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USA vs. Haiti, 2021 Gold Cup: What we learned

Still quite a few questions that need to be answered from this team despite the win.

United States v Haiti: Group B - 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team opened up Group B play at the 2021 Gold Cup with a 1-0 victory over Haiti last night in Kansas City. It gave them 3 points to keep them on pace with Canada, who beat Martinique in the first match of the doubleheader. For the USMNT, there were some positives and some areas for improvement in a match where they seemed very sluggish at times and still have some questions to answer as they move forward in the tournament. Here’s what we learned.

No urgency on attack.

USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter was “disappointed” in the lack of urgency that the attack showed against Haiti, a team that entered the match with 5 of its players sidelined due to testing positive for Covid.

“I missed the urgency to score more goals and to be dangerous and first pass forward and aggressive,” Berhalter said during the post-match press conference. “To me, it was way too slow, way too backwards. Not enough intent to turn it around and get them get them defending in the penalty box. And then once we’re in the penalty box, I didn’t like the runs, the movement in the box. I didn’t like the service. So from the attacking end, we were disappointed with the intent that we showed tonight.”

The team didn’t have enough runs forward to sustain an attack. You had consistent play down the right side, particularly with Shaq Moore. Paul Arriola did well at times before he was forced off early in the first half due to injury. However, the left side of Jonathan Lewis and Sam Vines didn’t do enough to keep Haiti on their toes, despite Sam Vines scoring the lone goal for the Americans. The USMNT needed to gas out Haiti, who was short staffed and playing compact for most of the match to conserve energy. Instead, the Americans played right into Haiti’s game, and Haiti felt more comfortable withstanding any attack and trying to turn quick counters down the field when the American midfield would make a mistake.

Gianluca Busio showed why people should be very excited about his future.

The 19-year-old Italian American made his USMNT debut last night in front of his home fans in Kansas City when he subbed on for Jackson Yueill in the 62nd minute, and he certainly made an impression with his play. He played with confidence and was constantly looking to drive the attack forward. With every touch he took last night, the Children’s Mercy Park crowd of 12,664 cheered loudly, and he gave them reasons to do just that. He had a shot on goal late in the match that was an absolute laser that required an incredible save by Haitian goalkeeper Bryan Sylvestre, but Busio was a breath of fresh air on a night where the attack felt stagnant.

The winger depth chart has become super thin.

Hopefully, the injury to Paul Arriola is not a serious one, but even before that, Gregg Berhalter admitted that he didn’t have a lot of depth at the wings on this roster. Now, with Arriola having to sub off due to injury in the 14th minute of last night’s match, the winger group is even thinner. Nicholas Gioacchini replaced Arriola at right wing, and Daryl Dike eventually subbed on for Jonathan Lewis on the left wing. That’s 2 guys that normally operate as 9s for club and country. Matthew Hoppe, another 9, is also someone that Berhalter believes has the movement to play on one of the wings. So, who will start against Martinique on the wings remains to be seen, but with the focus on creating scoring opportunities already heightened for this group and with the lackluster effort last night, there will be more eyes on who Gregg Berhalter decides to play on that forward line as they progress in the Gold Cup.

Those are some of the things we learned. What did you take away from last night’s match? Hit the comments and discuss.