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USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 2019 Gold Cup: What to watch for

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Time to start exorcising some demons.

Trinidad & Tobago v United States - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team enter their second matchday at the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and they face a familiar opponent in Trinidad and Tobago. We don’t need to discuss all the storylines behind this match. We know what happened, and some of us still have nightmares from being in the stands the last time these two teams played each other. Still, the USMNT will want to put that night behind them and exorcise at least some of the demons by taking care of a Soca Warriors side that has not performed well lately. A win will set themselves up to possibly qualify for the knockout stage should Panama beat Guyana. Can the USMNT do what it takes to defeat Trinidad and Tobago and not leave a knockout stage berth to the last matchday?

Recent Form

USA

W (4-0) - Guyana - Gold Cup Group D

L (0-3) - Venezuela - Friendly

L (0-1) - Jamaica - Friendly

D (1-1) - Chile - Friendly

W (1-0) - Ecuador - Friendly

Trinidad and Tobago

L (0-2) - Panama - Gold Cup Group D

D (0-0) - Japan - Friendly

L (0-1) - Wales - Friendly

L (0-1) - Iran - Friendly

L (0-1) - Thailand - Friendly

What To Watch For

Gregg Berhalter needs to account for variable change. USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter has a formation and a system, and for better or worse, we’ve seen him stick to that system so far in his short tenure. Sometimes, that system seems too scripted, taking off players that could make a difference down the stretch. If a player is playing well, Berhalter needs to give that player the confidence that he believes in his ability to finish the match. We should also be looking for guys who are tired or not performing well or reading the changes in the match tactically and making the adjustments necessary to win the game. We didn’t do that last time we played Trinidad and Tobago, and Berhalter needs to make sure he does that tomorrow when the situation arises.

We need leaders. There are a lot of veterans on this team and some young players who fans would call part of that future core of the team. The team needs a leader to emerge. Is it Christian Pulisic? Is it an older veteran like Michael Bradley? Is it someone else? They don’t need to have the captain’s armband, but at times against Guyana, the leadership wasn’t visibly present, which led to some chaotic moments. For this team to get back to its core and defend its title, it needs to have leadership visible at all times, from the defense up to the attack. Who’s going to assert themselves tomorrow?

Will Jozy be in the lineup over Gyasi Zardes? Jozy Altidore, who has the most goals of anyone on the roster and the 3rd-most in USMNT history, is on the bench in favor of Gyasi Zardes, who scored a goal by getting the ball deflected off his face against Guyana. Say what you will about Altidore and what his role in the disastrous 2018 World Cup qualifying failure may have been in your eyes, but most would think that he should be in a lineup that is desperate for goal scorers over Zardes. We’ll see if Berhalter elects to finally see what Jozy can do in his offense or if he continues to rely on Zardes in his system.

Lineup Prediction

With this match being the 2nd of the group stage and with the most dangerous opponent, Panama, looming on the 26th, there is a chance that Gregg Berhalter rotates his players to give some of them opportunities against Trinidad and Tobago. However, given the recent history of these two teams when they play, the more likely prediction is that Berhalter only makes a couple changes from his lineup against Guyana.

Predicted Lineup: USMNT vs. Trinidad & Tobago

In goal, Zack Steffen will still be the guy, only having to stop a couple shots against Guyana. The changes we will likely see will be on the back line, with Nick Lima and Aaron Long remaining in the starting lineup. Matt Miazga could be the option at centerback along with Long, while Daniel Lovitz could replace Tim Ream at left back.

In the middle, Michael Bradley once again gets the start and the captain’s armband. Christian Pulisic will occupy the right wing, while Weston McKennie, who was substituted off against Guyana after picking up a knock, will likely reappear on the left wing. It wasn’t deemed serious, and he’ll want to get back out there.

Up front, Tyler Boyd, who had a dream brace Tuesday night, and Paul Arriola, who had a goal as well, will man the wings, while Gyasi Zardes will once again get the call at center forward. However, expect Jozy Altidore to appear as well as a substitute.

Match Prediction

This is a match that fans have circled on their calendar ever since the Gold Cup groups were announced. The team will be ready to, and they will not take the Soca Warriors lightly. Expect this game to be a match that doesn’t ease many concerns about whether the USMNT can compete against Mexico or Costa Rica, but it will be a 2-0 victory for the United States.