Friday, June 28, 2013
Nitpicking the USA Gold Cup Roster
The USMNT 23-man roster was finalized yesterday for the biannual CONCACAF Gold Cup by Jurgen Klinsmann. All the names were on the 35-man provisional roster named a few weeks ago, and Klinsy had hinted at how this team would look various times since then. So, there should not be many surprises to the hardcore fan.
In years past, this edition of the GC would be a throw away because it had no implication towards the Confederations Cup. However, this year's champion will battle the 2015 winner for a spot in the 2017 Confed Cup. With that said, let's break it down by position and see what we come up with.
No surprises here, at all. These three have been Klinsmann's go-to MLS 'keepers since he took over. I would imagine Rimando earns starting duties, but it really is a toss up. Rimando is 34 years old, and while he is probably the best out of the three, US soccer would be wise to start investing in younger 'keepers once Timmy Howard (also 34) is done. Personally, I'd like to have seen Brad Guzan get some minutes in meaningful matches for the Nats, since he is heir-apparent to the throne (aka goal).
There are some interesting names in this group. One would assume that these players are here to stand out as substitutes for the current preferred defensive line Klinsmann will put forth next summer. DeMarcus Beasley played pretty well in qualifiers, and he figures to be the starter at left back, but he defensive abilities are a liability. Castillo is far from a fan favorite, he'll try to silence his critics if given a starting role.
Onyewu is back! I'm sure this has more to do with reputation and the potential to replicate, but he has not been the same since his injuries began, along with a handful of woeful career moves. I was never the biggest fan of Gooch because other than aerial ability and physical prowess (he is beastly), his ball skills and decision making leave much to be desired.
This group has a lot to prove. Honestly, having any one of this cast of characters as a starting option come the World Cup scares me a little.
If the defense was worrisome, this midfield needs to pick up their slack. Other than Beckerman (who is either a locker room guy, or a REALLY good practice player), every selection offers exciting potential. The trio of Scandinavian-based players have had solid runs for their clubs over the course of the year, while Corona and Torres have played consistent minutes in Mexico. Corona even has experience against big names in the Copa Libertadores (Xolos were a penalty kick save away from the semi-finals. They lost to Ronaldinho, Jo, and Bernard of Atletico Mineiro and Brazil), which is great for such a young player. There is no pressure on Holden, which should help him settle in and get his rhythm back.
One question still stands, though. Is there no holding midfielder worthy of fighting for a place, other than Beckerman? A position that seemed deep in 2010, considering Maurice Edu couldn't (and still can't) break the starting eleven, has run dry. Young MLS players will probably be given a chance only after 2014.
I would like to see Landon fill the Clint Dempsey role for the tournament because he seems to fit the position best. Though Landon is the only proven goal scorer at this level, it is encouraging to see names who have been performing well for their respective clubs. Wondo may not be at his best this season, but three consecutive seasons at the top of the scoring charts in MLS merits him a place on this team. At the very least, his and Herc's experience should help the younger guys.
Altidore finally found his shooting boots in June, but if he dries up again someone else will need to be relied on to find the back of the net. Hopefully McInerny and Bruin seize this opportunity and don't fall by the wayside like some other MLS stars have.
The fact that this is the Gold Cup, and not the Confeds, or the World Cup makes accepting this roster easier. There is a good mix of proven talent, players on the cusp of a breakthrough, and fresh blood. This team will have two games to start strong and potentially lock up a quarter-final berth. If the this group can jell quickly against Belize and Cuba, they should have plenty of confidence facing the toughest challengers Costa Rica.
With that said, there are no guarantees this squad will lift the trophy. Between whomever Mexico send (which I assume would also be a 'B' team), and other CONCACAF heavyweights, this figures to be a wide open competition. Expect lots of sloppy play.
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