We keep saying it: winning the Gold Cup carries some big picture importance as U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann drives his toward greater professionalism and away from any shards of complacency.
But the bigger (and perhaps more important) subtext is how 4-6 Gold Cup matches affect the U.S. player pool. The World Cup roster will be announced in just 10 months, after all, and no more than 12-14 men are locks to be among the 23.
So here are three U.S. men who have impacted their standing in the pool through heady performance:
(We won’t include Landon Donovan, who was always a separate case; Donovan has clearly re-established himself as a difference maker, and one who can fit in. Barring injury, the man is going to Brazil. Nor will we include Stuart Holden, who is certainly making progress, which was always the Gold Cup target for him personally, but isn’t far enough along to make any hard pronouncements.)
It would have been nice to see the young Liga MX attacker make a more consistent impact in matches against the regional minnows. Still, those two goals mean a lot, and his confidence has seemed to grow through the tournament. As I said Sunday, Corona has probably lapped Jose Torres on Klinsmann’s depth chart at this point. Simply put, Corona has done better at exploiting his opportunities.
The Norwegian-born midfielder is carving out a spot in the pool as Michael Bradley’s understudy in the linking role. Like Stuart Holden, Diskerud (pictured above) is versatile enough to play centrally or in wider roles (though not as an outright winger). He could even play in a holding role, although that last little bit of barbed-wire bite remains missing from his game. If Diskerud can sharpen that part, he’ll be a decent bet to find a spot on the 23-man roster for World Cup 2014.
Anyone paying attention to the tournament (and to Shea’s performances in a U.S. shirt previously) knows two things: he can absolutely, positively make an impact at international level, and; he has all the consistency of two-month-old puppy dog.
Shea’s aggressive, direct-line approach with the ball and without it is a lacking element in the U.S. player pool, especially when Clint Dempsey isn’t around. His game-winning goal against Costa Rica did two things: it helped clear the evaluation slate after that awful 45 minutes against Cuba, and it reminded us all that Shea has frequently found a way, usually through a big assist, to stamp a meaningful imprint when he gets into games.
Would that Torres could say the same.