The 2017 Gold Cup has already had some dramatic conclusions for the United States Men’s National Team. If the USMNT can beat Nicaragua, winless in Gold Cup play so far, they advance to the knockout stage.
Today at 4 p.m. PT, the USMNT will take their chance to advance in the Gold Cup. This will be their first-ever meeting with Nicaragua, which is in the basement of Group B in the Gold Cup after dropping matches to Panama (2-1) and the upstart Martinique team (2-0) that almost defeated the Americans last weekend.
It took two goals from Sounders forward Jordan Morris to prevent what would have been a disastrous upset in Gold Cup play for the USMNT against Martinique, now this talented but flawed team stands on the doorstep of the Gold Cup knockout round.
Nicaragua can hold their heads high after showing some impressive attacking skills against Panama, taking the lead and scoring their first Gold Cup goal on an impressive strike by Carlos Chavarria. But their defense didn’t hold, and the Panamanians equalized and took the lead shortly after Chavarria’s goal.
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Bruce Arena’s team hasn’t been very impressive in Gold Cup play this time around. Which lineup he chooses is anyone’s guess, but I would expect to see Morris in the starting XI for the Americans after his late second goal saved Arena’s bacon in the Martinique match.
Morris figures to head the attack along with Sporting Kansas City’s Dom Dwyer. If the US can control the ball, especially in the attacking third, they should break down the Nicaraguan defense. The Nicaraguans’ best chance is shoot and keep shooting, their chances against Panama were dangerous at times, and keeping the attack up keeps pressure away from their suspect defense.
The USMNT will advance to the CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-finals and supposedly draw a more favorable matchup in the knockout phase if they win their Group outright. They will accomplish this with a win over Nicaragua, assuming Panama doesn’t completely demolish Martinique.