USMNT – On To the Gold Cup Quarterfinals
USMNT – On To the Gold Cup Quarterfinals avatar

Jurgen Klinsmann has made the maximum four player changes available to him under the new Gold Cup rules at the end of Group play, while no other country made more than one.

Eddie Johnson will get his opportunity to shine in the Gold Cup..(ISI Photos/John Todd)

Eddie Johnson will get his opportunity to shine in the Gold Cup..(ISI Photos/John Todd)

The four players added to the squad for the knockout stages are center back pair Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler and attackers Eddie Johnson and Alan Gordon. Gold Cup 2013 has ended for Oguchi Onyewu, Herculez Gomez, Corey Ashe and Jack McInerney.

It had been widely speculated that Klinsmann would turn to his presumptive first choice central defense team at this point and although Clarence Goodson and Michael Orozco played very well against Costa Rica, drawing praise after the match from their coach, that speculation proved correct. Besler will be in camp for Sunday’s quarterfinal tilt versus El Salvador in Baltimore, although Gonzalez won’t be available until the semi’s, should the U.S. do the expected and qualify.

Onyewu started just the opener against Belize, where he is reported to have picked up an ankle sprain. Gooch leaves the national team with his club situation still in limbo. The well traveled Onyewu remains on the books at Sporting Lisbon, although he spent last season on loan at Malaga, where he essentially never played. The powerful center back will need to make a wise career decision, one that nets serious playing time, if he is to have any chance at forcing his way into Klinsmann’s plans for Brazil 2014.

Gomez hasn't been given as much playing time as he would have liked. (Getty Images)

Gomez wasn’t given as much playing time as he would have liked. (Getty Images)

Herculez Gomez joined Tijuana in Mexico over the summer and heads to his new club to get acclimated. Gomez had a somewhat frustrating Gold Cup, taking a backseat to Chris Wondolowski and his goal scoring exploits. Gomez still figures to be ahead of Wondo on the depth chart, as Johnson and Gordon come in to stake their claims’.

McInerney and Ashe leave the team without having seen a minute of Gold Cup time. Both are young players just getting their feet wet in international soccer, but it would have been nice to see McInerney get even a brief run against a weaker team such as Belize.

Now, before we move on to the quarters, let’s take a look back at the Group stage, position by position, and see who helped themselves going forward, and who didn’t.

Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando, Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid

Rimando was the clear number one in this group coming in. The RSL man has been singled out in the past by Klinsmann as his third keeper, behind Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, and Rimando did nothing to lose that designation against Belize and Cuba. The U.S. did surrender a goal to each of the underdogs, although the keeper could not be faulted for either and his overall play was solid.

Nick Rimando put in a solid performance for the U.S. (ISI Photos)

Nick Rimando put in a solid performance for the U.S. (ISI Photos)

Therefore, it was a bit of a surprise when Sean Johnson started against Costa Rica, a match that Klinsmann had dubbed the real start of the Gold Cup for this team. After seeing little action for much of the match, the Chicago Fire number one came up huge late in East Hartford. It was Johnson’s brilliant save from a Carlos Johnson header, off of a Costa Rica corner kick, that led to Brek Shea’s winning goal.

Will Klinsmann go back to Rimando the rest of the way, or will Johnson get the nod? One thing seems certain is that Hamid is out of the loop for now, in the battle for the first spot at the Gold Cup, and the number three job in Brazil.

Right fullback: Michael Parkhurst, Tony Beltran

Parkhurst (R) (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Parkhurst (R) will be hoping to get more game time. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Parkhurst is the more experienced player and started two of the three games so far. Beltran was solid in his only start versus Cuba. Most commentators felt that neither showed much going forward, although I thought that Parkhurst made some good crosses and I expect to see the Augsburg man on Saturday.

Left fullback: DaMarcus Beasley, Edgar Castillo

DaMarcus Beasley earned his 105th cap for the U.S. and has looked dangerous down the wings.(Getty Images)

DaMarcus Beasley earned his 105th cap for the U.S. and has looked dangerous down the wings.(Getty Images)

The captain is far superior to Castillo defensively and still flashes the speed that earned him one of the great all time soccer nicknames, Run DMB. Beasley showed that speed more than once against Costa Rica, beating his man to the endline and getting in his cross. Beasley is beginning to look more like a full time fullback, rather than a fill in, as he gains experience in the position. He took a bad blow to the head against the Ticos on Tuesday night, but Beasley played on and appeared fine after the game, so hopefully there will be no ill effects.

Midfield: Kyle Beckerman, Stuart Holden, Mix Diskerud, Jose Torres, Joe Corona, Alejandro Bedoya, Brek Shea

Shea did what he does well in the last game by running at the defence. (Getty images)

Shea did what he does well in the last game by running at the defence. (Getty images)

Midfield is the one field position unaffected by the four changes, so they must be doing something right in Klinsmann’s eyes.

