Jesus Ferreira scored another hat-trick; USMND defeated Trinidad and Tobago

CHARLOTTE — Even without most of its best players, the U.S. men’s national soccer team has high expectations for this CONCACAF Gold Cup. Two years ago, such losses didn’t derail a championship campaign, and given the program’s dominance in the region over the past few years, anything less will not be enough to make an appearance in the July 16 finals.

Sunday’s imperatives ended with a 6-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago, which, along with other results in Group A, left the Americans atop the top four.

The U.S. and Jamaica each finished 2-0-1 — the Reggae Boys defeated St. Kitts and Nevis 5-0 on Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif. — but the Americans enjoyed a better goal differential (plus-12 to Jamaica’s plus-eight). The Americans will face the second-place finisher from Group D in either Guadeloupe, Guatemala or Canada in next Sunday’s quarterfinals in Cincinnati. That group will conclude on Tuesday.

Running things until Greg Berhalter’s second term begins later is interim coach P.J. “It’s a fantastic opportunity as we want to expose as many players as we can to our group stage this summer,” said Callaghan.

It helps keep a striker in better shape. Jesús Ferreira, 22, who started once at the World Cup, feasted on weak Concacaf opposition. In front of 40,243 at Bank of America Stadium, he scored three goals before halftime, becoming the first player in program history to record back-to-back hat tricks.

“If I think about scoring more, I know it goes to my head,” said the FC Dallas forward, who has scored 14 goals in 21 American appearances. “I just go out there and focus on what I can do and enjoy the game.”

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Ferreira’s third career hat trick tied Landon Donovan’s program record.

“When I see his movement in the box and his confidence, you can tell the game has slowed down for him and he’s putting balls in the back of the net,” Callaghan said.

“A lot of people say that scoring goals in football is very difficult. “I like to think it’s hard to save them or just be a goalkeeper in general,” said Matt Turner, US keeper and captain, with a smile. “But I’m so happy about Jesus.”

Kate Cowell, 19; Gianluca Busio, 21; And Brandon Vasquez, 24, scored in the second half as the U.S. beat St. Kitts and Nevis in St. Louis on Wednesday.

“We achieved our first objective, which was to top the group,” Turner said. “We took care of business when we needed it [with] Obviously a young team and a few guys who have never played together. You watched us grow.

Group play has never been an obstacle for the U.S.: It has a 40-1-5 record, including 20-0-2 against Caribbean opposition. The only loss came to Panama in 2011, a misstep for Mexico en route to a tournament runner-up finish.

The Americans have generally thrived in this tournament, and after a late 1-1 draw against Jamaica in Chicago on June 24, they played lesser opponents. The U.S. has beaten the Soca Warriors three times, 19-0, after losing to Trinidad and Tobago in 2017 and missing out on a chance at the 2018 World Cup.

Ferreira opened the scoring in the 14th minute on Sunday, capping an 11-pass sequence that was thrown deep into the American end. Exploiting space on the left side, Tijuan Jones worked alongside Christian Roldan. Jones crossed to Ferreira, who lifted the ball to himself and fired home from eight yards.

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In the 38th minute, Djordje Mihajlovic beat Alejandro Zendejas and Ferreira at the back post. Ferreira’s initial touch slipped to goalkeeper Marvin Phillips, who failed to clear it. Ferreira pulled the ball away from the scrappy keeper and defender Sheldon Bateau tagged a low shot that deflected into the net.

Ferreira conceded a penalty kick in first-half stoppage time after Alvin Jones brought down Mihailovic in the box.

Cowell extended the lead in the 65th minute when he pounced on a mischievous back pass and juggled Phillip and a defender to register his first international goal. Fourteen minutes later, Puccio scored his first goal after pushing away a cross from Julian Gressel. Striker Vasquez, competing with Ferreira for playing time, came off the bench to add the stoppage-time goal.

Notes: Midfielder Alan Sonora (hamstring strain) will be replaced on the roster, Callaghan said. Myles Robinson, who played the first half on Sunday, and Jordan Morris, who did not play, are day-to-day with injuries and will be evaluated. Midfielder Aidan Morris has been ruled out of camp for personal reasons. …

In his 30th appearance, Turner quickly became the American goalie with his 20th shutout and 20th win.

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