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Looking forward, United States in good shape for Gold Cup’s final rounds

Jul 21, 2013, 7:40 PM EST

Should Joe Corona and the USMNT's other youngsters get a shot against Mexico? Getty Images

That was the last of the U.S.’s warmups. With the exception of the last group game against Costa Rica, a match with the convenient safety net of having already qualified for the quarterfinals, the Gold Cup’s been a walk. The U.S. is 4-0-0 and has a +14 goal difference, the kind of dominance that had us drooling over the Mexico’s team during the last tournament (El Tri was also +14 after four matches). If this wasn’t a weaker, in-World Cup Qualifying Gold Cup, U.S. fans would be doing back flips over the team’s performance.

But it is a down Gold Cup, meaning there’s only so much we can take beyond the confines of this six-match gauntlet. Within those confines, however, we can ask how ready this U.S. team is for the big step up that’s about to happen.

Come the semifinals, there are not more El Salvadors, and the days of Belize and Cuba are long gone. Panama and Mexico occupy one side of the bracket, while the U.S. face either an always difficult Honduras or a Costa Rican team unlikely to rest Álvaro Saborío and Michael Barrantes on the bench again. All have World Cup-caliber talent. All have a chance to win this tournament.

If today was any indication, however, the U.S. appears to be in good shape. They look as good as anybody other team in the tournament, and if it wasn’t for a couple of uncertain moments from a relatively untested defense, there would be few worries going into the final matches. With Omar Gonzalez set to join the team in Texas, however, there’s reason to think the defending can improve (even if Gonzalez has had his own problems with lapses during qualifiers).

The attack, however, is where fans can find be encouraged. Sixteen goals in four games provides superficial proof, but if anybody needs more proof of the team’s capabilities, consider the first 30 minutes on Sunday. The team looked assured, confident, enacted a plan that leaned heavily on building down the right, and most importantly (given what we’ve seen from Klinsmann’s teams since his arrival) executed. They actually translated control into goals.

Landon Donovan deserves much of that credit on Sunday, but there were other positives, mostly from players who had been questioned by fans in the lead-up to the match. Jose Torres may not have been the most influential of players, but he was solid, and his ability to come in and contribute centrally while ostensibly being a left midfielder is particularly valuable if the team continues leaning right. Kyle Beckerman’s not going to win over Stuart Holden’s ardent supporters, but his distribution at the base of midfield proved the right choice today. And while Joe Corona’s production has been questioned, his has quietly put together a solid tournament, one that included a goal on Sunday.

Chris Wondolowski’s lack of influence was mildly concerning considering a history of waning influence against tougher And if the U.S. really remains so right-leading, you wonder if Edgar Castillo might be a better choice at left back. (Cue the obligatory backlash every time Castillo’s mentioned.) Still, with Castillo in reserve and Eddie Johnson in the team, Klinsmann has options, should he need to tweak as the stakes are raised.

Regardless, the U.S. is in remarkably good shape headed into the semifinals. While you could still see a Honduras or Costa Rica pull off an upset in Texas, the basics seem to be in place. If the U.S. can execute over the next 180 minutes as well as they did in Baltimore, they should reclaim the Gold Cup.

  1. mknow406a - Jul 22, 2013 at 2:15 AM

    Can we please officially end the “Wondo” experiment now? I know he’s deadly… in the six yard box… when unmarked, but overall he is NOT an international caliber player. It was mentioned when he got his trey, that was all down to him finally got decent service. Therein lies the problem. The glaring example today was a cross LD sent in during the first half as Wondo made a run to the near post. The defender got a leg on it to knock it out for a corner. That run was significant not for what Waldo did, but what he doesn’t do. He effectively ran in a straight line… no head fake, no stutter-step, no change in direction, no change of pace, just a straight line. You can’t make it that easy for an international caliber defender. That one run is the perfect demonstration as to why Woldo NEEDS pinpoint crosses. He is incapable of creating a yard of space for himself. Compare that run to runs by Chitarito or Van Persie and you can see how lacking Wondo is. Granted, he is a great poacher in the 6 yard box, but against quality, international defenders, free 6 yard strikes rarely occur… which explains his international goal scoring record before and after the three “semi-pro” matches that were Guatemala, Belize and Cuba. He does seem a likable enough guy, he’s just not good enough.

    • charliej11 - Jul 22, 2013 at 10:19 AM

      I don’t know what everyones problem with Wondo is, he is used as a boarderline Nat team player, and he deserves to be a boarderline Nat team player.

      That means he will score against lesser teams and not against better teams ( kinda like the US as a whole ).

      If we had a better boarderline Nat team member JK would have played him instead.

    • charliej11 - Jul 22, 2013 at 10:21 AM

      “…Wondo is lacking compared to Van Persie…” ?!?!?

      Wow.

      • mknow406a - Jul 23, 2013 at 2:31 AM

        Yup. It’s ridiculous to even have to go there, but it is in response to quotes like this one on another post here on PST… the naivety is beyond amazing.

        “Mostly I agree with Birgit about Wondo’s vision. I saw him play several times with the Dynamo, and I thought he looked like an American Zidane…”

    • grm35741 - Jul 22, 2013 at 6:17 PM

      Wondo has a couple games to show it is no fluke.
      Beckerman- I like the guy when he plays like he did Sunday. Too many games with sideways and backwards passing but Sunday was much better. This string of games may help the confidence in all the players to play without fear and therefore play a higher level game. It’s been FUN watching. Remember these were the same teams that the USA had to defend and counter on not that long ago.

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