ARLINGTON, Tex. — If there is one thing that will be remembered about the US national team’s 2017 Gold Cup squad, it will be the many players who got a chance to start for head coach Bruce Arena during the tournament.
Assuming goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez does not see time in Saturday’s semifinal versus Costa Rica at AT&T Stadium (10 pm ET | FS1, Univision), or a possible final next Wednesday, the final tally will be 27 different US starters.
Yet amid the chaos of the regular rotating and shuffling during the tournament, a light has appeared at the tunnel for those who crave a stable, steady starting XI. With five regulars called in alongside Gonzalez for the knockout stage, expect the likes of Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey to anchor the team the rest of the way.
“Every game is different from one to the other, so you put a group of players on the field that have played a little bit together and if they figure things out, they’ll find ways to create chances,” said Arena in his pre-match press conference. “If there is an issue in our team, it’s that we haven’t played together and that’s kind of by design. You can’t be real concerned about that, but I think at this stage of the tournament we can go with a lineup that’s a little bit more familiar to our team.”
Arena has made it known that from the start his approach in this Gold Cup was to evaluate players who could help the US later down the road.
While the performances of players have been scattered and not exactly drawn the highest marks in player ratings pieces across the American soccer landscape, there is a belief that there are players who have done enough to possibly merit a call for September’s crucial qualifiers against Costa Rica and Honduras.
“There have been a number of players that have shown and it helps us formulate our roster for future competitions, most notably the World Cup qualifiers in September and October, and hopefully to be in a position for a World Cup next year. It’s more information in helping us try to piece together a roster,” said Arena.
As for Saturday’s affair, it will be the strongest test the US have faced in the tournament. From back to front the Ticos are more than capable of emerging with a win, even if star attackers Joel Campbell and Johan Venegas are unavailable through injury.
“They have a set way they play, regardless of the players that are not available. The attack with this team is highlighted by [Bryan] Ruiz, who is obviously a good player. [Marco] Urena has done well as a striker. The back line is strong with [Giancarlo] Gonzalez, [Johnny] Acosta and [Kendall] Waston. They have experienced players in the midfield. Overall, they are a good team,” said Arena.