The United States faced a step up in competition in its second group-stage match in the Gold Cup on Saturday night and responded to the challenge with a convincing 6-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in Cleveland. The possibility of getting revenge against the team that knocked the U.S. out of World Cup qualifying two years ago dominated discussion heading into the game, although the emphatic nature of the win was more about reclaiming confidence following the intervening period of stagnation.
Ruthlessness. It took a while for the Americans to get going, and the 1-0 halftime lead did not feel comfortable. But an explosion of goals in the second half -- including four in a 12-minute period -- showed a killer instinct the U.S. has not shown, nor been capable of, for almost two years. The confidence earned from the win is crucial to any chances the Americans have of springing a surprise defense of their title.
The second-half run of goals distracts from a slow start in which the Americans struggled to create chances and failed to use a massive possession advantage effectively. Moves that started as promising attacks broke down following poor touches or poor decisions in the final third. T&T's inability to capitalize on a small number of counterattacking opportunities bailed out a back line that looked vulnerable.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Gregg Berhalter's decision to start Gyasi Zardes ahead of Jozy Altidore raised eyebrows, but following Zardes' two-goal performance, the U.S. boss deserves credit for getting a strong performance out of the striker. Berhalter's tactical plan worked well in terms of chance creation and did not allow a T&T goal. Substitute Jordan Morris made a massive impact, setting up two U.S. goals after coming on for Tyler Boyd.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Zack Steffen, 8 -- Made the saves required, including a pair of tricky stops in the second half. Distributed the ball without issue as the Americans worked to build out of the back.
DF Nick Lima, 6 -- Set up the second goal of the night with an excellent headed cross to Zardes. Made some questionable decisions up the field and was caught out defensively on one notable occasion.
DF Aaron Long, 7 -- Scored twice. Had a couple of dodgy moments at the back but recovered well.
DF Walker Zimmerman, 6 -- Shaky on an early cross that nearly put the U.S. behind. Passed the ball well from the back. Scrambled back effectively to slow T&T counters.
DF Tim Ream, 5 -- Caught inside on a T&T counter in the first half. Passive in one-on-one situations in the second half.
MF Michael Bradley, 6 -- Provided occasionally brilliant service, particularly with chipped balls in behind. Turned the ball over a handful of times but otherwise served as a calm presence.
MF Tyler Boyd, 6 -- Mobile and active in a little more than an hour. Able to create multiple shooting opportunities but didn't find the net.
MF Weston McKennie, 7 -- Played with an aggressive edge that bordered on irresponsible in the first half. Covered plenty of ground and linked up well in midfield.
MF Christian Pulisic, 9 -- Provided the perfect pass to create the American breakthrough, then turned it on in the second half. Aggressive, intelligent and influential.
MF Paul Arriola, 6 -- Active up and down the wing, helping with ball recovery and popping up in space on the left side. Rewarded with a goal for good work in the attack.
FW Gyasi Zardes, 8 -- Struggled to provide angles with holdup play in the first half but improved as the game went along. Scored twice, with the second one coming on a very good finish.
MF Jordan Morris, N/R -- Two assists in a little less than half an hour. Quick and aggressive.
FW Jozy Altidore, N/R -- Mixed bag with touch and passing, but showed quality with a ball that led to Arriola's goal a pass later.
MF Reggie Cannon, N/R -- No notable moments for a young player making his competitive U.S. debut.