This is a companion piece to the last post, which explored who might make the fashionable jump this time around.
As we said before, the clear, important subtext of the Gold Cup for the United States is what it could mean for World Cup roster spots that will be announced in about 10 months. (Just 10 months from now! Ain’t that something else?)
With that in mind, here are four prominent U.S. men who used the CONCACAF Gold Cup as a launching pad for World Cup roster spots ahead.
There are more (Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Lewis and Clarence Goodson among them) whose Gold Cup appearances certainly assisted their cause. But for this foursome, the Gold Cup really was their coming out party:
Pablo Mastroeni: The young defender (he was a center back at the time) did not play a minute in qualifying for World Cup 2002. But he got into the second group match at the Gold Cup and kept his spot in the lineup through the final (which the United States won, prevailing over Costa Rica in the Rose Bowl final). A few months after that, Mastroeni was in the starting 11, alongside John O’Brien in the middle as Bruce Arena’s team famously whacked Portugal in that World Cup stunner.
DaMarcus Beasley: The young flanker had been in just one World Cup qualifier (off the bench, at that) but was also in the starting lineup against Portugal. Like Mastroeni, he used some credible performance in the Gold Cup as demonstration to Arena that he could cut it internationally.
Beasley’s first goal in a U.S. shirt came against South Korea as the 2002 Gold Cup opened. (It was a winter tournament back that. And, yes … South Korea. How unstable is that?)
Oguchi Onyewu: In 2005, Onyewu was just a big, intriguing fellow as far as most U.S. fans were concerned. But they grew to see what he could do in that summer’s Gold Cup; Onyewu rotated with Jimmy Conrad and Eddie Pope as the United States eventually downed Panama in the final.
A few months later, Onyewu was still in the middle (now partnering with Gregg Berhalter) and staring down Mexico’s Jared Borgetti. You do remember that moment (pictured above), don’t you? Because every self-respecting U.S. Soccer supporter simply must be able to name the venue (Columbus) and significance (World Cup qualifier) of Onyewu’s famous, career-making moment.
Stuart Holden: It wasn’t that long ago that Holden was just a steady MLS man. In 2009 he had 6 goals and 4 assists in 26 matches for the Dynamo. Not bad … but hardly sensational.
Of course, stats don’t tell all, and it was Holden’s work rate and steadily improving technical merit that, at 23 years old, made him such an intriguing figure at the time. Sure enough, Holden debuted in the U.S. shirt during the 2009 Gold Cup, scoring in a 4-0 win over Grenada to open the tournament. Later, his 92nd minute goal was the equalizer against Haiti (a big moment, even if the United States was already through to the elimination stage).