The USA finally put in the performance fans had been waiting for when it beat Nicaragua 3-0 in its final Gold Cup group stage game. It ensured Bruce Arena’s men finished top of their group and earned a relatively simple quarterfinal match against El Salvador on Wednesday in Philadelphia.
The Salvadorans have been one of the weakest teams in the Gold Cup and only qualified for the knockout stage of the tournament because they were one of the better performing third-placed sides. The USA should have little trouble dispatching El Salvador on Wednesday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and moving through to the semifinals.
Coach Bruce Arena’s American team got off to a slow start as it drew with Panama, something that is becoming a bit of a theme of late. Panama held the USA to a 1-1 draw in Arena’s second game after being parachuted in to take over from Jurgen Klinsmann and rescue the USA’s faltering bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. So it was little surprise when the Central American nation secured another 1-1 draw against a USA team bereft of its star players. The likes of Christian Pulisic are in preseason training with their European clubs, while Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and many more established first-team regulars have all been left behind. This tournament is not a huge priority and Arena has gone with an experimental squad full of youngsters, players untested at this level and MLS stars who want a chance to prove they can force their way into the coaches plans ahead of next summer’s World Cup.
They started shakily, scraping a draw with a motivated Panama team and then barely securing a 3-2 win over Martinique, a small island nation that is not even a member of FIFA. But it all finally clicked into place against Nicaragua, as Joe Corona and Alejandro Bedoya ran riot. Goals from Corona, Kelyn Rowe and Matt Miazga secured a comfortable win, and it could have been a lot more impressive but for two missed penalties from Dom Dwyer and Corona. But the fans were impressed by the performance and the players received the sort of strong home support that could propel them towards lifting the Gold Cup trophy.
Arena made 11 changes to the side that struggled against Martinique and, three games into the tournament, he should now have a good idea of what his best starting lineup is. US fans will hope he sticks with it and does not experiment too much, to the detriment of results. Winning the tournament would boost morale, and he should take it seriously. Dwyer, Corona, Bedoya and Jordan Morris have all impressed going forward and could give Arena options beyond Dempsey and Altidore in Russia next summer if he gives them more of a chance. If they can work in tandem to drive the USA to the final of this competition, it will do them no harm whatsoever.
El Salvador should offer pretty meek opposition. It already has lost 3-1 to Mexico and is only here courtesy of a win over Curacao and a draw with Jamaica. It is not exactly the sort of form to strike fear into American hearts, and the USA should win this one comfortably. The odds reflect the USA’s superiority, as it is just -400 with William Hill to win it. To get more value you will have to look to other markets, and USA -1.5 Asian handicap at -130 with BetVictor looks a good option. Like Mexico before it, the USA should beat El Salvador by two clear goals, particularly now that we have moved into the business end of the tournament and it is time to really take each game very seriously. A small bet on Dwyer to score at any time also looks interesting as his pace and movement has caused defenders a lot of problems so far in the Gold Cup.Free Soccer Pick: USA -1.5 Asian Handicap (-130)Best Line Offered: BetVictor