After surprising many with a run to the knockout round of the 2014 World Cup, the U.S. Men’s National Team should be looking forward to next year’s Gold Cup.
Manager Jurgen Klinsmann injected the squad with a bit of youth during their World Cup campaign and their collective success has many excited about the prospects of this team moving forward.
The next major tournament for the USMNT is the 2015 Gold Cup which has an undetermined host country, but should offer fans another chance to see the bright, young talent Klinsmann has at his disposal now.
While Klinsmann seems to be heading in the direction of handing over minutes to many of the younger players in the player pool, there are a few spots where it is unclear what Klinsmann will do as far as roster selection.
The left-back spot seems to be up for grabs as DaMarcus Beasley might have had his swan song in that loss to Belgium and Timmy Chandler basically played himself out of immediate contention for the position in friendlies leading up to the tournament. Will Klinsmann move Fabian Johnson over to the left side to allow DeAndre Yedlin, who turned heads in Brazil, a chance for a regular starting role? Or will Klinsmann look at someone like Greg Garza who seems to be the next worthy candidate? Garza plays left-back regularly for Tijuana in the Mexican league as a 22-year-old and many have touted him as the ideal replacement for Beasley.
Figuring out Michael Bradley‘s position going forward will also be a bit of a challenge for Klinsmann. Bradley performed well, but not up to the usual standard we’ve come to expect from him as he played a foreign, more advanced position in midfield during the World Cup. Will Mix Diskerud be ready to take up that position in order to allow Bradley to excel in a deep-lying role? Could the potential inclusion of Gedion Zelalem be the necessary component needed to finally transform the attack in the aggressive approach Klinsmann has been promising? Zelalem is an unknown variable at this point, but his potential is off the charts and could be the key to the USMNT making a leap to the next level.
We must also consider the futures of Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey whose collective accomplishments have been invaluable to the team. Klinsmann could use these two as mentors to the younger players as he begins to usher them in for the new era of American soccer, but how long might that possible mentoring period last?
The Gold Cup will be used as another measuring device to see how much progress the USMNT has made under Klinsmann, but one thing should be expected: the team needs to begin showing the attack-minded and possession-based soccer that Klinsmann has mentioned in his vision when he took over this program.
This upcoming tournament will be the first audition for young players like Garza and, potentially, Zelalem. It will also show exactly what type of plan Klinsmann has in place as he tries to improve his team for the next World Cup in Russia. A heavy focus on including the younger players will mean the trial by fire approach is in effect. A squad similar to the one that went to Brazil might mean that there is still a learning curve the inexperienced players will have to go through in order to earn minutes.
While the 2018 World Cup is the ultimate goal, Klinsmann is aware that this upcoming Gold Cup will be important in developing the team further in the direction he wants it to go and it could be another chance for other young American players to provide a glimpse of what they can bring to the team.