After returning to Crew SC, both Trapp and Zardes emphasized the honor it is to represent the United States on the pitch at any time but felt that the group for this tournament was what really stood out.
“That group was special,” said Trapp, who was participating in his first Gold Cup. “Truly, the entire team not only cared about how we were going to play but also each other. Whether you were on the field or not on the field, we bought into a collective mentality and a culture that was probably one of the best I have ever been a part of.”
Zardes, who also represented the Stars & Stripes in both the 2015 and 2017 Gold Cups, believed that the group bonded so well that it felt like they were “flying,” which then transferred into their play on the field.
With this culture, the USMNT rolled through group play with a 3-0 record, scoring 11 goals and allowing zero. In the opening match against Guyana, Zardes was able to score the third goal of the game in the 55th minute when the ball ricocheted off of him into the net.
“I thought the cross was going to come to me initially and I was going to head it,” Zardes said about his goal. “I was still making that movement. I think the defender headed it out and it just deflected right off of my face. Luckily, I was in tune to the ball coming back to me, so I could put it on target.”
Additionally, Trapp contributed in the Guyana match when he came off the bench in the 62nd minute for Michael Bradley. In the 81st minute, Trapp played a diagonal ball to Paul Arriola, which led to Tyler Boyd’s second goal for the night. When asked about this play, Trapp acknowledged that his effort was all about doing his job for the group.
“When you come in,” he said, “it is just making a point of ‘I’m here to help the team finish the game.’ Paul [Arriola] made a good run. We were trying to make a run to open them up with diagonal balls in behind and that was exactly what we did. Paul [Arriola] made a great play and then Tyler [Boyd] scored his second of the game, which was great.”
In the second match against Trinidad and Tobago at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland, Zardes tallied a brace on the way to a 6-0 victory. These goals were of special importance for Zardes as his son was in attendance.
“I was just happy to be able to score two because my son was there," he said. "He really loves soccer and I really love the fact I can score and show him what I can do on the field to motivate him.”
Having already qualified for the quarterfinals, the USMNT rotated its starting lineup for the final group match, giving Trapp the start in the 1-0 victory against Panama.
“It was great for that 11 guys who maybe had not been featured a bunch in the tournament to that point to now have some ownership of our pursuit to not only win the group,” Trapp said, “but to also move on into the knockout stages.”
In elimination play, the Stars & Stripes advanced to the final after they defeated Curacao 1-0 in the quarterfinals and Jamaica 3-1 in the semifinals.
In the Gold Cup final, the USMNT faced Mexico in Chicago, with what both Trapp and Zardes would describe as a very “pro-Mexican” crowd. The match ended in a 1-0 defeat for the Men’s National team off of a 73rd-minute goal from Jonathan dos Santos.
“Obviously, we fell short in the end,” said Trapp, “and it is disappointing, we can use the experience and the memory of them receiving the trophy ahead of us and burn that into our memories in a good way.”
Despite falling short in the final, both Trapp and Zardes are excited about the growth of the group throughout the tournament and are looking forward to what is to come from the USMNT in the future.
“I think you are already seeing the buy-in from the players,” Trapp explained. “Not only that but also making the national team a place where everybody wants to be there. You always want to be there, but in a sense, you want to be there because of the honor of playing, but now for what you are going to learn.”
“I feel like we are executing one of our goals and that is changing the way people view American soccer,” Zardes added. “I think over the years; you are going to see the transformation and it is going in a positive trajectory.”
As for the Black & Gold, the Crew travel to face Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium on Saturday, July 13 [7:30 p.m. ET / FOX Sports Ohio, FOX Sports GO (Stream) 97.1 The Fan & 971TheFan.com (English); ColumbusCrewSC.com (Spanish)].