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What we learned from Sunday’s United States Gold Cup victory over Panama

Jul 28, 2013, 7:25 PM EDT

Championship - 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Getty Images
  • It’s a final, and we know what those look like

The Gold Cup may be only a “tournament-lite” in that the regional big boys chose to send the junior varsity. But the rule on finals – teams get tight and the action bogs down, generally producing matches that are decidedly, well, less than lovely – still applies in lesser tournament. And how.

Sunday’s 1-0 U.S. win at Soldier Field looked nothing like Wednesday’s mostly wide-open semifinal win over Honduras.

A championship is a championship, and good on the United States, clearly the Gold Cup’s top team. But as aesthetics go … well, no need to save this on the DVR.

  • Jurgen Klinsmann (and staff!) keeps making great decisions

One week ago, Eddie Johnson scored 14 seconds after coming onto the field against El Salvador. Check the box on “Great sub!” with that one.

Sunday in Chicago, Brek Shea need a bit longer – just over 40 seconds. Check that box again.

I mean, this kind of prescience would scare the bejeebers out of Las Vegas!

In the bigger picture, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann seems to have the Midas touch with his choices. Brek Shea (pictured) was a late Gold Cup roster addition; he scored two goals. (Yes, one was tap-in … but being in the right places counts for something, and Shea’s straight-line approach to opposition goal paid off twice.)

Adding Matt Besler and Eddie Johnson for the elimination matches looks smart, given the results. Hard to argue that Clarence Goodson over Omar Gonzalez in Sunday’s lineup was the right choice given the result. And Gonzalez’s insertion late at Soldier Field proved worthwhile as the big Galaxy center back thumped away several of Panama’s late probing balls of desperation.

The bigger-picture choices on guys like Landon Donovan and Stuart Holden seem validated, too. (Fingers crossed for Holden, of course.) But there will be more time to discuss that. Back to Sunday …

(MORE: United States Man of the Match — Alejandro Bedoya)

  • Kyle Beckerman does his job

I know it’s not enough for some people, who continue to want the Real Salt Lake man to be more, do more, try more, etc.

But that positional discipline, that ability to win the ball, win tackles, distribute simply and wait for the next chance to do it all again … all that stuff is so critical in a match like Sunday’s, when less disciplined men might grow impatient and wander too far forward. That is exactly what Panama wanted, to defend and defend and hope to catch the United  States leaning too far into the attack.

Teams need balance and Beckerman provides a bunch of it. No, he’s not about to displace Michael Bradley or even Jermaine Jones on coming World Cup qualifier rosters. But for depth in the pool, Beckerman as a holding midfield specialist provides essential value.

  • Michael Parkhurst is solid defensively, but …

I was surprised at the apparent surprise that Michael Parkhurst lacked initiative in pushing up the right and overlapping Sunday, unable to create that critical defensive confusion while working in tandem with Alejandro Bedoya.

Because he’s just not that guy. Don’t we know that? When he can barely dent the game against the small fries of the tournament (on offense, that is), do we really believe he is going to unleash some secret, here-to unseen attacking arsenal against what was clearly the second best team at the Gold Cup?

Parkhurst is what he is: a converted center back who is adequate at defense chores along the right, although vulnerable to faster feet.

(MORE: Shea goal guides U.S. to fifth Gold Cup title, 1-0 win over Panama)

  • Eddie Johnson still has some volatility about him

U.S. striker Eddie Johnson has a lot going for him right now. He’s third-ish on the pecking order of U.S. strikers. (The top choice for a Gold Cup final but still behind Jozy Altidore and probably Herculez Gomez in Jurgen Klinsmann’s big board of options.)

He’s a valued member of the Seattle Sounders club, about to be out of contract and highly desirous of remaining with the club that helped him resurrect a wayward career. Clearly, he wants to find his way into the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, having played in 2006 but then bypassed for 2010. All that is to say, he is highly motivated.

So wouldn’t it be ashamed if Johnson let’s a dangerous propensity for losing his cool get the better of him. There’s just a lurking volatility about him, one that could be harmful to a team in an instant. We saw it again late Sunday when he got into a completely unnecessary set-do, issued a yellow card for retaliation indiscipline.

Don’t think future opponents won’t take notice and target Johnson as a man to pick on, to potentially incite. That’s not what you pinned on the opposition corkboard.

(MORE: Landon Donovan claims Gold Cup MVP honors)

  • Jose Torres’ stock is falling

Coming into this year’s Gold Cup, wouldn’t we all identify Jose Torres as the creative man of the moment, the guy to slice up defenses with those killer, targeted back line beaters?

Well, Sunday’s match was begging for such a guy – and Torres was nowhere to be found. Time and again in the tournament Torres did OK, but not much better than that. What we know about Klinsmann is that he is absolutely, positively not OK with just OK.

The proof was there Sunday. Joe Corona and Alejandro Bedoya got the starts. Brek Shea got the call off the bench when Corona was proving less than effective.

None of this is great news for Torres, but you cannot say the man didn’t get his chances.

