The United States Men’s National Team continues its Gold Cup run, as it faces Curaçao in the quarterfinals.
The Caribbean nation has punched above its weight and will hope to achieve a historic upset. It enters the quarterfinals after finishing 2nd in Group C (losing 1-0 to El Salvador, defeating Honduras 1-0, and tying Jamaica 1-1).
Before 2010, the nation of Curaçao was one of several islands that made up a single nation: the Netherlands Antilles. The Netherlands Antilles holds a 0-1-1 all-time record against the USMNT, although the sides haven’t met since the 1980s.
Goalkeepers (3): Zeus de la Paz (Oldham Athletic AFC/ENG; 2/0 (caps/goals)), Jarzinho Pieter (SV Vesta/CUW; 11/0), Eloy Room (PSV/NED; 24/0)
Defenders (5): Jurich Carolina (NAC Breda/NED; 6/0), Jurien Gaari (RKC Waalwijk/NED; 7/0), Darryl Lachman (PEC Zwolle/NED; 22/1), Cuco Martina (Everton/ENG; 38/1), Shermar Martina (MVV Maastricht/NED; 4/0)
Midfielders (8): Leandro Bacuna (Cardiff City/WAL; 20/9), Roly Bonevacia (Western Sydney Wanderers FC/AUS; 1/1), Shanon Carmelia (Ijsselmeervogels/CUW; 34/2), Gersinio Constansia (Jong Holland/CUW; 3/0), Michael Maria (Charlotte/USA; 13/0), Shermaine Martina (MVV Maastricht/NED; 2/0), Ayrton Statie (FC Lienden/NED; 8/0), Jimbertson Vapor (Scherpenheuvel/CUW; 0/0)
Forwards (7): Jarchinio Antonia (AEL Limassol/CYP; 17/0), Jafar Arias (FC Emmen/NED; 1/0), Charlison Benschop (Ingolstadt 04/GER; 3/0), Kenji Gorre (Estoril/POR; 1/0), Elson Hooi (ADO Den Haag/NED; 17/6), Gevaro Nepomuceno (Oldham Athletic AFC/ENG; 34/8), Gino van Kessel (KSV Roeselare/BEL; 18/8)
Head coach Remko Bicentini used the same starting XI in the last two group stage matches, so I expect him to make few if any changes.
Curaçao’s lineup is typically listed as a 4-3-3, but this is rather misleading. It often appears to be playing a 4-5-1, and it is not uncommon to see its wide midfielders or forwards playing centrally.
Eloy Room is arguably the best player on this roster. The PSV backup goalkeeper is an excellent shot stopper as evidenced by the 13 saves he made in Curaçao’s 1-0 victory against Honduras. His only major weakness is that he often looks to punch crosses he could probably catch.
Darryl Lachman and Cuco Martina will feature as centerbacks. Lachman is an old school centerback, who is quite strong and a good tackler, but is slow and poor on the ball.
Martina is excellent in the air and a good passer, for a defender. However, his 1 v. 1 defending could be much better.
Expect Ayrton Statie to start at left back. Statie is something of an unknown quantity as there is little information available about him. He plays at a lower level (the Dutch 3rd division) than any other defender on the roster, so he could prove to be a weak link.
Right back Jurien Gaari will look to join the attack. He is a good crosser and is Curaçao’s joint- leading goal scorer (3 goals) this Gold Cup, along with Leonardo Bacuna. His biggest flaws are that he receives too many cards and is often caught out of position, due to his attacking inclination.
Elson Hooi, Leandro Bacuna, and Michael Maria should be the three midfielders. Bacuna and Maria will be listed as wide midfielders, but they will both pinch in centrally, particularly when Curaçao is defending.
Hooi is a good passer who possesses blistering pace but contributes little defensively and is quite inconsistent.
Bacuna is a hard-working, box-to-box midfielder. He has a good passing range but does not create as many chances as he should. He will make late-arriving runs to the top of the USMNT’s eighteen.
Maria is typically a left back but will be playing out of position as a left midfielder. He is a solid 1 v. 1 defender and a good passer, but he offers nothing in attack.
Look for Jarchinio Antonia, Jafar Arias, and Gevaro Nepomuceno to feature as the three forwards. Antonia is very fast and a good dribbler, as well as crosser, but his finishing is shockingly poor.
The 6’3” Arias is a physical, target man who is lethal inside the box but very poor on the ball. Nepomuceno is a decent finisher, but better playmaker. He works very hard, when out of possession, to pressure the opposing defense. However, his decision-making is subpar.
While Curaçao defied the odds to advance to the quarterfinals, I expect the team’s luck to run out and am predicting a 3-0 U.S. victory.