Matchups against Jamaica are always tricky, but the USMNT came out on the winning end once again as they beat the Reggae Boyz 1-0 on Sunday to advance to the Gold Cup semifinals. They will meet Qatar on Thursday.
With the game looking destined for extra time, Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake whiffed on a cross in the box and the ball met the head of Matthew Hoppe for the 83rd-minute game-winner. In addition to the error, Jamaica’s struggles to finish continued against the USA: They created two clear-cut scoring chances that they should have done better to convert and thus let the USA off easy.
On balance, the U.S. was good value for the win and will come away feeling good about another strong defensive outing from several of the starters, especially in the second half. The Americans will need repeat performances from them and some more inventive play in the attack to overcome a Qatari side that has played some of the best soccer in the tournament.
Here are some key takeaways from the match, along with USMNT player ratings:
Hoppe is a Gold Cup revelation
Although all the anticipation entering the Gold Cup surrounded the potential breakout of new center forward Daryl Dike, the forward everyone will be talking about after this tournament is Schalke’s Hoppe, and that’s not just because he scored the late winner against Jamaica.
He brings a different dynamic to the wide forward position than any other player in the pool. While he has the speed, energy and one-on-one ability that are basic requirements, he also possesses size (which was helpful on the header goal), power, physical play and a real appetite to press. When you add his soft feet and good soccer instincts, he has been a dream find.
If he can close out this Gold Cup camp on a high note, he’ll have earned himself a spot in the depth chart alongside Brenden Aaronson in the second line of USMNT attacking wingers.
Tweaks to the lineup
The U.S. came out in a 4-3-3 against Jamaica with James Sands and Miles Robinson teaming up at center back. With Walker Zimmerman out for the rest of the tournament, it would seem that the same back four should carry over against Qatar.
Similarly, the midfield trio of Kellyn Acosta in the No. 6 position and Sebastian Lletget and Gianluca Busio as the dual No. 8s is also the likely choice in the semifinal, barring injuries. Eryk Williamson didn’t enter the game against Jamaica and it would seem farfetched to expect him to start the semifinal.
Outside of Hoppe on the left, the forward line is where there could be changes. It would be a surprise to see Gyasi Zardes start in place of Daryl Dike at center forward, but if the USA is expecting an up-and-down match, Zardes could be the best fit.
The right wing position is wide open. So far, Cristian Roldan, Paul Arriola and Nicholas Gioacchini have been filling in. Could a Shaq Moore-Reggie Cannon pairing on the right flank — one at right back, the other at right wing — be an option?
Qatar is up next
The Asian champions will challenge the USA in different ways than Jamaica and previous opponents did. Qatar’s counterattack has been extremely effective at the Gold Cup. Their forwards are fast, elusive and more unpredictable than the opponents faced by the U.S. thus far.
This matchup has all the elements of being an entertaining back-and-forth affair. Most of Qatar’s matches have followed that script and U.S. midfielder Cristian Roldan said he expects a “fun game,” although he added that it will be “vital to stop counterattacks.” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter highlighted the same point.
“We think they’re a strong team, a fun team to watch. They’re an attacking team, very dangerous on the counterattack with skillful players,” Berhalter said. “It’s an opponent we’re not used to and it’s going to be a great game.”
USMNT player ratings
Matt Turner: 6.5
Another mistake-free showing for Turner, whose mere presence is enough to project confidence and security. Jamaica could have done more to test him on some of their chances.
Sam Vines: 6.5
There wasn’t anything special about his game. He just did his job and did it at a high level. His 92.7 passing percentage was highest among starters.
Miles Robinson: 7.5
Even his head coach is impressed by his ability to recover and track back in emergency situations. He made play after play: When it wasn’t a great tackle, it was a key block or a simple challenge.
James Sands: 6.5
The expectation going into the match was that he was bound to get overpowered once or twice by faster, bigger Jamaican forwards. It didn’t happen. He was generally in the right place at the right time. For those who think he can only play in a back five, his gamer qualities translate well in both positions.
Shaq Moore: 6
A smart, solid performance focused on hard work and responsible positioning over the attack runs that get fans excited. It would be a surprise if he didn’t start the semifinal.
Kellyn Acosta: 7
He may have had his struggles in possession, but when it came to his defensive contributions, he constantly snuffed out attacks with timely tackles and did well to handle the No. 6 position by himself.
Gianluca Busio: 6
He didn’t do anything to stand out, but he helped keep possession, kept the ball moving and regularly tracked back.
Sebastian Lletget: 6
He has had more influential performances, but he still helps the team in so many little ways.
Paul Arriola: 5.5
Wore the captain’s armband but couldn’t really impact the game wide right. He put in a good effort but eventually made way for Cristian Roldan.
Matthew Hoppe: 7
It felt throughout the game that if the USA was to score a goal or generate a dangerous opportunity, it would most likely involve Hoppe. He got the goal just before he was due to be subbed out.
Daryl Dike: 6
Battling against two center backs and with little service coming from wide areas, it’s not a surprise that he couldn’t leave a mark on this game and had just one shot (below) in 63 minutes. It was that type of game.
Gyasi Zardes: 6
Dike’s replacement faced some of the same challenges but similarly put in the work. His constant motion and energetic runs off the bench lift this team. And he had a big defensive clearance on a set piece in the U.S. box.
Cristian Roldan: 6.5
Good things usually happen when the ball is at his feet and that was the case on the cross for the goal. He delivered a perfect ball: just the right height and length to be problematic for Jamaica ‘keeper Andre Blake. Sums up the way he plays: unspectacular, but super effective.
Nicholas Gioacchini: N/A
Six minutes off the bench for Hoppe.
Reggie Cannon: N/A
A couple of excellent plays in his short stint. Moore is hanging onto that starting right back spot, but Cannon has plenty to offer.