Coach Gregg Berhalter and many members of the U.S. men’s soccer team faced their first big international test with the opening of the Concacaf Gold Cup last week and the grade so far is excellent.
Heading into Wednesday night’s group play finale against Panama in Kansas City, Kansas, Team USA had already qualified for the knockout round. A draw or a win would give the Americans the top spot in Group D, however, and with a 1-0 victory the U.S. claimed first place. They finish the first three games with a 3-0 record, winning by a combined score of 11-0.
They will take on Curacao, who finished second in Group C, in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Philadelphia.
The Gold Cup, which started in 1991 and has taken place every two years since 2003, features teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The U.S. won the last tournament in 2017 as well as six of the 14 titles thus far.
This year’s tournament is the first under head coach Berhalter, the former national team player hired to lead the team six months ago. Although the team has a number of veterans, there are also a number of players relatively untested in international competition, and several of them have already shown what they can do.
In the first game of the tournament, Tyler Boyd scored a pair of goals to help the U.S. defeat Guyana, 4-0, in just his second appearance with the national team. The 24-year-old’s first-ever international goal, scored in the 51st minute, also happened to be the 1,000th international goal in the team’s history.
Paul Arriola scored and had an assist and Michael Bradley, the most experienced player on the roster, served as captain for the first time under Berhalter while playing in his 146th international game.
Seven starters in the first match made their Gold Cup debuts, including 20-year-old Christian Pulisic and Aaron Long.
Long and Gyasi Zardes would each score two goals in the next match, a 6-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago in Cleveland that tied the U.S. team’s largest-ever margin of victory in a Gold Cup game. Pulisic and Arriola also scored as the defense stretched the shutout streak to two games in a row.
Berhalter made wholesale changes to the lineup against Panama, a team that played in the 2018 World Cup and also represented the toughest competition of the three group stage opponents. With veterans in the lineup such as 2008 Olympian Jozy Altidore, who made his first start since 2017, and Omar Gonzalez, who was captain, the U.S. and Panama were scoreless after the first half.
Altidore finally broke the stalemate, scoring on a bicycle kick in the 66th minute in what would end up being the winning goal. It was Altidore’s 42nd international goal and his first since 2017.