While the USMNT did not get the Gold Cup off to a great start against Panama on Saturday, it was going to be alright because the next two opponents were Martinique and Nicaragua, teams that the US should score a ton of goals against and cruise past without much effort. Except, that’s not the way it happened against Martinique on Wednesday night. The US played a dismally boring first half (not unlike they did against Panama) and then blew a two goal lead before needing to be rescued from humiliation by Jordan Morris with just under 15 minutes to play. So far the US has played poorly this Gold Cup and that needs to change because they need to beat Nicaragua convincingly if they want to lock up the top spot in the group and get an easier opponent in the quarter-finals.
Jordan Morris was about the only bright spot in the US win on Wednesday night. The 22 year old Seattle Sounders man has had some issues this year in his 2nd MLS season and his national team career hasn’t taken off quite the way that many had hoped, but he bagged an insurance goal and then the game winner (which was fantastic because instead of waiting for the perfect shot, he just let it fly). Other than that, it was a pretty dismal outing from everybody else. The usually reliable Brad Guzan fell asleep on the first Martinique goal and could have done better on the second. Omar Gonzalez scored the first US goal but couldn’t be bothered to close out Kevin Parsemain on Martinique’s first goal. Juan Agudelo and Gyasi Zardes (when his first touch wasn’t terrible) showed flashes but it was all sizzle and no steak from both. Having these types of issues against a team like Panama is one thing: they’ve been around the block and know this tournament and the US well. Having them against Martinique, a team that isn’t even part of FIFA does not bode well for the US in the knockout rounds of the tournament when they would have to play a solid Costa Rica team, arch-rival Mexico or even a surprisingly resurgent Canada team.
Nicaragua has had a rough go of it so far at this Gold Cup and this year for that matter. They finished fifth out of six teams at the Copa Centroamericana in January, but were able to qualify for the Gold Cup via a playoff against Haiti (which they won 4-3 on aggregate). While they did manage to qualify for the Gold Cup, that’s right about where all the good news ended. Their first game was, at least on paper, their easiest game which they dropped 2-0 to Martinique. Then against Panama on Wednesday they took a 1-0 lead just after halftime and within the next seven minutes they were down 2-1 and that’s where the scoreline stayed. In terms of the roster, there’s not a ton of firepower there. They have only one player playing outside of Central America (forward Daniel Cadena who plays in Iceland). Probably the most dangerous one is forward Carlos Chavarria who has 6 goals in 24 appearances for Nicaragua.