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USA Begins Odd Quest To Defend Nations League, Gold Cup Titles
The timing of the tournaments with split squads and an interim interim head coach leave the USMNT in a weird place ahead of important games.
The United States Men’s National Team will face off against rivals Mexico tonight from Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas (10 PM EDT, Paramount+ / Univision) in the semifinals of the 2022-23 CONCACAF Nations League.
The two winners of the semis (Panama-Canada will play at 7 PM EDT) will play in the final on Sunday June 18 also in Vegas at with the consolation match being played right before. A week later the USMNT begin their Gold Cup defense on June 24th at Soldier Field in Chicago against the Reggae Boyz of Jamaica.
The USA will do this with two vastly different squads, a heavy World Cup/Euro presence for the two Nations League games followed by an MLS/reserve roster for the Gold Cup.
Thankfully Matt Turner will be there for both as he needs games minutes after a move to Arsenal that featured no EPL minutes and Ethan Horvath just finished his promotion campaign with Luton Town a few weeks ago and Zack Steffen had knee surgery at the beginning of the offseason.
Turner will be joined by former New England Revolution teammate DeJuan Jones who will look to make his third international appearance as well as his first competitive tournament at the senior level.
While this is great news individually for our beloved former and current Revs players, the situation for the USMNT is less than stellar. Aside from the keeper injuries, Tyler Adams is still out dealing with an injury as is World Cup talisman Tim Ream which means key openings in the starting rotation at center back next to Walker Zimmerman and at holding midfield need to be decided by interim of the interim head coach, BJ Callaghan.
This is not a knock on Callaghan who has a solid resume in and around the Philly area including with the Union over the years. He is just the person who has been selected to deal with the general incompetence that is the USSF over the past few weeks.
Rumors swirling recently about Gregg Berhalter perhaps taking the Club America coaching job in Mexico were dashed apparently because Berhalter still believes himself to be in the running to return to the USMNT.
Regardless of everything else that went on with Berhalter during and after the World Cup, I think he’s done all he can as USMNT manager. He did a good job but his tactics are now holding this team back as I detailed on some other site when the USA got bounced by the Netherlands in the World Cup knockouts.
Further to evidence this point, John Muller of The Athletic has a statistical deep dive on the Berhalter USMNT era but in my opinion only reinforced my main point about Berhalter’s tactical prowess - the USMNT are very good at getting to the final third and somewhere between atrocious and clueless when they get there. No, Folarin Balogun alone is not going to solve this issue in two games at the Nations League but we are glad he’s here.
There are a lot of other elements working against the USMNT here, the winter World Cup pressing together the entire CONCACAF international summer slate into one month, the ridiculous timing of MLS and Liga MX trying to do this Leagues Cup thing right after the Gold Cup as well. It hamstrings what Callaghan can do with his roster with a handful of key U.S. players (Brendan Aaronson of Leeds) needing offseason time to sort out contract-related things for the 23/24 European season.
So the USA will attempt to retain their two regional titles with a split squad, just as they did last time. The full first team going after Nations League and Matt Turner likely having to dial up more heroics at the Gold Cup with a largely second-string group. Not an ideal situation for a team that should hold aspirations of winning the World Cup on home soil in three years.
This makes wasting this summer without a head coach and without your full first team getting much needed match experience with limited competitive games going forward this cycle very, very frustrating.
I hope that Balogun does well in his debut this week, the USMNT figure out a solid starting lineup amidst some key absences, and that the USA or El Tri produce another instant classing the Final on Sunday. But it will be hard to draw any significant long-term conclusions about any of the results over the next few weeks until the USSF gets its house in order.