There should be an official motto of the CONCACAF Gold Cup."Three points are three points." The United States were lucky to escape with a win in their opening game after a rough and tumble 90 minutes against Honduras. In a game that was wild and hectic, the Americans scored off of two set pieces and held on for dear life.
The victory coupled with Haiti getting a shock draw against Panama leaves the U.S. predictably atop the Group A standings. With the nerves of the first game out of the way it's time for the squad to move on to Boston where Klinsmann's side will take on Haiti.
While no game in the Gold Cup is easy, on paper Haiti should be the least difficult group opponent for the USA. After a tough opening game it will be important to see a much-improved performance by the Americans tonight (8:30 p.m ET, FS1, UniMas). Here are some of the key things you should keep an eye out for during the game:
We need Jozy
Jozy Altidore's 60 minute shift against Honduras left a lot to be desired. His hold-up play was adequate, but other than that his performance was a dud. No cohesion in his passing, no dynamic runs, no real threat on goal. He just looked...off. When Jozy is in-form he's an unstoppable force at the CONCACAF level. If the U.S. wants to win the Gold Cup they're going to need Altidore to start clicking with his striker partner and to hit his peak form before the knockout stages. He's unarguably the best striker the USA has, now is the time for him perform like it. What better time for Jozy to find his form than against the country his parents were born in?
The midfield mess
On Tuesday the U.S. struggled to keep possession and control the midfield. With DeAndre Yedlin and Gyasi Zardes bombing down the flanks, there were very little release outlets in the build-up play. Kyle Beckerman playing as the destroyer had few options other than to attempt long balls over-the-top to the wingers or strikers. Michael Bradley playing as the attacking midfielder often had to drop back and pick up the ball himself instead of having the freedom to roam around the attacking portion of the field.
The appeal of Yedlin and Zardes in the midfield is obvious. Klinsmann wants dynamic speed on each wing to try and beat the opposing back lines. If you don't have the proper setup in the midfield to distribute to those wingers making the runs it becomes a fruitless effort. Perhaps having two similar players on each flank is too much. Adding a possession-minded midfielder into the mix (pun not intended) would be a wise choice. Mix Diskerud and/or Alejandro Bedoya (when healthy) would add a much-needed calming influence to the side.
During the second half against Honduras the U.S. found itself under immense pressure in the defensive half. Ventura Alvarado's weak performance was easily noticeable as the center back got beaten badly several times in the last 45 minutes, including on the goal Honduras scored. While Omar Gonzalez is less mobile that Alvarado, he adds important experience and guile to the back line. Expect to see him inserted back into the fold alongside John Brooks.
Right back into the doghouse
When Timothy Chandler scored against Guatemala last week there was some relief among USMNT fans. The German-American, who has struggled so much at the international level, had finally proved his worth. Fast forward to Tuesday and we witnessed more of the same from Chandler that draws so much ire from fans. He lost possession for the team numerous times with his errant passing, got caught out of position, and lacked the work rate in tracking back when he did get beaten. It was a performance that saw him replaced by Brad Evans midway through the second half.
Is it time for a change at the right back position? Yedlin, Evans, and Fabian Johnson are all capable of filling in if Klinsmann decides to go another route. Sliding Yedlin back would open up a spot in the midfield for the previously discussed possession-minded player allowing the speedster to overlap. This scenario may not happen, but it is one option. If Chandler isn't replaced, he has to be on thin ice heading into the more difficult knockout rounds.
Here is the lineup I'd like to see against Haiti: