The U.S. men’s national team beat Cuba 4-0 on Tuesday to win its CONCACAF Nations League group and set up an appearance in the semifinals next June. In a game that nobody expected would be close, the U.S. goals came from Josh Sargent (two) and Jordan Morris (two).
Here are my three thoughts:
Cuba was so poor it was hard to take much from the game
Sargent scored in the first minute, and the game was never in doubt. Cuba is nowhere near as solid as it was when the U.S. scraped by in a 1-0 win in Havana in 2008. But Jordan Morris did continue his run of good form, and he was regularly threatening in the attack. After not starting in the last game in favor of Gyasi Zardes, Sargent picked up two strikes and looked confident in the box. Other than that? There’s not much to say here.
What grade does the USMNT deserve for 2019?
That was the solid question that came up in the Fox Sports pregame studio show. Mo Edu gave the U.S. a C, while Alexi Lalas gave an Incomplete. Me? I’d say D-plus. Losing to Canada for the first time in 34 years and losing to Mexico twice are big reasons, as is coach Gregg Berhalter overcoaching his national team as if it were a club team. Nor was the U.S. hard to play against for much of the year. If the U.S. had lost to Canada last Friday, Berhalter should have resigned. So if that would have been an F, being one step ahead of that makes a D-plus seem right. (The plus was for convincing Sergiño Dest to play for the U.S. instead of the Netherlands.)
It’s unfortunate that CONCACAF Nations League couldn’t provide better competition
Playing twice against a poor Cuba team doesn’t help the U.S. get better, that’s for sure. This tournament missed a real opportunity by not including CONMEBOL teams, which are only playing friendlies anyway right now. If the U.S. had been in a Nations League group with, say, Brazil and Paraguay, instead of Canada and Cuba, these games would have been a bigger challenge. Would the U.S. have been relegated from a group with Brazil and Paraguay or stayed up? Good question. As it stands, the all-CONCACAF final four next June will include the possibility of a USA-Mexico final. But an Americas Nations League? That would have been terrific.