It was an unchanged XI for the USMNT from their narrow win over Jamaica, Qatar standing between them and the Gold Cup final in Austin, Texas. Sebastian Lletget of the LA Galaxy took the captain’s armband for the second time and Matthew Hoppe, the scorer of the goal in the last game of course kept his spot. Christian Roldan of the Sounders and Portland’s Eryk Williamson were two of the players that same fans were hoping to maybe see from the start but Gregg Berhalter stuck with the winning XI.

KANSAS CITY, KS - JULY 18: Sebastian Lletget #17 of United States during a game between Canada and USMNT at Children’s Mercy Park on July 18, 2021 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, KS – JULY 18: Sebastian Lletget #17 of United States during a game between Canada and USMNT at Children’s Mercy Park on July 18, 2021 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The first half at Q2 Stadium passed by in pretty uneventful fashion between the USMNT and Qatar. Matt Turner, goalkeeper for New England, was at the fore of the only magical moment as he sprung off a marvellous reaction save in no time at all. His form for club and country combined with the lack of first team football for Zack Steffen means there really is a debate to be had for the starting goalkeeper in this USMNT roster.

KANSAS CITY, KS - JULY 18: Matt Turner #1 of the United States during a game between Canada and USMNT at Children's Mercy Park on July 18, 2021 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, KS – JULY 18: Matt Turner #1 of the United States during a game between Canada and USMNT at Children’s Mercy Park on July 18, 2021 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Turner was the standout performer in the opening 45 with a couple of quick saves but the defence in front of him looked shaky at times, NYCFC’s James Sands deflecting one towards his own goal dangerously. At the same time, there wasn’t a whole lot of attacking presence from Daryl Dike and co. Paul Arriola continued to be one of the players to have very little impact despite his experience. Regardless, at the break they may not have been winning but they weren’t losing either.

Dike had a good early chance after the break, his movement was excellent, what we’ve come to expect from him, but the finish was somewhat representative of his Gold Cup so far. Hoppe who scored in the quarters played the ball and he has again had glimpses of something special for the USMNT.

AUSTIN, TX - JULY 29: Bassam Al-Rawi #15 of Qatar and Daryl Dike #11of the United States leap over goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham #22 of Qatar during the first half of a 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals match at Q2 Stadium on July 29, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chuck Burton/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX – JULY 29: Bassam Al-Rawi #15 of Qatar and Daryl Dike #11of the United States leap over goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham #22 of Qatar during the first half of a 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals match at Q2 Stadium on July 29, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chuck Burton/Getty Images)

Just moments later, at the other end, a mistimed tackle from Sands on Akram Afif is sure to lead to VAR intervening after the ref waved the initial appeals away on the field. The ref took his time at the monitor but it was merely delaying the inevitable, the whistle being closely followed by an outstretched arm in the direction of the penalty spot.

AUSTIN, TX - JULY 29: Akram Afif #11 of Qatar falls as Miles Robinson #12 drives past during the first half of a 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals match at Q2 Stadium on July 29, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chuck Burton/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX – JULY 29: Akram Afif #11 of Qatar falls as Miles Robinson #12 drives past during the first half of a 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals match at Q2 Stadium on July 29, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chuck Burton/Getty Images)

Hassan Al-Haydos stepped up and although Turner went the wrong way, the Qatar captain missed the target altogether. A huge lifeline for the USMNT! Berhalter’s immediate response being the introduction of Roldan, Gyasi Zardes and Reggie Cannon; Serie A-bound Gianluca Busio going off along with Shaq Moore and Dike who had a tough time of it in truth.

AUSTIN, TX - JULY 29: Players of the United States scuffle with players of Qatar during the first half of a 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals match at Q2 Stadium on July 29, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chuck Burton/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX – JULY 29: Players of the United States scuffle with players of Qatar during the first half of a 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals match at Q2 Stadium on July 29, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chuck Burton/Getty Images)

Substitute Eryk Williamson went down in the box late on and it seemed as if he had a case. The ref had no intention of awarding this penalty either but it didn’t matter, Zardes on hand to poke home what was surely a winner. Kansas City-born Nicholas Gioacchini caused issues down the flank and when he pulled it back to the Columbus striker, there was only one outcome, 1-0 to the USMNT at the death!

USA's Gyasi Zardes (L) scores during the Concacaf Gold Cup semifinal football match between Qatar and USA at Q2 stadium in Austin, Texas on July 29, 2021. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
USA’s Gyasi Zardes (L) scores during the Concacaf Gold Cup semifinal football match between Qatar and USA at Q2 stadium in Austin, Texas on July 29, 2021. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Qatar had the better chances in the first half and Matt Turner did what he does to keep his team in it. Qatar even squandered a golden opportunity from the penalty spot, the USMNT showed it truly is fine margins but a win is a win. Roldan came off the bench and added that fight, that desire- he took the game to the opponents in Austin with real intent. Zardes, another of Berhalter’s subs scored the goal of course.

DENVER, CO - JUNE 03: United States head coach Gregg Berhalter looks on in action during the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal match between the United States and Honduras on June 03, 2021, at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver, CO. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – JUNE 03: United States head coach Gregg Berhalter looks on in action during the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal match between the United States and Honduras on June 03, 2021, at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver, CO. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

 Props have to go to the USMNT manager who impacted the games with his changes and they were much needed in truth. Dike and Arriola weren’t great, Turner was the man of the match for Berhalter’s side with Hoppe again showing us glimpses. The perfect performance hasn’t been in their vocabulary in this tournament, nowhere near it in fact, but either way there is just one win now standing between the USMNT and a seventh Gold Cup title!

Leave a Reply