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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.

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