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Trio of former Tar Heels help USMNT to first place in Gold Cup group

Three former UNC players have got minutes in the US Men’s soccer teams recent run.

Ghana v United States Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

They don’t have the quite the same history of success and player production that the women’s team has, but UNC men’s soccer had put a fair number of players into MLS and the world of soccer in general. Several of those player have found their way onto the US Men’s National Team.

Said US team is currently taking part in the Gold Cup, the championship tournament of North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. The US’s roster for that tournament was seen as a bit experimental, and was built to give players a chance to impress ahead of next year’s World Cup. Several former Tar Heels were included in the squad.

Dax McCarty is a midfielder, who played two seasons at UNC, gaining All-ACC and All-American honors. That propelled him to a high pick in the 2006 MLS Draft. Matt Hedges is a central defender, and was a member of UNC’s 2011 National Championship team. He was named ACC Defender of the Year after transferring in from Butler. The third is Eric Lichaj, who played just one year in Chapel Hill before signing with Aston Villa, who were in the Premier League at the time. He currently plays with Nottingham Forest in the second level of English soccer.

All three have seen action at some point in the tournament. In the US’s opening game against Panama. McCarty started and played solid but unspectacularly as the game finished 1-1.

Both Hedges and Lichaj started in the second game against Martinique, which the US won 3-2. Lichaj was marked as one of the US’s better players, and provided an assist for the second goal. Hedges was partially at fault for one of Martinique’s goals but was decent other than that.

For the third group game, McCarty returned to the starting lineup as the other two dropped back out. He played all 90 minutes as the US came away with a 3-0 win, finishing in first in their group.

One quirk of the Gold Cup is that teams may change their rosters during the tournament, which does not happen in others. At time of writing, it is not known if any of the three Tar Heels will be replaced. However if they did, all three at least got some minutes and a chance to impress a year out from the World Cup. If the former Tar Heels are still around for the next game, the US will next take the field Wednesday.