  1. interesting29 - Jul 28, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    To be fair to Parkhurst, he made many runs on the side expecting to receive balls, but yet, when EJ had to drop into midfield to get balls and doesn’t give it to a running Parkhurst, there’s not much to blame on Parkhurst. He makes runs, but when he doesn’t get balls, it’s not entirely his fault.

  2. rhaaland - Jul 28, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    I will never be convinced that you are not somehow related to Kyle Beckerman.

  3. paladinvt - Jul 28, 2013 at 8:08 PM

    Thanks to Steve’s relentless campaigning and some positive performances, I am coming around on Beckerman. However, I could continue to do without Jermaine Jones who always makes me nervous in the same way EJ does (red card waiting to happen).

    • rhaaland - Jul 28, 2013 at 8:15 PM

      Don’t get me wrong. The due puts in a consistent workman-like shift. I just don’t see why Stevie continuously singles the dude out for doing his job. He’s almost having the Tim Tebow effect for me. I liked Beckerman more before a certain blogger started calling him a genius.

      • tariencole - Jul 28, 2013 at 8:41 PM

        I think Steve does it exactly because he knows that: 1) A lot of players do not value workmanlike, do their job players. Just like they didn’t when MB90 was such a player (before he grew into box-to-box glue of the team).

        2) It gives him traffic, because people get agitated about it and controversy breeds comments which allows for trackbacks. 😉

        Though honestly, in this match, I thought Beckerman was more MOM than Bedoya, and Mix was my choice over both. And speaking of Mix, I think he pretty much has become the kind of playmaking, possession-oriented creator that renders Torres utterly dispensable. Especially since Mix will track back more than Jose ever did.

      • Steve Davis - Jul 28, 2013 at 10:24 PM

        Nah … we can probably get more traffic by posting anything with “Freddy Adu” in the headline. Serious. Sad … but serious. (“Beckerman,” if you want to know the truth, is not an SEO driver.)

        And I suppose I keep writing because each time I do, I get reminded via Twitter or comment here that SO very many people think I’m wrong. Honestly, just trying to be an engine of enlightenment, as much as I can be.

      • rhaaland - Jul 28, 2013 at 10:37 PM

        Well, I think the issue isn’t so much that people think Beckerman is awful, it’s that he seems to get a little more ink from you than others who are similarly proficient at their roles. It just seems a bit perplexing given you’re related to him or his agent.

  4. bigdinla - Jul 28, 2013 at 9:37 PM

    Beckerman is captain mediocre. He is never bad, but he is also never an advantage. Stop tryin to pimp him like he deserves a call up.

  5. mlbdolie - Jul 28, 2013 at 10:49 PM

    So what’s your 2014 World Cup roster now? I’d go with:

    Forwards: Altidore, Dempsey, Gomez and E. Johnson

    Midfielders: Bradley, Donovan, Jones, Zusi, Corona, Bedoya, Beckerman, Diskerud and Shea

    Defenders: Gonzalez, Besler, F. Johnson, Beasley, Cameron, Goodson and one of Cherundolo/Chandler/Parkhurst

    Goal: Howard, Guzan, Rimando

    • boscoesworld - Jul 29, 2013 at 1:22 PM

      I would LOVE to Mix in Brazil!! F. Johnson is equally as good at LMF as he is at left back so that will allow for some flexibility in other areas. Not sure both Bedoya and Corona make it. That would be three primarily right sided mids along with Zusi. Both Gomez and E. Johnson can also play there although I cringe seeing EJ out there for defensive reasons.

  6. bigdinla - Jul 28, 2013 at 11:46 PM

    Beckerman and Gomez do not go to brazil. Diskerud will take last midfield spot.

    • tridecagon - Jul 29, 2013 at 2:19 AM

      The above list is only at 23 players and includes all 3 of Beckerman, Gomez, and Diskerud. If those two aren’t going, who are you sending in their place? (The only guy I can think of at the moment is Holden, but that’s a BIG question mark.)

  7. rphillish - Jul 29, 2013 at 12:36 AM

    Beckerman is a solid defensive midfielder with an emphasis on defensive. Rather than start him, I’d like to see him brought on as a sub for those tough games when you have to protect a 1 goal lead for the last 10-15 minutes. Shea has a similar usefulness. Playing a team with a dug in defense that you haven’t been able to crack? Bring in Shea and he’ll make them sweat. Though I’m still not convinced that Shea could do that at any level beyond CONCACAF.

  8. mrstev - Jul 29, 2013 at 3:50 AM

    I’ve never been a Beckerman fan, passing is just too negative.
    But I tell you, watching him over these last few games has taught me his value. Opposition midfielders struggle against him. Its not pretty…even Van Bommel-esqe at times. But he breaks up the play so well and has even learned to occasionaly move the ball forward in a timely manner. We need a guy like him in the squad. Certain teams and situations just call for it.

  9. bigdinla - Jul 29, 2013 at 7:47 AM

    Boyd over Gomez
    Edu over Beckerman, also don’t forget about Danny Williams if he is healthy. If Chandler and Cherondolo are healthy, they both go.

  10. hildezero - Jul 29, 2013 at 6:31 PM

    I agree with that roster above, but I would switch Mix with Danny Williams.

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