The U.S. Men’s National Team punched their ticket to the semi-finals of the Gold Cup with a 5-1 win over El Salvador. The score line could have been much worse with Dagoberto Portillo making some fine saves for El Salvador. The win itself is a good result for the Americans, but it is the way that the team played that instills confidence going forward.
With the U.S. sporting a weaker squad this tournament, it is great to see the players trying to prove their worth. Everyone was flying around the field looking for the ball, which opened up the space to penetrate El Salvador’s defense. Performances from some of the big names on the team were to be expected, but it was the fringe players that really impressed. Young-boys Joe Corona and Mikkel Diskerud each found the back of the net, while Brek Shea looked much more confident going forward than his previous appearances.
It is reassuring to see these younger players performing so well and scoring goals. The national team has not been the most competitive team in recent years, which is never a good thing. Players get complacent and aren’t pushed to their limits. Now it seems that there will be a fight for each World Cup position, which is very important to this squad. The more established players will certainly be watching this tournament and realize that keeping their place will not be easy.
This team is oozing with confidence at the moment, which is contagious to everyone who steps on the field. Eddie Johnson scored a goal seconds after coming onto the field as a sub. When you see that the team is performing well, you don’t want to be the guy that bucks the trend, and will therefore work as hard as possible to keep the flow going.
Now on a nine-game winning streak, this team is looking like the strongest candidate to win the tournament. Another test against the winner of the Honduras vs. Costa Rica game is all that separates the U.S. from the final where they will most likely face Mexico. That side went through to the semi-finals after an 84th minute winner in an unconvincing performance. If they do make the final and perform like that against this strong American side, it is likely they will be beaten convincingly.
With the players flying high and Coach Jürgen Klinsmann making all the right moves, this team is poised for success. Using the Gold Cup as a platform for the future, this team has some real potential going into the final round of World Cup Qualifying and, of course, the World Cup. If these players can pass along the confidence that they exhibit now to the “A-squad”, they will be a tough team to beat in the coming months.