The knockouts are here, let’s get silly… after taking a quick look at what to expect tonight:
USMNT vs Curaçao
Not a ton of upsets so far this tournament with the exception of Haiti, who beat Costa Rica to win their group (surprise #1) then went on to beat Canadia in their quarterfinal matchup last night… and the whole country went out and celebrated their balls off, and god bless them.
Haitians have been through some serious shit and yet are out here beating much bigger, far better resourced teams so good for them.
Anyway, here’s what the bracket looks like:
As a quick reminder, Greggggggg Berhalter went with an entirely different XI against Panama in the final group stage game, which went about as you would have thought with the team looking extremely disjointed on offense but hardly being troubled on defense. We eventually scrounged out a 1-0 win on a nice finish by Jozy Altidore to win the group – hooray!
So what does that have to do with today’s game against Curaçao. Abbbbbbbbbsolutely nothing considering all the lineup changes that can be expected. Before we get to the US though let’s start with a little opposition research…
What to expect from Curaçao?
They are a spirited group. They finished second in their group after coming back and earning a draw in the closing moments against group winner Jamaica. It should be said though that they easily could have lost that game 5-0 if Jamaica wasn’t incredibly wasteful.
A lot of the Curaçao guys have experience abroad, largely in the Netherlands, with which the island is still closely connected to as part of the “Kingdom of the Netherlands”. However, the only player anybody will likely have heard of (unless you are a fan of the Charlotte Independence in the USL and know Michael Maria) is defender Cuco Martina, who is playing for Feyenoord on loan from Everton
They don’t have a ton of firepower and will, per usual, be looking to capitalize on mistakes and set pieces. Is that cliché? Yep, but it is a cliché for a reason.
What to expect from USA?
Here is tonight’s XI:
Look familiar? Damn right it does. It’s the same lineup that Greggggggg went with against T&T in the second group stage game.
Positives: This is CLOSE to the strongest XI that could be made from the players available. Pulisic and McKennie flanked by Boyd and Arriola will be like night and day going forward versus the midfield we saw struggle against Panama. Also, importantly, no Gonzo is a big win for Team America.
Negatives: This will come as no surprise since I know I sound like a broken record but I am all set on playing guys like Tim Ream and Gyasi Zardes in meaningful games. They both have a ton of experience and should look just fine against the Curaçao’s of the world… but is that really what we care about? Really?? Are we sure???? I would much, much, MUCH rather give guys like Antonee Robinson and Josh Sargent (respectively) minutes in live bullets games like this in preparation for games/competitions that actually matter. But Greggggggg has already made a decision on that by leaving those guys at home so it is what it is. I’d also prefer to see Jozy Altidore over Zardes but I’m not sure the former is fully fit again as he is just coming off injury. Would I hate it if Berhalter shocked everybody and went with someone like Boyd up top instead? No, no I would not. But let’s be serious. There’s no chance of that. So it is what it is.
US to win 3-0.
So there we have it. USWNT back in action on Tuesday against poor old England.