issue too many times. He missed the target on four great chances. Alan Sonora played the second half and was a downgrade from Busio, both in his shooting and in his creation of chances. U.S. U-20 winger Cade Cowell played 68 minutes and was too often a dead-end in U.S. attacking possessions. He is still struggling for his consistency. For these three, it sets up a need for them to make the most of future opportunities at the Gold Cup or else call-ups could be harder to come by.
Looking ahead to Trinidad & Tobago
The United States will now head to Charlotte to face Trinidad & Tobago on Sunday at 7pm EST. Trinidad & Tobago is also at a low point and should not even really be at this Gold Cup. They only made it after Nicaragua was suspended a week before the tournament due to the use of an ineligible player.
But the U.S. team is going to have to attack again and push for a lopsided, multigoal win. Jesus Ferreira has started each of the first two games, that might suggest that Brandon Vazquez is due for a starter (Vazquez missed two good chances off the bench against St. Kitts). We don’t yet know the status of Jordan Morris who suffered an injury to his knee against Jamaica and was listed day to day (but was held out of practice in the two days between games as well as the St. Kits game).
The U.S. team hasn’t been getting enough from the wings and that begs the question whether a 4-4-2 formation would be better with this group. The team has two forwards in Brandon Vazquez and Jesus Ferreira who would be better suited together. The wings have been absent but a four-man midfield with James Sands, Aidan Morris, Gianluca Busio, and Djordje Mihailovic would also play to the team’s strengths.
It remains to be seen how Callaghan will play but the team will need to try to be on the front foot on Sunday while keeping an eye on how Jamaica is performing against this St. Kitts & Nevis team.