The USMNT heads to the knockout stage in Arlington, Texas, including Rapids’ Sam Vines and Kellyn Acosta.
The U.S. Men National Team (USMNT) continued their winning ways in Concacaf Gold Cup Group play by defeating Team Canada 1-0 in sweltering Kansas City, Kansas. Forward Shaquell “Shaq” Moore scored his first career international goal just 20 seconds after kick-off and turned out to be the match’s only goal by the final whistle.
Colorado Rapids midfielder Kellyn Acosta was in the mix as the quick goal developed in Children’s Mercy Park. Acosta took the ball off the boot of teammate Gianluca Busio and sent a swift pass out wide on the left side to a surging Sebastian Lletget. The team veteran whipped a low cross that zipped past forward Gyasi Zardes to Moore who struck the ball into the back of Canada’s net.
KEEP GOING SHAQ! pic.twitter.com/DtrBdnmzp4
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) July 19, 2021
“We wanted to win the group and we won the group. They [Canada] had to come into the game only needing a tie, and they didn’t get it. So for us, we’re happy,” said USMNT skipper, Gregg Berhalter, during his post-match press conference. “I think it was an amazing start to the game and then there was a lot of suffering … the guys persevered and showed amazing character and amazing effort under really difficult conditions in the heat and the opponent having the ball for large portions.” Despite the oppressive heat and humidity of the afternoon match, Team USA held its ground.
Once Canada shook off the initial goal, they seized control of the ball and came at the U.S. for the next 80 minutes of testy play.
Stalwart defenseman Walker Zimmerman went down with an injury at the 9th minute. His replacement Donovan Pines stepped up, as did Rapids’ left back Sam Vines and mister box-to-box Kellyn Acosta, to fend off the barrage of attacks, breakaways, and several close call penalties near and inside the 18-yard box.
For the gritty Vines and Acosta, it was the second time that the pair started together in the tournament. Both were in game one’s starting XI against Haiti. With this match, Acosta earned his 34th cap while Vines got his 5th for the Stars and Stripes.
“Decision-making under these conditions, you get stressed. In these types of [weather] conditions, when you have the ball, you need to keep the ball,” Gregg Berhalter stated. “Because when you don’t have the ball, it’s going to be difficult to get it back. It’s hard to bring the high intensity in weather like this… So you need intensity to win the ball back, and for us it was a matter of just keeping the ball, making them run. At times we did it really well in the first half; the second half, very rarely did we keep it, and then we ended up defending,” he added.
Sam Vines was particularly noticeable on his side of the pitch holding off the Les Rouges offensive unit at bay.
Near the close of the first half, the Canadians made another push at attempting to score before the whistle blew. Around the 45th minute, New England Revolution winger and Canadian Tajon Buchanan had intentions of taking a swipe at scoring from the right side of the field. He cut inside toward the goal and got off a rocket; however, a horizontal-sliding block from the soon-to-be playing in the Belgium First Division Vines kept the ball from finding the back of the net.
In first-half stoppage time, the 22-year old Vines, a Colorado Springs native and product of both the Pride Youth Soccer Club and the Rapids’ Development Academy, came up big again against the Canucks.
Once again, Buchanan was figuring out a route past the U.S defense, now with five men attempting to barricade the goal. He beautifully heel passed the ball to Junior Hoilett, who unluckily miskicked his shot across the mouth of the goal; however, the fumbling ball was still in a very dangerous location. Keen to the immediate risk, Vines stretched in just enough to clear the bouncing ball away before an oncoming Alistair Johnston could take a full-on strike at it.
If there was a post-game award given to defensemen, Vine would have earned it. American Soccer scribe Brian Sciaretta summed up Vines’ fine play in this tweet:
Sam Vines: raw # for the #USMNT in 1-0 win over Canada
2 key passes
3/3 accurate crossing
0/1 long balls
5/7 duels won
2/3 aerials won
– very good game
— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) July 18, 2021
As this 23-player team continues to develop harmony before their must-win match in climate-controlled AT&T Stadium, Berhalter concluded his presser on a positive note: “When you want something bad enough, and we wanted to win the group, you put out that type of effort, I am really, really proud of the effort of the guys.”
With the nail-biting win, the Yanks secured the number one spot in Group B of the tournament. The confident teammates will now travel to Texas to face-off with the winner of this Sunday’s quarterfinal between Jamaica vs. Costa Rica at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
With center back Walker Zimmerman hurt, along with nagging injuries to Reggie Cannon and Paul Arriola, Berhalter and staff may leverage Concacaf’s Medical Committee’s newest policy that permits teams to replace players who are deemed unable to play as a result of their health. The USMNT will have until Saturday, July 24 to make the change.
A logical candidate to replace Zimmerman is Rapids centerback Auston Trusty, who had been training with the USMNT as a member of the team’s provisional Gold Cup roster this past June. He was also named to Jason Kreis’ U.S. 26-player preliminary roster ahead of 2021 Olympic Qualifiers. Trusty received his first senior team call-up to the 2019 January camp, and has been seeing considerable playing time this season for the Rapids.