Shea is the only pure winger in the group, and he bounced back nicely from a personal horror show versus Cuba, to score the winner off the bench against the Ticos. Graham Zusi did not get a call-up, it may be that Klinsmann is happy with the SKC man and wants to see what this group can provide.

Corona, Shea, Torres and Bedoya can all play the wing and all have had their moments in this Cup. Corona’s pass to Donovan led to Shea’s goal and the Tijuana man will see more time going forward.

The central midfield battle has been intriguing and that should continue. Holden and Diskerud started versus Costa Rica. Torres has started both centrally and out wide in the Gold Cup, working as winger on Tuesday. Beckerman has been good so far, but got a DNP in Connecticut. Holden filled Beckerman’s d-mid role with Diskerud playing a bit more forward. Diskerud’s vision and passing make him a tempting option, either from the start or off the bench.

I could see Klinsmann going back to Beckerman and pairing him with Holden against El Salvador. Donovan is nominally a central midfielder in this setup, but in reality he has been operating as a withdrawn forward.

Forward: Landon Donovan, Chris Wondolowski, Will Bruin, Eddie Johnson, Alan Gordon

Donovan looks rejuvenated after his sabbatical. (Getty Images)

Donovan looks rejuvenated after his sabbatical. (Getty Images)

Donovan has described every game as an audition for him. If so, he appears to have passed. Donovan has played every minute of the first round and looks deserving of an “A” team re-call. Wondo scored a bunch of goals against the two minnows, but none versus Costa Rica. Will Bruin never left the bench and there’s a good chance that he won’t for the duration of the Gold Cup.

Johnson provides speed, goals and can play wide. Gordon brings toughness and his heading ability makes him a good late option off the bench when a goal is needed.

So who will we see on Sunday? How about this.
Johnson, Parkhurst, Goodson, Besler, Beasley, Beckerman, Holden, Corona, Torres, Donovan, Johnson.

Sean Johnson's quick play from his save led to the U.S.'s winning goal against Costa Rica. (Getty Images)

Sean Johnson’s quick play from his save led to the U.S.’s winning goal against Costa Rica. (Getty Images)

Why? Just a hunch on Johnson. If he does get the call, a good game from the younger Johnson could propel him ahead of Rimando for the third slot.

If Besler starts, and why bring him in otherwise, the veteran Goodson could lead the defense. As a bit of a wildcard, Orozco plays mostly at fullback for his club, but Klinsmann probably won’t make that move at this point. Corona was excellent against Cuba and had that key pass on Shea’s goal. Torres isn’t really a wing, but he was good against Costa Rica. Shea and Bedoya are good options off the bench. Up top it is Donovan and whoever. I like Johnson’s speed paired with Donovan and Wondo’s best hope for a World Cup spot would be as a supersub, so why not have a look at him in that role now.

About Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan is a staff writer for the GotSoccer Magazine, covering MLS and other US leagues, He's GotSoccer's chief National Team Correspondent.
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One Response to USMNT – On To the Gold Cup Quarterfinals
USMNT – On To the Gold Cup Quarterfinals avatar

  1. mark hall says:

    The writer points to issues surrounding the USA. In the layout of what is available gk the USA , let us say the “B” team. It is clear the USA has mostly role players. Of the 30 or so names mentioned in the above coverage, there are none that would be described as exceptional. Ok, its the B team. However, the 5 best players on the B team is better than the 5 best A team players. Don’t want to throw numbers out there, but let’s us say the USA captain is the best player. Beyond that we don’t have anyone who can be considered ‘the man’.

    Lets not talk about Altidore. There were a dozen articles written over the past 2 years pointing to how bad this player has become and the USA need to get rid of him. Of recent, he scored 4 goals, and now he is poised S the best the USA has.

    Remember now, all the next best possibilities to carry the USA are “B” team players. If that’s the case when are ed going to see the complete “A” team. My concern is that our B team line up is more energetic than that of the A team.

    I think because the character of Bradley is very quiet and that personality is not flamboyant enough to create a flashy, lively, up tempo play that us attractive enough to capture the audience, thus taking away the edge if tbd 12th man. In turn bringing is back to an average team that will get knocked out by second round in Brazil.

    When we learn the art of theatre and that we play for the people, and the people applaud you, thus energize, you, then and only then we can be complete.

    Doesn’t matter how good we are. We are never going any further with out capturing the “12th man”; and the current chants and noise ed make st the USA venues points to a sound of fake yelling with no songs or beat cultivated as American. A lone Hispanic beating s drum and colorless fans yelling “we going to Brazil” is not the “12th man” we seek. When we are losing our fans sit quiet. No, we need meaningful traditional chants with songs and cheers that touch the heart if this nation. Until then, we will play out best, beat out chest, win Concacaf, and continue to bow out after 5 world cup games. The 70 yrs tradition continues……

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