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What we learned from the United States national team’s Gold Cup win over Costa Rica

Jul 16, 2013, 10:58 PM EDT

Shea came up clutch for the U.S. in the 2013 Gold Cup. But he needs regular soccer to have a chance of making Brazil. Getty Images

Brek Shea found some badly needed relief

Brek Shea’s late, game-winning finish was calm stuff, but far from perfect; had Ticos’ goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton stood his ground and not committed to his left, the big U.S. winger’s shot probably would have nailed him right in the chest.

Then again, it doesn’t matter. Shea (pictured) did what he does when at his best, seeing a chance to run directly at goal. And then he manufactured a moment that mattered, turning the opportunity into a goal – and strike that will help keep him in the World Cup roster conversation. He needed it something awful after that startling poor afternoon against Cuba.

As we keep saying, this tournament is really all about helping to assess which players are moving up in the depth chart ahead of next May’s important roster decision. Speaking of which …

Some players are running out of time

Alejandro Bedoya and Michael Parkhurst, combining along the U.S. right side, failed to do much at all. And that may be it for them, because the matches are only going to get tougher, and neither have made an impact on the tournament.

Jose Torres was useful in the middle for a half – he played nominally on the left, but spent most of the evening leaning well inside – but his influence faded after intermission. So, like a lot of U.S. men, his evening summation rated a solid “Meh.”

(MORE: United States nicks Costa Rica on a late goal)

Chris Wondolowski probably needed to be more active and find another portal or two into the impact creation zone. But two previous, encouraging performances means the San Jose Earthquakes striker has more wiggle room. One unproductive night won’t kill him at this point.

Generally, the United States lacked for ideas on the attack. The contest begged for some problem solving; Costa Rica’s 5-4-1 was tough stuff to break down, especially on a warm, muggy night that demanded a certain efficiency in movement off the ball.

Stuart Holden still has a long way to go

The Bolton midfielder played all 90 minutes, and that’s a huge step. But his recovery remains a clear work in progress.

Holden’s technical work in the midfield was fine. It’s not like he lost the ball a lot or failed to track or “hid” behind opponents the way players leaking confidence sometimes will. But his choices on the ball tell a tale of flagging aggression, of timing that just isn’t where it needs to be. Overall, there is just a smidge of lacking confidence.

Too many of his passes were safe, and too many opportunities to drive forward from the central midfield areas were passed over. Again, this isn’t a deal-killer. He’s just not there yet.

Who had good nights in the U.S. shirt?

Beyond Shea’s big moment … Clarence Goodson had a decent enough night in the back, organizing the back line, steering away a few dangerous balls and joining the attack periodically. Michael Orozco, playing alongside, proved dependable enough.

Mix Diskerud, playing alongside Holden in the middle of a 4-4-2, was easily the better of the central pairing. Torres, as noted earlier, was influential in possession over the first 45. And Donovan had a nice moment here and there, none better than his savvy, early ball that put Shea clean through.

Young goalkeeper Sean Johnson made the big save that mattered, but his communication with the back line looked dodgy, as did a couple of choices on getting off his line.

  1. bigdinla - Jul 17, 2013 at 1:11 AM

    Torres was not meh he was bad. His constant back passes and clogging up the middle was a big reason the US couldn’t score. Yes he’s good with the ball at his feet, but he has little pace and less mental speed.

    Scoring the players of this match

    Johnson – 7 made the few plays he needed to and seemed to keep a very calm line. Had a few shaky moments, but was overall very strong.

    Parkhurst – 5 he was the definition of meh.

    Orozco – 6 was solid, but had a few reckless challenges that were lucky to not cost US.

    Goodson – 7 Best US player for me to night. Was very solid all night long and almost created two goals.

    Beasley – 6 looked a little tired tonight, but still did yeomans work.

    Bedoya – 5 very inconsistent. Had some very good moments and a lot of time invisible.

    Mix – 6 all around good game, but had little chance since no one was making runs.

    Holden – 6 played holding role well, but agreed he lacked aggression.

    Torres – 5 He probably deserves lower, but he did have a few good crosses and a couple of defensive plays.

    LD – 6 had a hard time finding space with Torres and Wondo clogging up the middle, but at assist was world class.

    Wondo – 4 showed exactly why all of the WC clamor is ridiculous. He rarely made any dangerous runs and can not create his own chances.

    Shea – 7 completely changed the dynamic of the game. I think he is the perfect super sub!

    Gomez – 5 meh

    Corona – 6 great pass to LD on the goal and was solid in his short run.

  2. wfjackson3 - Jul 17, 2013 at 2:01 AM

    Wondo is great against an overmatched opponent. Otherwise, he offers little.

    • unclemosesgreen - Jul 17, 2013 at 8:45 AM

      Way too early to bag on Wondo – he needs more international time against tougher opposition to see if he can work it out. 12 appearances and you already have it all worked out – you’re still a genius I see.

  3. mdac1012 - Jul 17, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    The vision and touch LD showed on that pass to Shea is an example of why he needs to be and will be on the WC roster.

  4. boscoesworld - Jul 17, 2013 at 5:32 PM

    Spot on article Steve!

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