Jul 27, 2013, 5:00 PM EDT
- U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann is suspended
- The United States is perfect through five matches, with a splashy 19-4 goal difference
- The United States has won 10 consecutive matches
- Landon Donovan has been dominant, with 5 goals and 7 assists in the tournament
- 4 p.m. ET on Fox and Univision
Most of the top nations in this year’s Gold Cup brought lesser versions for the regional competition, electing to give their front-line men some much deserved time off.
Panama treated the even differently, sending a primarily first-choice team to the United States, hopeful of success that might kick start a stalled drive for World Cup 2014. As such, the Central Americans strivers, also making a push to generally elevate their place in the region, pose a genuine threat to the U.S. reach for tournament perfection during Sunday’s final inside Chicago’s historic Soldier Field.
U.S. players and coaches keep telling everyone in pre-game media sessions that a tough test is ahead. In reality, that just hasn’t happened yet, as a team of mostly second choice men from the U.S. player pool have been more than enough, utterly shredding the field of competitors to this point. So much of that dominance is about Landon Donovan, who has cast off his previous estrangement from the national team spectacularly.
As evidenced by Donovan’s sizzling return, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann keeps pushing all the right personnel buttons. His team has navigated five matches perfectly, winners in five out of five with a splashy 19-4 goal difference. The 19 goals scored is easily a tournament high among the 12 teams.
So much of that Donovan (pictured), who is dominating the tournament like few ever have. Five goals and seven assists in five Gold Cup matches represent totals just this side of stunning, and he has immediately established an on-field rapport with U.S. striker Eddie Johnson, one that will keep the Panamanian back line busy Sunday.
Donovan has played in more Gold Cup matches than anyone in history, so he surely knows the terrain and the historical context. Even he has been surprised by how the United States has flattened the field, not really stretched a bit, not even in the quarterfinals or semifinals.
“I guess I would have expected it to be a little more diff up to this point,” he said.
“But we know Sunday is going to look different than any of these [previous Gold Cup] games have, we are aware of that. But I think it’s a testament to this group and how we’ve done. We haven’t played the same lineup at all. One guy goes out, the next guy comes in and does a great job. It’s just been like that. We’re circulating [personnel], guys are confident, they are eager and excited. Everybody is playing really well and it’s been fun to be a part of it.”
Clobbering the field thusly is new, but success in the tournament isn’t. The United States won the semi-annual tournament in 1991, 2002, 2005 and 2007 and had four runner-up finishes around those titles.
There are a couple of potential hitches in all these Gold Cup good tidings. One is the suspension of manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who was dismissed from Wednesday’s semifinal win over Honduras for slamming the ball to the field. He was frustrated over a perceived lack of protection for U.S. players.
Top assistants Martin Vasquez and Andi Hertzog will pull sideline duty, presumably while in some kind of communication from Klinsmann.
There is also the Blas Perez factor. Perez isn’t just the top man for the small Central American nation, he has also established himself as one of the region’s premier goal-scorers. Physical, skillful and full of great instinct near goal, he also scores regularly at club level for FC Dallas.
Perez, scorer of Panama’s opener in Wednesday’s semifinal 2-1 win over Mexico – a surprise only to those who had not watched this determined bunch previously in the tournament – wasn’t around in June when the United States had a relatively easy time with Panama in a final stage World Cup qualifying match in Seattle. Perez was out with a stomach illness.
Along with young striker Gabriel Torres (who was just signed by Colorado of MLS), they will provide the toughest test yet for a U.S. back line without too much to do so far. There have been occasional vulnerable spots revealed: last week, Salvadoran forward Rodolfo Zelaya reminded us that DaMarcus Beasley isn’t a natural defender, and generally gave the United States something to worry about. Also add to the “worry list” defending on set pieces, which has been dodgy.
Another potential obstacle is all the Gold Cup miles Donovan has already logged. Until the program’s all-time goals and assists leader was subbed off 22 minutes before the end on Wednesday, having already supplied two goals and an assist in the comfortable 3-1 win over Honduras, he had played every minute in the tournament. Getting just that little break near the end Wednesday will help, Donovan said, also complimenting the job U.S. Soccer’s training and fitness staff have done while managing the competition’s brutal pacing. This will be the United States’ sixth match in 20 days, with travel between each stop.
“Generally, at this point in my career, after about 60 minutes, you really start to break down, your body starts breaking down physically,” Donovan said. “So, even having a rest for about 20 minutes [Wednesday] will help a lot for Sunday.”
Jul 7, 2015, 11:41 PM EDT
From Alvarado to Zardes with Najar in between, Andy Edwards tells you what he saw in Frisco.
Jul 7, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT
Next up in Group A is a Friday doubleheader in Foxborough, with Panama and Honduras opening the evening for the U.S. and Haiti.
Jul 7, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT
Ruiz will join a potent attack with Islam Slimani and Fredy Montero.
Jul 7, 2015, 9:12 PM EDT
The idea of gold playing a big role is nice, although only the red separate this look from the Philadelphia Union.
Jul 7, 2015, 9:06 PM EDT
Duckens Moses Nazon, take a bow: Your 86th minute goal helped start the 2015 Gold Cup in style.
Jul 7, 2015, 8:37 PM EDT
Michael Bradley assumes the captain’s armband from Clint Dempsey and will earn cap No. 100 for his career in the Gold Cup.
Jul 7, 2015, 8:21 PM EDT
It’s certainly one of those press releases that makes you think, “Well, I had just assumed that happened, but thanks for confirming.”
Jul 7, 2015, 7:52 PM EDT
All this on the heels of the USWNT announced as the first female team to received a ticker tape parade down New York City’s Canyon of Heroes.
Jul 7, 2015, 7:01 PM EDT
You get the feeling it’s impossible not to be motivated when Steven Gerrard is your teammate. Now toss in Robbie Keane.
Jul 7, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT
The last female to receive a ticker tape parade down that route was 1960 Olympic figure skating gold medalist Carol Heiss Jenkins.
Jul 7, 2015, 4:58 PM EDT
Their “no-name” defense hasn’t allowed a goal in four matches, and Canada could surprise you this month.
United States midfielder Lauren Holiday announces plans to retire with Women’s World Cup title in hand
Jul 7, 2015, 4:50 PM EDT
Lauren Holiday, 27, scored the eventual game-winning goal in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final.
Lampard talks club, challenge, Gerrard: “For me this is as much of a challenge as Chelsea was, as Man City was” (video)
Jul 7, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT
“For me this is as much of a challenge as Chelsea was, as Man City was,” Lampard said. “I play football to win.”
Jul 7, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
PST’s staff predict how the Gold Cup will play out as the USA, Mexico and Costa Rica clash to become CONCACAF champs.
Jul 7, 2015, 3:05 PM EDT
Altidore and Dempsey will lead the attack. But who else is in reserve?
Jul 7, 2015, 2:35 PM EDT
Is he in the top five of superstars to join North America’s top-flight since the DP rule was introduced?
Jul 7, 2015, 1:59 PM EDT
Will Yedlin start on the right? Have Bradley and Mix got the center locked down?
Jul 7, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT
A man who’ll go down as one of the USMNT’s all-time greats hits 100 caps tonight. A few thoughts on Il Generale.
Jul 7, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT
Day 1 of the 2015 Gold Cup is here, as the U.S. starts its title defense with a showdown in Texas.
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