Breaking Down the USMNT’s 2023 Gold Cup Group Stage: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The USMNT recovered from an early hiccup against Jamaica and steamrolled to the knockout round of the 2023 Gold Cup. With a roster full of bubble players, we take a look at how the team fared in the first part of the tournament before it takes on Canada in the quarterfinals. 

The United States men’s national team B/C squad is in the knockout rounds of the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup. It marks the second consecutive Gold Cup in which the USMNT has presented a roster of bubble and mixed players. Last time the team was under Gregg Berhalter and won the tournament, but now, not even bothered to send their rightful national team boss, an interim of the interim has commanded the team to two wins and a draw to close out the group stage.

For the USMNT, the Gold Cup, no matter how it ends, has provided a few answers when it comes to certain players, while also raising questions over others.

Above all of that is the state of CONCACAF as a whole, a federation that insists on filling up the calendar with tournament after tournament. This has led to the Gold Cup, ostensibly the region’s biggest prize, to be competed by a lesser USMNT roster with many main cogs missing. It is a major red flag that needs an overview come the 2030 cycle.

For U.S. Soccer, scheduling has turned the Nations League into the number one priority, and the Gold Cup has turned into the little brother. Still, the tournament provides a place for young talents to get on the field and show their stuff. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of the USMNT’s first round.

The Good

Jesús Ferreira

The heavily criticized U.S. striker now has 14 goals in 21 appearances for the national team. Granted it’s been against mostly CONCACAF opposition, but in the FC Dallas star’s favor is that 11 goals have come in competitions that matter — be them Nations League, World Cup qualifying, and the Gold Cup.

Djordje Mihailovic

The AZ midfielder has looked very solid during the games he has participated in. From quick passes and great control, Djordje Mihailovic has not looked out of place at all in the tournament and is a viable option in case injury should befall Gio Reyna or another attacking first team player.

Gianluca Busio

gianluca busio usmnt

Lost in Serie B on a bad Venezia team, Gianluca Busio continues to prove he is a solid box-to-box player. Four years ago, he had a huge upside, and the former Sporting KC star also won the Gold Cup the last time around in 2021. He has proven himself as a player that can challenge Johnny Cardoso and Luca De La Torre if any of the big three midfielders go down. Busio needs to find a top flight club to keep his stock high, however.

Bryan Reynolds

Bryan Reynolds has the tools to potentially challenge for a first team spot on the USMNT. Sorting out his club situation will be key to getting Reynolds in the conversation, and if he can land at a good club and show consistent form, he could realistically take a first team player’s spot. This kid is that talented.

Jalen Neal

jalen neal usmnt

Calm, cool, and collected, Jalen Neal is a player to keep an eye on in the next few years. He is more of a 2030 project, but the 19-year-old defender can get himself on the national team as others move down the pecking order.

 The Bad (Both the Good Bad and the Really Bad Bad)

Cade Cowell, Good Bad

cade cowell usmnt

The kid has some very interesting skills, but did struggle against teams that are up to standard — first at the U-20 World Cup against Uruguay and then Jamaica at the Gold Cup. Cowell doesn’t seem to be a first squad national team player yet, and he needs to start improving at the club level as well. Nine goals in 94 games in MLS is not enough. He is a project, but a long term one.

Aaron Long, Bad Bad

aaron long usmnt

Long was dreadful against Jamaica and has been poor in MLS this season. A player that has nothing left to show at the USMNT level, he should not be in consideration anymore.

Cristian Roldan

cristian roldan usmnt

Cristian Roldan seems to be very much liked by the USMNT staff and the team. But despite the good vibes he brings to the locker room, the international game has passed by Roldan, who has looked three steps off at the Gold Cup.

Aidan Morris

aiden morris usmnt

Not every dual international is worth fighting for. Aidan Morris is perfect for Canada, not the USMNT.

The Ugly

Alejandro Zendejas

alejandro zendejas usmnt

The hype over the Club America winger has yet to materialize. Completely below average in the first round, Alejandro Zendejas still has the knockout rounds to prove something. As of now,he cannot be a viable replacement if Christian Pulisic ever gets injured, which he does often.

Alan Soñora

alan sonora usmnt

No idea how he is on the USMNT. At Independiente in Argentina, Alan Soñora was at best an average player. Julian Green or Paxten Aaronson deserve looks way before Soñora. He has not been impressive at all.

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