Americans will host Qatar in semifinals on Thursday in Austin following Sunday’s 1-0 victory

By Official Florida FC

The United States eliminated Jamaica from the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the third straight tournament on Sunday night. The Americans will face tournament guest Qatar on Thursday in Austin.

Orlando City forward Daryl Dike started the match for the USMNT, but was not the effective in his hour on the pitch. Outside of Dike’s listless appearance, here are three random thoughts from Sunday’s win of the Reggae Boyz.

Acosta may prove invaluable

The CONCACAF Nations League and CONCACAF Gold Cup have helped USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter identify his best XI. There are still question marks at center forward and, maybe, in goal. Colorado Rapids midfieder Kellyn Acosta may not be a starter, but he might prove to be a useful squad player during World Cup Qualifying.

The 26-year-old Texan played as a No. 8 for the USMNT on Sunday night in Arlington, Texas. Though the Americans struggled to link midfield and attack at times during the first half, his composure in possession in the second half and ability to find spaces where the USMNT could move forward is useful against any side.

Throw in Acosta’s versatility – he played as a No. 8, but he could be a No. 6 in midfield and deputize as either a right fullback or right wingback – as well as his experience and he could prove to be someone who provides valuable minutes in places like the Azeteca, in Kingston, in San Pedro Sula and other inhospitable outposts the Americans will face in World Cup qualifying.

Having someone who has played 200 professional matches and earned more than 30 caps in the middle of the park – whether they start or come off the bench—will be needed for a USMNT program that will start at least six players who will go through their first World Cup qualifying cycle.

Hoppe’s hope

Californian Matthew Hoppe burst onto the scene last year when he scored a hat trick in the German Bundesliga for woeful Schalke. Though Schalke was relegated, the 20-year-old led the club with six goals in 22 Bundesliga appearances.

He scored his first international goal on Sunday in the 83rd minute to give the USMNT a 1-0 win.

No one is saying Hoppe should be written in ink as a starter for the USMNT. But, no one has stepped up to earn the No. 9 position. Hoppe played as a center forward for Schalke and as a wide forward for the USMNT, so he could prove to be an option off the bench in World Cup qualifying.

Hoppe has only scored one international goal but his willingness to take shots, and put them on frame, will always endear him to coaches. He just needs to tidy up his passing and secondary touches if he wants to earn minutes with the full USMNT.

Captain conundrum

When Walker Zimmerman was ruled out of the Gold Cup through injury, USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter was not left with a lot of options of who the program’s on-field captain should be.

Paul Arriola captained the USMNT for the first hour. But, when the D.C. United winger was substituted in the 63rd minute the armband went to Sebastian Lletget. It shouldn’t have.

Lletget is a fine player, who has carved a niche, as an attacking midfielder and potential false nine for the USMNT. But, to hand him the captain’s armband less than three months after being suspended for recording a homophobic slur toward a teammate in jest and posting it on Instagram, was a brain cramp by all involved. Lletget should not be recognized as the on-field leader of a soccer team representing the entire United States.

Sunday’s lineup was the sixth-youngest USMNT starting XI in a competitive match. Though eight men in the starting lineup had 10 or fewer caps, there was still no excuse for Lletget to serve as the on-field captain for the final 27 minutes.

One Arriola departed, Acosta should have served as the captain. Arguably, Lletget means more to the fortunes of the USMNT than Acosta; but, one of them can be relied upon to lead through word and action and the other eroded that trust.

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