While the United States Women’s National Team is in France mounting what looks destined to be a hellacious defense of their World Cup title, their disgraced counterparts on the men’s side quietly played and won their first competitive game since, well, that game in Trinidad & Tobago. Since the USMNT was humiliated out of World Cup contention in October of 2017, U.S. Soccer has only partially reckoned with the scope of its monumental failures, dragged its feet hiring the coach everyone knew they would after a year of purgatory, and tuned up for this here Gold Cup by getting smoked by Venezuela.
All of which is to say, a group-stage opener against Guyana never means much, though it was very encouraging to see the USMNT take care of business and get the 4-0 win they were supposed to come away with. Gregg Berhalter’s side is primarily made up of uninspiring MLS dudes, plus a handful of Europe-based youngsters (sadly, not Tyler Adams), plus ancient mainstays like Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, and as expected, Christian Pulisic initiated a good deal of the offense yesterday. However, Pulisic is still working his way into full match fitness, and a far less heralded young dude was the team’s best player last night: Tyler Boyd.
Boyd scored two of the USMNT’s four goals last night, and he spent the entire match pestering Guyana’s backline. He created dangerous chances with his running, his nifty passing in the box, and he showed some smart finishing when het got the chance too. Gregg Berhalter’s system prioritizes wing play, and Boyd certainly made the most of his opportunities. Michael Bradley teed up his first goal with a perfect pass, and Boyd coolly put it in the far corner.
His second was a bombastic cutback shot that may have taken a slight deflection on its way to the net.
Boyd easily could have scored another, though there was nothing discouraging about his performance. In a game where the defense didn’t do much, where the midfield learned how to play together with mixed results, and Gyasi Zardes looked wooden as hell, he and Paul Arriola made the difference. Arriola has played in every game under Berhalter, though last night was only Boyd’s second cap for the USMNT.
Boyd was born in New Zealand to a Kiwi father and an American mother. He grew up in Southern California until he was 10, when he moved back to New Zealand. He began his career there, quickly moving up the youth ranks and even logging five caps for the senior team as a teenager. Boyd was purchased by respectable Portuguese side Vitória de Guimarães in 2015, and he’s spent the intervening four years occasionally making appearances for the senior team in between loan spells with the B-team, another Primeira Liga team, and the Turkish Super Lig’s Ankaragücü, who he helped keep afloat in the top division with six goals in 14 matches. You’ll notice he bonked in this one with his weak foot too.
Earlier this year, Boyd was approached by U.S Soccer officials about playing for the USMNT. Boyd only played in friendly matches for New Zealand, so he was eligible to file a one-time switch, which FIFA approved one month ago. The U.S. has long recruited dual nationals, though very few of them have actually played senior matches for other countries before switching teams.
At the very least, Boyd has cemented himself as a must-start player for the USMNT through the duration of this Gold Cup, and he seems capable of creating good chances in a way that no other player on this current roster can besides Pulisic. A 4-0 win against the 177th-ranked side in the world doesn’t mean much on its own, but it’s fine to be encouraged by Boyd’s performance.