With Jamaica clash around the corner, could US mix it up for Gold Cup semi?

PHILADELPHIA — After getting three full days’ rest between games through to the quarterfinals, the United States will have one fewer day to prepare for Wednesday’s Concacaf Gold Cup semifinal against Jamaica in Nashville (9:30 pm ET | FS1, Univision, UDN).

It poses an intriguing scenario for head coach Gregg Berhalter, who has relied on two distinct starting XIs throughout the tournament — one that he rolled out in the first two group stage games against Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago plus Sunday evening's quarterfinal against Curaçao, and one that started the USA's final group stage game against Panama on June 26. With a quick turnaround looming, though, will the Yanks mix it up a bit?

“We’re going to have a little bit different personnel they’re going to have some different personnel so we have to see what they’re doing lately in the tournament, see what the scouting report comes back with but I’m sure we’ll change things up,” US defender Aaron Long said after Sunday’s 1-0 win over Curaçao.

Berhalter’s starting XI for the quarterfinal had outscored opponents 10-0 in the first two group games but after fielding a different lineup in the 1-0 win over Panama, the ‘first team’ was less than convincing in a grind-it-out 1-0 win against the upstart Curaçao. 

“I think it’s about speed, speed of movements, having a mentality to turn their defenders, having a mentality to disorganize their defense, get behind their defense,” Berhalter said. “We could have been more aggressive with that tonight for sure and that’s something when I think about the last Jamaica game it was a very similar type of performance where we had an early flurry and we could have scored a goal and then after that we lacked the speed and the movements to get behind the backline.” 

After scoring a 66th minute goal in his US first start in 20 months to beat Panama 1-0, Jozy Altidore didn’t feature in Sunday’s match, with Berhalter once again opting for Gyasi Zardes at the No. 9 position.

“We decided to play Gyasi in this game in the starting XI and as the game wore on we could have went for the second goal or defended the one goal and I think we were doing that in transition looking for the second goal and we didn’t think Jozy was the best option if we were going to play a transition game,” Berhalter said. 

Zardes registered just two shots in 90 minutes.

“What I would say is we need to continue to do a good job of creating chances and if we’re creating chances I don’t really care who is getting on the end of it,” Berhalter said. “So far in this tournament our forwards have scored a number of goals and provided a number of assists. We’ve been happy with the attack. I think today when they were very compact I would have liked to play behind them more, I would have liked to be more dynamic than we were.”

The US will likely need to find that improvement against the Reggae Boyz, who have given the Americans trouble in recent years, beating them in the Gold Cup semifinal in 2015 at the Georgia Dome. More recently, the US lost 1-0 to Jamaica in a friendly in Washington D.C. on June 5, thanks to a 60th minute goal from Shamar Nicholson. The starting lineup that day included seven from the Gold Cup roster and three (Zack Steffen, Paul Arriola and Tim Ream) who have started more than one game over the campaign. 

Said Berhalter of the upcoming match: “We know it’s going to be a good game, we know Jamaica is a good team, a very robust team we know they have some good attacking pieces and our job is going to be to break them down and really take advantage of some of the spaces that we see being available.”

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