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USA vs. Cuba, CONCACAF Nations League group stage: What to watch for

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A spot in the Nations League Playoffs hangs in the balance.

Cuba v United States - CONCACAF Nations League Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team will conclude their CONCACAF Nations League group stage with a match tomorrow against Cuba in the Cayman Islands. A win for the USMNT means that they will win Group A and advance to the Nations League Playoffs in June. Anything less, and it’s Canada who will win the group. Can the USMNT do what it takes to handle Cuba, or will there be an upset brewing?

Recent Form

USA

W (4-1) - Canada - CONCACAF Nations League Group A

L (0-2) - Canada - CONCACAF Nations League Group A

W (7-0) - Cuba - CONCACAF Nations League Group A

D (1-1) - Uruguay - Friendly

L (0-3) - Mexico - Friendly

Cuba

W (1-0) - Nicaragua - Friendly

D (0-0) - Nicaragua - Friendly

L (0-7) - United States - CONCACAF Nations League Group A

L (0-1) - Canada - CONCACAF Nations League Group A

L (0-6) - Canada - CONCACAF Nations League Group A

What to watch for

The USMNT should be better in the middle. Truman Bodden Sports Complex is a small field that isn’t in the best of shape. For the Cayman Islands match against the U.S. Virgin Islands this past Saturday, a monsoon made the width of the field smaller as standing water was prevalent along the sidelines and onto the field. That means that possession is going to be focused more in the middle if there’s any rain tomorrow. The USMNT hasn’t been great at maintaining control of the middle, and they should be ready to improve on that tomorrow.

Possession must be over 65%. The USMNT needs to score lots goals to relieve the pressure on themselves and ensure that they advance to the knockout round. They’re better than Cuba and they must show it in the possession category. 65% possession is going to mean that they have a ton of opportunities to create scoring chances. The guys in the middle are going to be important at ensuring that the ball remains at our feet and moving forward, and having the large bulk of the possession will be something the USMNT will have as a top checklist item.

Take plenty of scoring chances. The USMNT is going to get into the box, but when they’re in there, they need to shoot the ball. The Cuban defense isn’t great, and they’re also resigned to having a lot of shots against them. Spacing in the final third and taking the opportunities to shoot when they materialize is something the USMNT can always improve upon, and with the team needing a win, they must shoot their shots.

Lineup Prediction

USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter has a couple options for tomorrow against Cuba. In the end, it’s likely he goes with the lineup that did so well against Canada, with only a couple changes:

Predicted USMNT lineup vs. Cuba

In goal, Berhalter will stick with Brad Guzan, while the back line will be the same as last Friday night: Tim Ream at left back, Sergiño Dest at right back, and John Brooks and Aaron Long as the centerback pairing.

In the middle, Weston McKennie will be back, and you can expect Berhalter to give Wil Trapp a run as the other defense midfielder. Alfredo Morales is one that could come in later on as a substitute to help preserve a lead. In front of them, Paul Arriola will be on the right wing, Jordan Morris on the left wing, and Cristian Roldan in the middle. Tyler Boyd and Sebastian Lletget will be options off the bench, as well as DeAndre Yedlin on the right.

Up front, Gyasi Zardes will get the nod over Josh Sargent. Scoring two goals against Canada, Zardes made it difficult for Berhalter to take him out of the lineup, but you can imagine that Josh Sargent will get some run in this match as well.

Score Prediction

The USMNT need a win here to finish out Nations League as Group A winners, but it won’t be easy. The USMNT have not won a match on the road since they beat St. Vincent and the Grenadines in September 2016, but this is the day they get it done. It’s a 4-0 victory for the USMNT over Cuba, and they win Group A to advance.