Semifinal day here in beautiful Austin. It's great to be back in Texas. I got my taco fix in last night and I have to show a picture because it's actually art.
The USMNT taking on Qatar tonight at 7:30 ET at one of the new gems of MLS. I've been looking forward to visiting Q2 Stadium and its incredible atmosphere.
Tonight will be a matchup of the highest scoring team of the tournament, against the team that's only allowed 1 goal thus far.
The US have been dominant in defense and have only allowed that one goal in the Gold Cup which came in their 6-1 trouncing of Martinique. But Qatar have scored a whopping 12 goals in 4 games. Something has to give. Here are a few things to watch for tonight:
Robinson has easily been the best player for the USMNT in this Gold Cup. He's been a rock on the back line and his closing speed has saved the team in emergency situations. The loss of Walker Zimmerman to injury hurts the defense without a doubt, but Miles has picked up the slack and looked very good in a partnership with James Sands in the quarterfinal game against Jamaica. But tonight will be a test against the well oiled machine that has been Qatar in this tournament, reaching the semifinal as the invited guest to the tournament to the shock of many.
Daryl Dike or Gyasi Zardes? Dike was on the field to start the match against Jamaica only to be subbed off in the 63rd minute for Zardes. It wasn't the best game for the Orlando City striker, but could he be overworked and/or injured? He hurt his shoulder in the final group match against Canada but was thrust into the starting lineup. This guy has played a lot of soccer in the 12 months he's been a professional and seems to be feeling the affects of that. Zardes has not been spectacular but he gets the job done and has played in these massive games before. I would like to see Dike start, but only if he's fit.
It was a fantastic header at an opportune time for the 20 year old Schalke forward. The winner against Jamaica was his signature moment so far, but can he build on it? Hoppe runs all over the field like madman. He has the effort and work rate, but there are moments where he seems to over run the plays without the ball. He has gone on scoring runs before. When he scores, they come in bunches. Right now would be a great time for bunches of goals.
Austin is a soccer city. It's consistently among the cities with the highest ratings in the country for soccer. The club, Austin FC has done an excellent job of connecting with its supporters to truly create a soccer culture in the city. The games have been wild. The support is relentless and on TV, the game day operations look fantastic. You can expect a raucous home crowd supporting the USA. Should be a fantastic atmosphere tonight as this version of the USMNT tries to book their spot in the Gold Cup final.