USMNT gets first chance to reassert its CONCACAF status

Nicholas Mendola
NBC Sports

Not going to lie to you: It’d be nice to see some vengeance.

No, beating Trinidad and Tobago at the Gold Cup isn’t going to magically put the United States men’s national team back in the 2018 World Cup, nor will it erase nearly two years of seething from the record.

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But honestly, you just want to feel like something, anything, is emotionally different in U.S. Soccer from the federation that puked all over the qualifying process for 2018.

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Let’s start here: Regardless of what Michael Bradley says about Saturday night’s match versus Trinidad and Tobago — “I’m not sure inside of the group if it carries a whole lot of weight” — the Yanks should absolutely feel ready to come out firing against the Soca Warriors.

It’s Bradley’s job as a veteran leader to play down tension ahead of the second group stage game of a second-tier tournament, but we’re pretty sure Christian Pulisic isn’t sleeping on the nation whose B-team deprived him of his World Cup. Omar Gonzalez didn’t build himself back up from a terrible own goal in Couva to have this be “just another game.”

Want to send a message within the team, supporters, and CONCACAF that things are different, even if it’s just a preface to a latter tournament trophy-holding novel? Control the game despite the absence of Tyler Adams, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, Tim Weah, and possibly Weston McKennie.

Consider the make-up of both 23-man rosters. T&T has seven domestic players, three MLS players, seven USL Championship players, one USL League One player, one in Costa Rica, one in the Israeli Premier League, one playing in Saudi Arabia’s top tier and two in its second tier. The USMNT is comprised of MLS players plus Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Tim Ream (Fulham), and Tyler Boyd (Vitória de Guimarães)

Not to mention Panama outshot T&T 16-4 in a 2-0 win the other night, about the same as the U.S. advantage (20-4; 4-0) over Guyana.

Handle their A-team with your B-plus team.

Take that knowledge and then consider this: As the USSF prepares to anoint a new CEO who may well be hand-picked by the old CEO, reportedly not supported by the new president, and happens to be the USMNT head coach’s brother, wouldn’t it be cool if things felt just a bit like they were on the right track.

The U-20 World Cup helped, as has watching McKennie, Pulisic, and Adams blossom in the Bundesliga.

But we’re mere rounds away from, if we’re fortunate, seeing the first edition of Berhalter’s USMNT against Tata Martino’s Mexico (a Tata Martino, it must be noted, who the USSF didn’t feel the need to contact regarding the possibility of an interview). And we’re days away from a game against a Panama team who took a World Cup spot by scoring a ghost goal.

The losses against Jamaica’s B-team and Venezuela in a vacuum are just bad days at the office, but something fundamentally changed in the spirit of U.S. Soccer that night in Couva. The over-achieving teams of (a few of the) World Cups past gave way to what appeared to be an entitled coach and players failing to prove wrong the wandering mind of a German legend who helped put them in their predicament.

For at least this one night, it’d be great to feel that Couva not only mattered but that it’s put a chip on the shoulder of everyone in U.S. Soccer.

Win decisively, fellas.

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