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CONCACAF Gold Cup Preview: USA vs Martinique

The United States looks to rebound from a disappointing draw against Panama

United States v Panama: Group B - 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Game: United States Men’s National Team

Date: Wednesday, July 12

Time: 9:00 p.m. ET, 8:00 p.m. CT, 6:00 p.m. CT, 12:00 AM UTC

Venue: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, Fla.

Television: FS1, UniMas, Unidivision Deportes

Streaming: Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer 2Go, Univision Now

All-time record: 1-0, Last Meeting, 2-0 Win in CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage 2003.

The United States Men’s National Team faces Martinique tonight in its second group stage match of the CONCACAF Gold Cup at 9 p.m. ET at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Fla. The USA is coming off a stale 1-1 draw against a resolute Panama side while Martinique beat Nicaragua 2-0 its last time out on Saturday. With the toughest match out of the way for head coach Bruce Arena’s side, the Americans will be focused on running up the score on the two ‘minnows’ of the group.

While most of the response internally from the squad and from Arena was that the USA did not play their best game against Panama, there seemed to be a urgency for a rebound against Martinique. Arena will likely rotate his squad a fair amount in what expected to by a hot and humid night in Tampa.

Dom Dwyer is also chasing history, having scored in his first two international caps for the USA. If he scores again tonight, he will join Alexander Rae and Eddie Johnson as the only USA players to score in each of their first three appearances.

What to watch for Martinique

For Martinique, the Gold Cup is their World Cup, and the team has already impressed viewers with a 2-0 win over Nicaragua. Under head coach David Regis, the former US International who played in the Gold Cup in 2002 under Arena, Martinique play a scrappy style revolving around striker Kevin Parsemain and defender Jordy Delem, current Seattle Sounders FC player. Against Nicaragua, Martinique was whistled for 22 fouls and issued four yellow cards.

Parsemain is a talented striker and was with the Sounders in 2014, but a torn ACL after the preseason derailed his year and he was waived in March of 2015. He will look to stay in form after scoring in the first group stage match and will be joined up top by Johan Audel and Joann Arquin.

Martinique actually took the game to Nicaragua and dominated play and had the better chances, but they will have to play a completely different style against the USA. Regis’ side will have to defend deep in numbers and look to break out on the counter, while probably having around 40% or less of the possession. Delem’s experience will be key in holding together the backline.

Because Martinique is not officially recognized by FIFA, clubs are not contractually obligated to release their players to the national team, which itself is not allowed to participate in World Cup Qualifying. With the Caribbean Cup and Gold Cup as the two biggest fixtures for the small island nation of around 385,000, the Martinicans will be bringing their best effort and passion against the USA.

What to watch for the USA

Martinique will be no pushover, and Arena has already called for an improved performance. A rotated squad cannot take tonight’s match lightly, but the expectations should be for the USA to win by three or four goals. Brad Guzan will get the start again in goal.

The backline will probably feature Villafana, Gonzalez, Hedges and Lichaj. Zusi could start again, but there has been enough clamoring about that right back spot that Lichaj should at least get a look.

Kellyn Acosta and Dax McCarty should anchor the midfield again, and need to improve the most from the last showing, as Panama’s midfield outclassed and outworked them. Kellyn Rowe was one of the best players against Panama with his assist on Dwyer’s goal so he should get another start. If not, Gyasi Zardes could be out wide. Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya started out wide, but Arena could replace him with another Union man, Chris Pontius. Juan Agudelo or Christian Roldan will likely take up the No. 10 to replace Joe Corona.

Dwyer has had a dream start to his international career, and it either could have earned him rest, or another start as the man in form. If he sits, Jordan Morris could lead the line.

The USA should have the lion’s share of possession and will put immense pressure on the Martinique backline. If the visitors don’t break easily, it will turn into the painful game of trying to find a needed breakthrough on a half chance. If Acosta and McCarty rebound, it should be no problem. Outside of Rowe and Roldan, there might not be any other dynamic playmakers.

What to expect

One way or another, the USA will open the floodgates and coast to a much needed win. That being said, Martinique could delay the party on a muggy night in Florida.

Prediction: 3-0 USA. Dwyer continues his form and maybe Union man Chris Pontius will open his international scoring account as well.