Nicaragua vs. USA
Gold Cup Group B, Matchday 3
Saturday, July 15 – 7 pm ET
FirstEnergy Stadium – Cleveland, Ohio
TV: Univision, UDN, FXX in US; TSN GO in Canada | Follow on the MLS App
The US will close out group play on Saturday against Nicaragua in the nightcap of a doubleheader at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, and will do so with full knowledge of the result they need to finish in the top spot. While that is certainly a bonus, the onus for the Americans will be on playing better. They have struggled to piece together strong outings so far -- almost settling for a draw after giving up a two-goal lead in a 3-2 win over Martinique on Wednesday -- and a good showing is needed in order to beat Nicaragua and move into the knockout rounds with some confidence.
What will make that tough is that Nicaragua will be playing for their tournament lives. The Nicaraguans have zero points and need at least a victory to give themselves an opportunity to advance as one of the two best third-placed teams, so it is likely that they adopt an aggressive approach against a US side that has looked subpar and vulnerable in stretches.
If there was one thing for Nicaragua to take from their 2-1 loss to Panama on Wednesday, it was that they played some good attacking soccer in stretches. The Nicaraguans even took a lead while also scoring their first Gold Cup goal via a great strike from Carlos Chavarria, but then relinquished the lead and fell behind in a matter of minutes.
Correcting the defensive mistakes will certainly be on the agenda for Nicaragua, but they will want to tap into some of what they showed on the opposite end of the field. The Central American nation created 11 shots, putting four on target against the Panamanians, and will need more of that type of play in order to have a shot at picking up the victory that is needed.
The Americans might already have a foot in the quarterfinals, but need to take the group in order to avoid a potentially more difficult match-up in the next round. Defeating Nicaragua should do the trick assuming Panama does not blow out Martinique, but US head coach Bruce Arena will have plenty of lineup decisions to make after seeing the majority of his 23-man roster play and struggle in these opening two games.
“One of the things we’re trying to do in this tournament is really look at some players in our pool that we as a staff haven’t seen much of, to help us make decisions moving forward with World Cup Qualifying in September and October,” Arena said. “But they’ve also made it much more complicated to decide what changes to make in this tournament, and that’s positive.”
One player who could be in line for a start against the Nicaraguans is Jordan Morris, whose brace on Wednesday helped the Americans avoid a truly embarrassing result. Morris could be joined by the likes of Juan Agudelo and Gyasi Zardes after they too showed some positive signs against Martinique, but it is more likely that Arena turns back to Dom Dwyer, Dax McCarty, and Kelyn Rowe after not including them in the lineup the last time out.
Surprisingly, this showdown will mark the first meeting between the US and Nicaragua.
Players to Watch
Nicaragua – Carlos Chavarria
After scoring on an impressive effort from distance that found the top left corner, Chavarria will head into this bout with plenty of confidence. He likely will not be afraid to pull the trigger from distance again, meaning the US back line will have to stay honest and up on him.
USA – Dom Dwyer
The Sporting Kansas City striker was rested on Wednesday, but should be back in the lineup on Saturday given that he has notched two goals in his first two caps with the US. Dwyer's work ethic to pressure opposing players is something Arena has admitted he likes, but the forward's scoring prowess inside the 18-yard box is the biggest reason why he will likely be back on the field for a US side that wants to stay undefeated.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Justo Lorente (UNAN FC / NCA), Henry Maradiaga (Real Estelí FC / NCA), Diedrich Tèllez (Diriangen FC / NCA)
DEFENDERS (8): Luis Copete (Comerciantes Unidos / PER), Cyril Errington (Real Estelí FC / NCA), Oscar Lòpez (Managua FC / NCA), Henry Niño (Jaco Rays FC / CRC), Josue Quijano (Real Estelí FC / NCA), Manuel Rosas (Real Estelí FC / NCA), Erick Tellez (Diriangen FC / NCA), Bismarck Vèliz (Chinandega FC / NCA)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Daniel Cadena (Njarðvíkur / ISL), Elvis Figueroa (Real Estelí FC / NCA), Luis Galeano (Real Estelí FC / NCA), Bryan Garcia (Real Estelí FC / NCA), Marlon Lòpez (Real Estelí FC / NCA), Maykel Montiel (UNAN FC / NCA), Bismarck Montiel (Managua FC / NCA), Luis Peralta (CD Walter Ferretti / NCA)
FORWARDS (4): Juan Barrera (Comunicaciones FC / GUA), Carlos Chavarria (Real Estelí FC / NCA), Jorge Hurtado (CD Walter Ferretti / NCA), Eulises Pavon (CD Suchitepéquez / GUA)
Manager: Henry Duarte (Costa Rica)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (New York City FC)
DEFENDERS (8): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca, MEX), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest, ENG), Matt Miazga (Chelsea, ENG), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna, MEX), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana, MEX), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana, MEX), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)
FORWARDS (3): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC)
Manager: Bruce Arena (USA)