5 Things We Learned About U.S. Soccer From The 2013 Gold Cup
5 Things We Learned About U.S. Soccer From The 2013 Gold Cup
On Sunday afternoon in Chicago, the U.S. Men’s National Team defeated Panama to win the 2013 Gold Cup, its first Gold Cup championship since 2007. For anyone who watched the Gold Cup in its entirety, there is no doubt that the U.S. was the best team in the tournament, and it wasn’t even close. The Americans won all six games they played in the three-week tournament, and dominated each of their opponents.
The Americans breezed through the group stage, ran away from El Salvador in the quarterfinals, absolutely suffocated a tough Honduras team in the semi-finals and put away a pesky Panama team in the finals. Despite using a largely different roster than the one that won three consecutive games in 2014 World Cup qualifying leading up to the Gold Cup, the Americans didn’t miss a beat as they continued their dominance over the CONCACAF region.
But aside from winning the Gold Cup, which they did in convincing fashion, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann wanted to use the tournament as an opportunity to get playing time for younger players and those who have been away from the national team for a while, as well as learn things about his team, all of which he was able to do.
Using their so-called B-roster, the Americans showed that they have incredible depth in their player pool, something that will come in handy as they move closer to the 2014 World Cup next summer. Aside from seeing some of their younger players perform well in a tournament setting, here are five things we learned about the U.S. during the Gold Cup:
Landon Donovan Is Still An Integral Part of the Team
There were questions about Donovan and his future with the national team after his long and self-imposed hiatus, but most of those questions have been answered following the Gold Cup. Donovan was the best player in the tournament and also played some of his best soccer during his career with the national team, showing that he’s equally adept at scoring goals and setting up teammates for goals. If Donovan wants to be a part of the team for the remainder of 2014 World Cup Qualifying and for the 2014 World Cup next summer in Brazil, he will be. After his performance in the Gold Cup, there should be no doubt that Donovan is still an important part of the team, and he could really elevate the team’s performance next summer.
The U.S. Has Incredible Depth At Goalkeeper
Tim Howard’s job probably isn’t in jeopardy, nor is Brad Guzan’s standing as the backup goalie, but the United States once again showcased how good it is at developing goalies. Nick Rimando was great throughout the 2013 Gold Cup as he answered the call and more than likely solidified his spot as the third-string goalie next summer in Brazil. But, the Americans also got a strong performance from Sean Johnson in their win against Costa Rica as he made a spectacular save that started the counter attack that led to the only goal of the game. Depth is an issue at some positions for the U.S., but not at goalie, where the Americans have an impressive amount of talent stockpiled.
Defending Set Pieces Is Still A Concern
If there was a negative that came out of the Gold Cup, it’s the struggles the Americans are still having when they have to defend set pieces. The U.S. only allowed four goals in the tournament, but two of them were off set pieces. The Americans are too big and too athletic defensively for set pieces to be such a big problem for them. Whatever the issue is, it wasn’t fixed in the Gold Cup, although not allowing free kicks in their defensive third of the field would be a great place to start solving the problem.
The Players and Jurgen Klinsmann Are Starting To Click
The U.S. roster for the 2013 Gold Cup was almost entirely different than the roster that has won three straight 2014 World Cup Qualifying matches and has the Americans on the verge of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, but that wasn’t an issue. Regardless of which players are on the field, the U.S. is starting to implement the style and pace that Jurgen Klinsmann wants to play, and the results in qualifying and during the Gold Cup reflect that. Klinsmann is also starting to understand the team better, and is pushing all the right buttons. When he inserted Chris Wondolowski in the game against Cuba, it sparked a second-half rally that led to an easy win. When he subbed in Eddie Johnson against El Salvador, Johnson scored within seconds. The team and Klinsmann are starting to understand one another, which is huge for U.S. soccer moving forward.
DaMarcus Beasley Will Be In Brazil Next Summer
Two months ago, DaMarcus Beasley received his 100th cap with the national team in a friendly against Belgium while playing his third game at left back, a position where he had almost no experience and where he was looked at as a temporary fill-in. But following the recent 2014 World Cup Qualifying matches and the 2013 Gold Cup, Beasley is likely no. 1 on the depth chart at left back for the U.S. Barring an injury, he is almost assured of a spot on the 2014 World Cup roster next summer, giving him the opportunity to play in his fourth World Cup. Beasley is as thin and scrawny as ever, but he’s proven himself to be a fierce defender and as tough of a competitor as there exists in the game of soccer. He can still join the attack from his left back position, utilizing his speed and skills, but he doesn’t have to run as much as he did during his days as midfielder, which makes left back the perfect position for him. Outside of Fabian Johnson, who Jurgen Klinsmann may actually prefer to play at midfield, the U.S. doesn’t seem to have anyone that can unseat Beasley between now and next summer, which means he can book his ticket for Brazil.
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