United States v Costa Rica - 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup

U.S. national team sets new record after eight straight wins, but what does it really mean?


Jurgen Klinsmann’s record-breaking side are on a roll.

But in the grand scheme of things, are people getting too excited about wins against minnows Belize, Cuba and Jamaica?

Some may argue you can only beat what’s put in front of you, and that’s true.

But it seems as if every four years or so, this same debate crops up as to how good the USA really are.

Simply put, we all know and acknowledge that the CONCACAF region is severely lagging behind in quality when you look at the likes of UEFA and CONMEBOL.

There’s no shame in admitting that. But it does provide the U.S. with a huge shock every time they reach the World Cup and come up against the world’s elite.

However Klinsmann’s tactic of playing top European nations in friendlies may bear fruit once the U.S. reach the World Cup in Brazil — come on, you’ve already booked your tickets and time off work next June, haven’t you? — next summer, and the fact that we’re already talking about the USMNT’s presence in that competition is a problem.

(MORE: United States nicks Costa Rica on a late goal)

Hexagonal qualifying is what it is. Every time the U.S. compete in it, they suffer one bad loss or tie and blame it on the conditions and environment in a Caribbean or Central American nation. The rest of qualifying, especially the home games, are a piece of cake.

But this is where the current Gold Cup success comes into play. After three wins from three, the USA are clear favorites to win it.

The pressure and winning mentality placed on the shoulders of players who aren’t guaranteed a spot on the World Cup roster is making everyone get better. Fast. Guys like Chris Wondolowski, Kyle Beckerman and Joe Corona don’t want to watch the World Cup from their armchair. They are desperate to be there.

As Steve Davis pointed out in the things we learned from last night’s win over Costa Rica, time is running out for some national team players who are making desperate attempts to impress Klinsmann.

In turn, Nats regulars like Michael Bradley, Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey are seeing the desire of their teammates to win the Gold Cup this summer and that’s has to be lighting a fire in their belly. Competition for places has never been greater in the U.S. national team. I truly believe that. There’s a solid pool of 35 players who are up to the task of competing for minutes at the World Cup.

That is the real reason why they’ve won eight games in a row. You can point to some shaky displays here and there but they’re getting it done with so many different players and you can’t fault their effort and commitment, as they clamber to make sure they stay in Klinsi’s plans for Brazil 2014.

They’re hungry to succeed and don’t want to be the group of players who lose and are left out of the 23-man squad heading to South America.

Breaking a record is great. Eight straight wins for the first time in U.S. national team history is an amazing achievement.

But I’m extremely confident it’s only the start. And until CONCACAF catches up with the USA, expect plenty more streaks like this.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.