United States kick off their first competitive tournament under the command of Gregg Berhalter in what should be a comfortable CONCACAF Gold Cup opener against Guyana at Allianz Field, Saint Paul, Minnesota on Tuesday (10pm ET live on FS1 / Unimás).
Following the United States’ surprise failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and after a long evaluation period, former Colombus Crew coach Berhalter was the man finally chosen by the federation to lead the national team into the next four-year cycle.
Berhalter took over at the turn of the year and has since led his side to wins over Panama, Costa Rica and Ecuador. There was also a draw with Chile, and defeats to Jamaica and Venezuela, both of which came in the immediate buildup to the Gold Cup. That was not exactly an ideal prelude to the team’s attempted defence of the trophy they won in 2017.
Not only did USMNT lose both of those matches, but they also failed to score, continuing a growing pattern of struggling to create good opportunities on goal. These are still very early days and it will take some time for the team to become accustomed to Berhalter’s possession-based style. At the moment they are seeing plenty of the ball without generating many good-quality chances off the back of it.
Against Venezuela, USA mustered just four shots on target. They carried a threat from set-pieces but found it difficult to get much going in open play. They threw cross after cross into the area (33 in total) with little reward. It is clearly going to take some time to build an effective attacking unit despite the presence of the likes of Chelsea-bound Christian Pulisic.
Just as worryingly, whenever play turned over, Venezuela found it relatively easy to advance through the US midfield and get at their backline. Their three goals came, variously, following a failed attempt to play out from the back by goalkeeper Zack Steffen, a simple flicked-on throw in and a rapid counter attack. After clean sheets in each of Berhalter’s first three games in charge, his team have now conceded five in their last three.
The absences through injury of DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks and Tyler Adams for this tournament weaken the squad. Adams, who had been operating as a tucked in full-back, was a key figure in Berhalter’s plans. It is easy to see why a number of the big American offshore bookmakers have Mexico (admittedly, not without their own personnel issues) as marginal favorites to lift the Gold Cup.
That doesn’t mean that the United States will struggle to get out of their group. First opponents Guyana are only the 166th strongest national team in the world by the ELO ranking system. Trinidad and Tobago are ranked 99th, and Panama, the most likely to cause them problems, are ranked 65th. Given that by that same measure, America are considered the 39th best side in the world, they should easily secure progress to the last eight.
Guyana are happy just to be involved after qualifying for the Gold Cup for the first time in their history by finishing seventh in the 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League qualifying tournament. They benefited from a bit of good fortune to do so, with their original 2-2 draw with Barbados converted into a 3-0 win due to their opponents fielding a pair of ineligible players. It was a stroke of luck that they were glad to accept.
Coached by former Notts County defender Michael Johnson and with a solid contingent of players from the lower leagues in England, they will not necessarily be a pushover. Although friendly defeats to Bermuda and Haiti in the run-up to the tournament suggest that they are likely to find the going tough against the USMNT on Tuesday.
It will be the first time these two nations have met. The last time Guyana faced a team of any genuine regard was in 2012, when they lost back-to-back matches 0-5 to Mexico and 0-7 to Costa Rica. So even in their current goal-shy configuration, the US should have few problems creating enough chances to comfortably see off overmatched opposition.
Our Betting Preview’s Guyana vs USA Predictions & Picks Verdict
Christian Pulisic scored a couple of doubles against Caribbean opposition (Trinidad and Tobago and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) in 2016 and 2017 and can be fancied to begin the Gold Cup with another such double on Tuesday. If you can get odds for Christian Pulisic to score two or more goals at around +300 (3/1) then take them but the USA-friendly bookies are not offering that option currently.
However the USA vs Guyana predictions and pick this preview likes best is:
- Bet on USA -4 goals @ -105 with Bovada Sportsbook.