The United States Men’s National Team are in the Gold Cup semifinals, and they will be energized by playing before a sellout crowd at Q2 Stadium in Austin tomorrow night. Standing between them and a trip to Las Vegas for the Final is Qatar, the invited guest of the tournament who has made a statement with their play thus far. The 58th ranked team in the FIFA World Rankings, Qatar is currently riding a 12-match unbeaten streak into the semifinal. The USMNT has its own 7-match win streak that they are putting on the line tomorrow night.
For these two teams, who will face each other for the first time ever, it should be an intriguing matchup. There are plenty of storylines between the two teams, with Qatar serving as the host of next year’s World Cup (which they “won” over the United States) and all the controversy around Qatar’s various human rights violations during the course of building the stadiums that will serve as World Cup venues. There’s also the USMNT, who have struggled to get to the semifinals but, despite even some in Concacaf’s front offices not believing this team would get this far, are one match away from getting back to the final and a rematch with either Mexico or Canada. It should be a tough matchup tomorrow night in the Texas heat.
W (1-0) - Jamaica - Gold Cup Quarterfinals
W (1-0) - Canada - Gold Cup Group B
W (6-1) - Martinique - Gold Cup Group B
W (1-0) - Haiti - Gold Cup Group B
W (4-0) - Costa Rica - Friendly
W (3-2) - El Salvador - Gold Cup Quarterfinals
W (2-0) - Honduras - Gold Cup Group D
W (4-0) - Grenada - Gold Cup Group D
D (3-3) - Panama - Gold Cup Group D
W (1-0) - El Salvador - Friendly
What To Watch For
Don’t give up the early goal. In their last 3 matches, Qatar has scored at least 1 goal in the first 25 minutes of the match. They want to get out on the break early and get a goal to put even more pressure on their opponent. The United States will need to be on their defensive assignments from the very beginning to make sure Qatar doesn’t get the lead in the first few minutes.
Clean midfield possession. The USMNT’s key to victory once again lies in the midfield. If they can string together passes and find the holes in the Qatari defense, they can push forward and keep Qatar on their back heels. The Americans want to keep possession and they want to dictate the pace of the match.
Focus and execute. Forget the storylines. This is a team that wants to get to Las Vegas and the Gold Cup final. To do that, they need to focus on their assignments and execute their game plan. Will it be a flawless evening? Of course not. But, the end goal is to get the win, and they need to focus on the task at hand and do what they need to do to get the win.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter has several options, particularly up front. However, expect to see a similar lineup to the one we saw on Sunday:
This appears to be a match where the USMNT will look to be more physical. However, they will do so with just about the same lineup that began the match against Jamaica. Matt Turner once again will be in goal, and the back line will consist of Sam Vines, Miles Robinson, James Sands, and Shaq Moore.
In the middle, the slight change is Cristian Roldan starting in place of Gianluca Busio. Kellyn Acosta and Sebastian Lletget will remain in the lineup, allowing guys like Busio or Eryk Williamson to come on later in the match to provide more creative options.
Up front, the 3 remain the same, with Paul Arriola and Daryl Dike most likely going 60 minutes again, and Matthew Hoppe on the right wing. Expect to see Gyasi Zardes and Nicholas Gioacchini later in the match.
This match will be one that goes back and forth for the course of 120 minutes. That’s right, this match will go into extra time tied at 2 goals apiece. To add to the nerves, this match will proceed to penalties. Matt Turner conjures some magic, stopping 2 penalties and advancing to the final after the penalty shootout.