STREET. LOUIS — In international soccer lingo, Wednesday night’s Gold Cup game between the United States and St. Kitts and Nevis was technically competitive. Anyone who watched the Americans win 6-0 can appreciate the irony of that designation.
Not that anything that happened was surprising. Since the teams came together two months ago, the game has never had any serious potential to offer anything more than a glorified showcase. Even with America’s first-choice players vacationing all over the world, it was unrealistic to allow the possibility of St. Kitts and Nevis, a Caribbean nation of roughly 50,000 people, serving as a major hurdle. .
For the Sugar Boyz, ranked No. 139 in the FIFA World Rankings, it was a significant achievement to qualify for the group stage of the tournament. They reached the qualifying phase through their performance in the 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League C, made up of the 13 lowest-ranked teams in the confederation, beating Curaçao and French Guiana on penalties earlier this month. to advance. And while they have made great strides in recent years, including a respectable showing in World Cup 2022 qualification when they won their first-round group, both sides understood the reality of the talent gap.
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Under other circumstances, the United States might have been content to clinch all three points and wrap it up, but after drawing with Jamaica on Saturday there was a goal differential incentive at stake. That factor combined with a US roster made up of less established players looking to improve their standing with the national team made for an even longer night for St. Kitts and Nevis.
The winner of Pool A will play the runner-up from Pool D (Canada, Cuba, Guatemala, Guadeloupe) in Cincinnati on July 9, while the runner-up will face the winner of Pool D. Perhaps most importantly, the finalist The second-place finisher will likely end up on the same side of the group as Mexico in the knockout rounds.
“We knew from the results against Jamaica that we needed to score some goals because it’s an important tiebreaker if we get the job done in the next game,” midfielder Djordje Mihailovic said. “But that’s something we talked about before, when you come to trying to keep going as long as we can.”
Before the game for the United States, Jamaica scored three goals in the first half against Trinidad and Tobago before settling for a 4-1 victory, leaving the US Tobago on Sunday in Charlotte. The Americans have outscored T&T 13-0 in the last two meetings since their infamous 2-1 loss in 2017 to be knocked out of World Cup qualification.
Using Wednesday’s performance as a possible indicator of things to come for this Team USA doesn’t make much sense. However, there were several promising performances to build on, with Mihailovic’s perhaps the most significant. After scoring in his debut in 2019, which doubled as coach Gregg Berhalter’s first game as head coach, and playing five times that year, Mihailovic had only one cap (El Salvador in December 2020) in the years since. before this tournament. . Against St. Kitts and Nevis, he was the most influential player for the United States, scoring twice and assisting twice in a solid 90-minute performance.
“I thought it showed his quality,” interim USA coach BJ Callaghan said. “He’s a player who is very comfortable between the lines and as he gets closer to the penalty area, he becomes a real threat, whether it’s running behind the line or getting into the penalty area. So, I thought the performance What we saw from Djordje were the performances we’ve come to expect from him.”
His two assists prepared Jesús Ferreira, whose hat-trick placed him in the historic USMNT company. Following their four-goal match against Grenada last year in the Nations League, Ferreira is only the fifth player for the team with multiple career hat-tricks, joining Landon Donovan (3), Jozy Altidore (2), Peter Millar (2) and Clint. Dempsey (2). He also became the fastest to reach double digit goals (20 games).
“It means a lot,” Ferreira said. “Obviously growing up you always want to join the big names and you want to join the exclusive rosters and you want to join those rosters that almost no one touches. And for me to do it here with the USA jersey scoring goals, it means a lot.”
“This is a national team that gave me the opportunity to represent a country on the biggest stage and a country that gave me the joy of playing at the highest level possible. So, I’m excited and happy to be able to give that back to him.” to the fans and excited for what’s to come.”
As dominant as the scoreline suggests the win was, there was later acknowledgment from Callaghan and several players that it easily could have been, and perhaps should have been, even more lopsided.
“I think it was important that we got an early goal and a lot of early goals, but with our quality, I think we could have scored 10 goals,” said right back Bryan Reynolds, whose first goal for the US rocketed. from outside the area, he made it 2-0. “It’s good that we won, but we always want to see things where we can improve.”
One obvious area for improvement is in the wings. Both Cade Cowell and Alex Zendejas were able to get into some dangerous areas, but their play in the final third (finishing, passing, bunting) was mostly mediocre. Again, there’s very little to learn in the long run, but underperforming in these types of games can be more instructive than playing well.
“With Alex, I was super proud of how hard he worked for over 90 minutes and, yes, of course he’s going to be frustrated that he can’t finish his chances,” Callaghan said. “But then again, we keep driving this message that we’re just going to try to get better every time. So that’s one area where we’ll work with Alex and look to improve, but he had a great performance.” defensively with all the pressure and some of the little passing combinations that he saw in midfield.
“So, he still had an impact on our team, although he’s probably disappointed.”