When a team enters into a tournament, the obvious aspirations are to get to the final and win. Tournaments create weary legs and can spark controversy for any number of reasons. It is rare that so many positives can be taken from a tournament before it is even over, but that is exactly the case with the U.S. Men’s National Team in the Gold Cup.
There were plenty of interesting storylines before the Gold Cup started this year for the U.S., and many of them developed into success stories. Specific players were under a microscope such as Landon Donovan and Chris Wondolowski, but there was also interest in the younger players on the roster and how they would perform. Much to the pleasure of Americans, all of these players performed at a high level and really helped the team.
The return of Donovan probably received the most attention due to the player’s popularity. Admitting that he wasn’t the same player he used to be, some didn’t think he would be up to the challenge of multiple intense games in such quick succession. Those doubts were soon quashed by the stellar play of the forward. To me, it does not look like Donovan has lost a step at all as he has racked up the goals and assists for the U.S. He also provides leadership on the field and has really solidified his position on the first team.
Wondolowski is a player who has been able to score plenty of goals in the MLS, but had never quite transferred his skills to the international level. After not finding the back of the net in his first nine caps, some wrote him off assuming he wasn’t cut out for the national team. “Wondo” proved the nay-sayers wrong by scoring six goals in three games, including a first-half hat trick against Belize. He has a propensity for putting himself in the right place at the right time which is a quality that many forwards would love to have. His goal-scoring ability is undeniable and he has made a statement about his ability to produce on the international level.
Plenty of other players have impressed during their appearances in the tournament as well. Older guys such as Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and DaMarcus Beasley have all played exceptionally in their appearances. Some of the younger players are also giving coach Jürgen Klinsmann something to consider when he chooses his roster for the World Cup Qualifying matches in September. Mix Diskerud and Joe Corona are some of the players of the future for the U.S. and I’m sure the team is delighted to see their progress on the field.
Even if the U.S. loses to Panama in the final on Sunday, there would still be a lot of positives to take out of the tournament, but it would still be a big disappointment. A loss could deflate the confidence that the team has built in the past 10 games, which could have an impact in qualifying games in the future. I don’t see this happening, however, as I fully expect all of the players mentioned above to contribute to a solid team performance. I am confident that this team will handle Panama in convincing fashion and prove that they are the team to beat in CONCACAF.
Be sure to watch the U.S. take on Panama in the Gold Cup final on Sunday at 3 p.m. CT on Fox.