U.S. barely bailed out by Pulisic in sorry showing against Curacao
With a trip to the semifinal on the line in Philadelphia, the United States defeated Curacao 1-0 in game marked by disjointed American play and the surprising confidence apparent from the Caribbean nation.
The win and little else. This is a tournament, after all, and the point is to advance. A singular moment from Christian Pulisic gave the Americans the goal they needed and the defense managed to hold on to the advantage. Not only would losing have ended their Gold Cup, it would have been a traumatic blow to any sense that Gregg Berhalter's program is progressing.
A lack of energy and aggression from the U.S., as evidenced by a press that was haphazard and disconnected. Curacao's ability to not only put together long periods of possession, but to bypass the American midfield with ease made the game a much more tense affair that it should have been. Whatever progress Berhalter has made with his system, it was not on display in Philadelphia. Players all over the field played with a tentativeness indicative of a group still not sure where to be and when.
Manager rating out of 10
4 -- Berhalter got away with making 11 changes for the final group-stage match against Panama, but that choice might have affected the rhythm of the team for the quarterfinal. The Americans won, but never looked comfortable. Even the goal seemed to be an anomalous moment rather than indicative of the performance as a whole. Berhalter was more lucky than good on the night.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Zack Steffen, 5 -- Made a pair of necessary saves in the last 15 minutes to preserve the win. Guilty of some nervy moments in the first half that put the U.S. goal under threat. Kept the Americans' string of clean sheets at the Gold Cup going.
DF Nick Lima, 4 -- Aside from a few moments, was invisible going forward. Pushed back from a high position as the game wore on and the Americans struggled to keep the ball.
DF Aaron Long, 5 -- Made clear errors with the ball and appeared flustered at times. Slow to apply pressure in front of goal.
DF Walker Zimmerman, 6 -- Passable on a rough night for everyone in the back. Defended well at times, was sloppy in others.
DF Tim Ream, 3 -- Turnover prone. Too passive in one-vs.-one defensive situations. Adding nothing going forward.
MF Michael Bradley, 6 -- Asked to do a lot of work. Hit-and-miss with passing going forward. Covered ground, slowed down Curacao as he could, aided in recovery.
MF Weston McKennie, 5 -- Scored the goal, but struggled in possession in the midfield. Turned the ball over numerous times across both halves.
MF Christian Pulisic, 6 -- Created the lone goal with an inch-perfect cross to the back post. Made some things happen on the dribble, but missed a couple of chances to put the ball on goal.
MF Paul Arriola, 4 -- Industrious with defending, otherwise did little in the attacking end of the field.
FW Gyasi Zardes, 4 -- Good off the ball, bad on it. Ineffective when dropping in to provide an option in midfield. Provided no goal threat, missing on the best opportunity.
MF Jordan Morris, NR -- Energetic, tracked back to help in defense with the U.S. absorbing pressure in the final half hour.
DF Omar Gonzalez, NR -- Brief cameo with the U.S. pushing to the final whistle.