The 2017 Gold Cup heads into the quarterfinal stage this week, and although the U.S. struggled in a 1-1 tie with Panama and squeaked by regional minnow Martinique 3-2, coach Bruce Arena did not seem worried.
On the contrary. He said these early round games have served as auditions for several players, and he and his staff have gained valuable information.
“One of the things we’re trying to do in this tournament is really look at some players in our pool that we as a staff haven’t seen much of, to help us make decisions moving forward with World Cup qualifying in September and October,” Arena said. “But they’ve also made it much more complicated to decide what changes to make in this tournament, and that’s positive.”
Coaches are allowed to make roster changes for the knockout rounds of the Gold Cup, and a handful of U.S. players have made a good case to stay.
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Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris saved the Americans from embarrassment by scoring two goals against Martinique. Juan Agudelo and Gyasi Zardes also played well.
“I can’t worry about making the World Cup team or my roster spot or things beyond my control,” Morris said after the Martinique match. “What I can do is make the runs coach stresses, do what’s best for the team and play hard, impact winning.”
Arena seemed impressed.
“Jordan runs very well in the penalty area,” Arena said. “We told the guys at halftime we needed to attack the near post, and he responded. Then he finished another run for a second goal. He had an overall good game [Wednesday night] with Juan [Agudelo]. It definitely made a good impression.”
Another player who is making his mark this summer is Sporting Kansas City’s Dom Dwyer, a 26-year-old England-born forward who became a U.S. citizen in March. He scored in his national team debut against Ghana and scored the lone U.S. goal against Panama.
Dwyer moved to the United States in 2009, played at Tyler (Texas) Junior College, where he was named National Junior College Player of the Year, and spent 2011 at the University of South Florida. He is married to U.S. women’s national team member Sydney Leroux, and they have a son. They are the first husband-wife pair to score goals for the United States.
Elsewhere, Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Alphonso Davies, 16, playing in his first major international tournament for Canada, scored three goals in the first two matches. He scored twice to help beat French Guiana 4-2 and scored Canada’s goal in a 1-1 tie with Costa Rica before leaving the game with a sprained ankle.
In Sunday’s Gold Cup matches, Jamaica plays El Salvador (6 p.m., Fox Sports 2) and Mexico faces Curacao (8:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1). Jamaica held Mexico to a scoreless tie on Thursday, and the favored Mexican team managed only three shots on goal against the stingy Reggae Boyz defense.
▪ Atlanta tops MLS attendance: Major League Soccer expansion club Atlanta United overtook the Seattle Sounders as league attendance leaders. Atlanta is averaging 46,482 fans per game, ahead of longtime leader Seattle, with 42,628 per contest. The average attendance for an MLS game is 21,327.
Atlanta fans stand for the entire match and wave giant banners, and the team flag is hanging from houses all over the city and suburbs.
The club has been playing its home matches at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium while construction continues on the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a 75,000-seat facility that the soccer team will share with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank owns both teams. The first United match in the new stadium will be Sept. 10.
Atlanta also leads the league in scoring with 39 goals, thanks to a pair of MLS rookies — Josef Martinez of Venezuela and Miguel Almiron of Paraguay.
▪ James to Bayern Munich: Colombian World Cup star James Rodriguez is leaving Real Madrid on a two-year loan to Bayern Munich, whose coach, Carlo Ancelotti, was with Madrid when James joined the Spanish team.
“Signing James Rodriguez was our coach Carlo Ancelotti’s biggest wish, following their successful spell working together in Madrid,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.
Madrid spent $91 million to get James from Monaco three years ago. He scored 17 goals and had 18 assists in his first season but had been frustrated since Zinedine Zidane took over as manager. Last season, he was dropped to the “B” team.
▪ Klinsmann to Hertha Berlin: Goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann, the 20-year-old son of former U.S. coach and German great Jurgen Klinsmann, signed with Bundesliga team Hertha Berlin. The younger Klinsmann played with the U.S. Under-20 team.
“Klinsmann exudes calmness and confidence. He has a very good right foot and is also technically and athletically at a good level,” Hertha goalkeeping coach Zsoly Petry said.