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USA vs. Martinique | 2017 Gold Cup Match Preview

USA vs. Martinique
Gold Cup Group B, Matchday 2
Wednesday, July 12 – 9 pm ET
Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, Florida
TV: FOX, Univision, UDN in US; TSN2, TSN GO in Canada | Follow on the MLS App

The United States try to get their Gold Cup campaign fully ablaze in Cigar City on Wednesday night, as they meet the French Caribbean island of Martinique in a Group B match that’s taken on substantially more weight in the wake of Saturday’s underwhelming 1-1 draw with Panama.

Entering the tournament on a high after a defeat of Ghana in last week’s warm-up friendly, the USMNT were brought crashing down to earth by Panama’s rugged display in Nashville, Tennessee. The favored North Americans were outplayed for several stretches of the match – and despite the Dom Dwyer goal that gave them a second-half lead, had goalkeeper Brad Guzan to thank for several saves that prevented what would’ve been an embarrassing loss in front of a loud, proud and dominantly pro-US crowd.

Martinique, meanwhile, showed some talent in their 2-0 defeat of Nicaragua in the second half of the Nashville doubleheader. Goals from Kevin Parsemain and Steeven Langil earned the French overseas department the result that has them sitting – for now – on top of the group, and on course for advancement to the knockout stages. Like Panama, they’d be more than happy to hold the mighty Yanks to a deadlock.

USA Outlook

“We didn’t play well on the day … I thought we didn’t deal well with the pressure, especially in the midfield. We turned over way too much. We didn’t do a good job of establishing a rhythm … Our passing wasn’t good on the day.”

Coach Bruce Arena didn’t have much nice to say about the USMNT’s performance in their tournament opener, and many other observers – including this outlet’s player ratings guru – concurred.

The promise shown by the Kellyn Acosta-Dax McCarty-Joe Corona central midfield trio against Ghana all but evaporated under the hot Tennessee sun, while a backline boasting no shortage of experience was beaten repeatedly.

Though Arena and several of his players – Acosta used the most blunt terms – admitted their shortage of quality, an “on to the next one” mentality prevailed, and with some justification. Panama was always going to be the toughest matchup of this group stage, and the US will now hunt for two emphatic victories against Martinique and Nicaragua to ensure that they finish in first place, the reward for which is a quarterfinal meeting with one of the other groups’ third-place finishers.

Martinique Outlook

Thanks to their close connections to the French soccer landscape – the likes of Thierry Henry and Raphael Varane trace their heritage back to the island – Les Matinino have ample experience in big European leagues and thus far have shown little fear of the Gold Cup spotlight.

One wrinkle that could provide this David with a little extra help against Goliath: The squad’s current general manager is David Regis, the former US international who was born on Martinique and is helping his native land prepare for this meeting.

Regis – a member of the Arena-led team that won the 2002 Gold Cup – has expressed some frustration with clubs’ reluctance to release Martiniquais players for this event, but still believes the group can thrive.

“We're in a tough group, but on the pitch, everything is possible,” he told France Football, specifically noting the value of the MLS experience brought to the team by Parsemain and Seattle’s Jordy Delem. “They have the talent. I see them working every day, and I am confident in their qualities … I try to make them understand that football is not a question of name or contract, it is a matter of men, and they will be judged only on the field.”

History

Though Martinique have participated in four previous Gold Cups, this is only the second meeting between these sides, both overall and in this tournament. A Brian McBride brace steered the US to a 2-0 victory at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts when they first met, in the group stage of the 2003 Gold Cup.

Players to Watch

USA – Kellyn Acosta

The FC Dallas Homegrown is the fastest-rising star in the USMNT midfield, and has been widely tabbed as a breakout star of this event. He fell well short of his own high standards against Panama, however, and will have to be much cleaner and sharper on both sides of the ball in this one. Mindful of the team’s bigger center-mid picture beyond this tournament, Arena will be watching closely.

Martinique –  Kevin Parsemain

Les Matinino’s most experienced striker will remember many of the US players from his yearlong stint with the Sounders – which began promisingly with a standout 2014 preseason, but was driven off course by a serious knee injury just a few weeks after he signed a contract. He’ll surely be motivated by the memories of that experience and Saturday’s goal provides momentum.

USA Roster

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)

Martinique Roster

GOALKEEPERS (3): Loic Chauvet (CS Case-Pilote / MTQ), Kevin Olimpa (Platanias FC / GRE), Emmanuel Vermignon (Club Colonial / MTQ)

DEFENDERS (7): Sebastien Cretinoir (Golden Lion de Saint-Joseph / MTQ), Jordy Delem (Seattle Sounders / USA), Gerald Dondon (Club Colonial / MTQ), Antoine Jean-Baptiste (FC Villefranche / FRA), Florian Narcissot (Club Franciscain / MTQ), Karl Vitulin (AS Samaritaine / MTQ), Nicolas Zaire (Club Franciscain / MTQ)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Stephane Abaul (Club Franciscain / MTQ), Daniel Herelle (Golden Lion de Saint-Joseph / MTQ), Christof Jougon (Club Franciscain / MTQ), Djenhael Mainge (Club Franciscain / MTQ), Jean-Manuel Nedra (Aiglon du Lamentin / MTQ), Yann Thimon (Golden Lion de Saint-Joseph / MTQ)

FORWARDS (7): Anthony Angely (Poitiers FC / FRA), Yoann Arquin (Mansfield Town / ENG), Johan Audel (Beitar Jerusalem / ISR), Steeven Langil (Waasland-Beveren / BEL), Johnny Marajo (Club Franciscain / MTQ), Kevin Parsemain (Golden Lion de Saint-Joseph / MTQ), Gregory Pastel (RC Riviere-Pilote / MTQ)

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