The USMNT looked to have turned a corner at the beginning of the calendar year. Three wins by a combined six goals over Panama, Costa Rica and Ecuador looked to give new head coach Gregg Berhalter momentum heading into Gold Cup action this week.
However, consecutive embarrassments to Jamaica and Venezuela, the latter by three goals in Cincinnati, have the young team reeling heading into tonight’s tournament opener versus Guyana (10 p.m. EST, FS1).
The U.S. currently ranks No. 30 in the world, while the roster has an average age of 25 and a half years. One thing that has either built momentum or worked as a palate cleanser for the club is the Gold Cup.
Over 17 appearances, the USMNT has claimed six titles in the North American tournament.
USMNT Results in Gold Cup
The USMNT first broke through with a title in 1991. Bouncing in between the Rose Bowl and Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, the Americans bounced tournament favorite Mexico in the semifinals 2-0. It took eight penalty kicks to beat Honduras in the final 0-0 (4-3).
This result built the foundation for the team’s best finish at a World Cup since the 3rd-place finish in 1930. As the host nation in 1994, the Yanks broke into the knockout stage after a 2-1 over Columbia in the Group Stage.
There would be an 11-year gap in between titles. In 2002, they won another scoreless shootout (4-2) in the semifinal over Canada, and then stiff-armed Panama 2-0 in the final.
Just like the last championship, the Americans followed that up with another breakthrough performance in the World Cup. Buoyed by an upset over Portugal, they ousted Mexico 2-0 in the knockout stage before falling to eventual finalist Germany in the quarterfinals.
The disappointing 2006 World Cup was sandwiched by titles in 2005 and 2007. Six years later, Landon Donovan and Chris Wondolowski each scored five goals to fuel another title run.
The USMNT dominated the competition, winning its games by a combined score of 20-4. The clincher was a 1-0 squeaker over Panama. This set up another knockout stage appearance in 2014.
The final title in 2017 means that the U.S. is the defending champions in the event. Former head coach Bruce Arena, who replaced Jurgen Klinsmann deep into World Cup qualifying, tried to use the tournament as a springboard to a World Cup berth.
This meant an inspired effort by a team that didn’t have stars such as Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey nor Jozy Altidore on the roster. A trio of 2-goal games in the final three games was enough for a title, capped by a 2-1 decision over Jamaica.
The Gold Cup triumph didn’t have the intended effect, as the Americans lost to Trinidad and Tobago in a massive upset to deny them an eighth straight World Cup appearance.
With the young roster, Berhalter knows that despite past success, the USMNT will not be considered the favorite.
“I think this is a great process for this group to go through,” he said to MLS Soccer on Monday. “In training today there was a little bit of nerves, because we have the first game, we’ve been building this up. It’s great that we get to experience this together.”