On October 10, 2017, the world stopped for the U.S. Men’s National Team. A stunning 2-1 loss to Trinidad & Tobago kept the USMNT out of the World Cup in Russia. A new coach in Gregg Berhalter and a new squad– including New York Red Bulls defender Aaron Long– sought to finally turn the page on that moment. The two CONCACAF sides met in Cleveland for the second match in the Gold Cup group stage.
Long went the full ninety minutes in the quiet 4-0 shutout against Guyana. Berhalter implemented the same starting XI. The pace began similar for the Yanks as in the previous match. In the first ten minutes, Trinidad & Tobago made a determined advance on the US goal and keeper Zach Steffen. Khaleem Hyland made the first shot on target for the Soca Warriors in this tournament. Reacting quickly, Steffen punched the shot away. The ball was flicked on by Long to send it to the other end of the pitch. Hyland, who was injured making the shot, left the game in the 17th minute.
First International Goal
The style of play for the National Team is heavier on possession than Long utilizes with RBNY. He was mostly tasked to maintain his position as central defender and start plays out of the back. His prowess in the air, however, put him above Michael Bradley during set pieces, like the free kick at the half hour mark. This is what put him in the right place in the 41st minute.
A scuffle following another free kick in the attacking third was settled with a cross from Christian Pulisic. Long redirected it with his head, sending the ball under the Trinidadian goalkeeper’s arm. This was Long’s first goal for country in just his eighth appearance.
Keeping Pace in the Second Half
The Americans needed to maintain the tempo going into the second half. Paul Arriola made a breakaway about five minutes in, but his shot went wide of the far post. He had another opportunity just a moment later, but the ball went out for a corner.
Tyler Boyd, who bagged a brace against Guyana, made a shot soon after that also sailed wide. The Yanks continued to knock on the door. Striker Gyasi Zardes squared a ball from Nick Lima to double the lead in the 66th minute. Zardes earned a brace moments later with a strike from the top of the box.
Pulisic added to the scoreboard in the 73rd minute, and Arriola joined in at the 78th. Then, in the waning moments, Aaron Long put the ball into the net once more for a brace of his own. A more emphatic win than the first match, the USMNT put the past behind them with a 6-0 win. The Americans have clinched their spot in the quarterfinals. They head to Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City to finish out the group stage against Michael Amir Murillo and Panama.