Top five takeaways as USA clinch Gold Cup in style

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The morning after the night before.

As the dust settles on the US national teams swashbuckling Gold Cup success, there were certainly plenty of top moments to treasure for Jurgen Klinsmann, his players and fans of the USA.

Clinching a fifth Gold Cup title against Panama in Chicago on Sunday amid jubilant scenes, it was clear for everyone to see how much this one meant.

With six straight wins in the tournament, the US proved they can conquer CONCACAF. Now they have to take this form into the final few rounds of World Cup qualifying, and hopefully onto Brazil.

But without further delay, let’s reminisce about the good times times the Gold Cup has given the Yanks this July.

Here we go…

1. The return of Landon

Perhaps the best memory US fans will take from this tournament is seeing Landon Donovan back to his domineering best. The LA Galaxy forward had been out of the US national team picture for almost a year, but seven goals and seven assists and a Gold Cup MVP award later, it’s like he was never gone. And now, the 31-year-old is even better. Klinsmann has already stated that LD is likely to be involved in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, and when all’s said and done, people will look back to Donovan’s superb displays at the tournament as a turning point for the final few years of his career. Next stop: the starting lineup in Brazil.

2. Don’t rule out the ‘oldsters’… they’ve still got it

Kyle Beckerman, Clarence Goodson, Nick Rimando and Donovan are all over the age of 30, but they showed they’ve still got plenty left in the tank as Brazil 2014 edges ever closer. The performances of these veterans is hugely important to Klinsmann and his staff. Not only were they putting in terrific displays, but their value around the locker room and on the training ground will help keep the standards high in the USMNT, as the youngsters look to follow the exemplary showing from their elder statesmen. Leaders in every sense of the word.

3. Fans embrace the tournament, as sellout crowds and stunning tifo’s seal the show

Remember way back on July 9 when the USA’s Gold Cup quest began? Me neither. But below is a timely reminder of the awesome job the US fans in Portland did, as US soccer returned to the Rose City for the first-time since ’97. But that spirit was matched across the country as fans of all countries descended in huge numbers to give the Gold Cup a real party atmosphere. 907,208 fans watched the 25 games, at an average of 36,288 per match. Stunning. So kudos to the fans who made the Gold Cup just as exciting and entertaining off the field, as the play on the field. Big crowds and plenty of passion are a huge factor in making a tournament successful. And Gold Cup 2013 certainly was.

4. Wait up Jozy, finally, we are here to help

This tournament has seen the emergence of Eddie Johnson and Chris Wondolowski as strikers who can help take the considerable goalscoring burden off Jozy Altidore shoulders. Okay, the opposition hasn’t been that strong during the Gold Cup, we can all acknowledge that. But you still need someone to put the ball in the back of the ‘old onion bag’ and that’s exactly what “Wondow” and EJ did, with seven goals between them. Even if they’re just influential subs who can change a game late on, they’ll be valuable in tournament playing going forward.

5. Klinsmann is getting pretty darn good at making subs

Not only at making subs, but the German’s overall team selections have been spot on throughout the Gold Cup. Klinsmann has shown that he’s learned from his early mistakes as US manager, and now he has a extremely strong squad of 30-40 players to choose from. Players like Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud are now firmly in his plans as he rotated the squad superbly. How Klinsmann’s going to pick a roster for the World Cup next summer, (I know, I know, if they qualify…) is beyond me. But with substitutes Wondolowski scoring crucial goals and Johnson and Brek Shea scoring with their first touches off the bench, Klinsi’s tactical nous and instinctive touch to transform the outcome of a game are coming to the fore. He’s done it in the Gold Cup, can Klinsmann now translate it to the next level?

More: Jurgen Klinsmann says high-probability Donovan will be involved in September’s World Cup qualifiers

More: Landon Donovan claims Gold Cup MVP honors

Bobby Wood looks forward to working with Arena, praises Klinsmann

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A back injury kept Bobby Wood from United States men’s national team camp, but the Hamburg striker has been feeling good about the side’s World Cup fortunes since before the big win over Honduras.

Speaking with Hamburg’s team magazine, Wood gave a sprawling interview on his career and time with the national team. Wood praised Arena for scouting in Germany, saying the USMNT boss is a quiet coach who has his own style of playing, one that will prod the Yanks into the World Cup.

[ MORE: Complete USMNT-Panama preview ]

But the 24-year-old Hawaii-born striker saved his fondest words for ex-coach Jurgen Klinsmann, essentially calling him a career-saver. From HSV live (translated from German):

He’s very important to me. I believe if Jürgen had not been U.S. coach, then I might have stopped playing football or would have played somewhere in the fourth league.

That is why I am very, very grateful to him. At that time I was in a deep hole – it was real heavy. … He has believed in my quality. We are still in contact, he texts me.

Wood was a part-time player for 1860 Munich when Klinsmann first called him up to the national team side, and now he’s a Bundesliga striker who will be in demand if the club is relegated. Wood has also been mentioned as a target for Premier League clubs.

That’s a pretty good career jump. Klinsmann may have failed to deliver much of what he promised to the national team, but talent mining was done quite well.

USMNT-Panama preview: World Cup calm at stake

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Still wounded from the first two matches of the Hex but buoyed by its demolition of Honduras, the United States men’s national team faces an inspired Panama on Tuesday night in Panama City.

The Yanks arose from the ashes of losses to Mexico and Costa Rica to bury Honduras 6-0 Friday behind a Clint Dempsey hat trick and a goal and two assists from Christian Pulisic.

A win on Tuesday in Panama gives the U.S. something that can only soothe the nerves ahead of two summer qualifiers and the Gold Cup: Top Three status in the Hex (as is always expected).

Now the resurgent Americans face a Panama side which sits above them on the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table, having narrowed the gap on a Los Canaleros side who itself has narrowed its sights on a USMNT which burned them nearly four years ago.

[ USMNT-HONDURAS: Player ratings | Three things ]

Panama looked set to earn an interconfederation playoff berth with a 2-1 lead over the already-advanced U.S. when Graham “San” Zusi and Aron Johannsson led a shocking comeback at the Estadio Rommel Fernández to give Mexico the Hex’s fourth-place.

Los Canaleros shot out of the Hex gates with a win at Honduras and a 0-0 draw at home against Mexico, but fell 1-0 at Trinidad and Tobago on Friday thanks to Minnesota United star Kevin Molino.

Now licking its wounds while eyeing revenge, Panama will hope its pair of draws with the U.S. at the 2015 Gold Cup are the start they need to pick up a first home World Cup qualifying win over the States. Panama won the third-place match over the USMNT via shootout at the that tournament.

Boss Hernán Darío Gómez is no stranger to international battles having led Ecuador, Colombia, and Guatemala. He deployed a 4-5-1 against T&T, and could opt for that again but has usually used either a 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2 with two holding mids against deeper sides than the Soca Warriors.

The former has worked better, and the personnel sometimes serves as a surprise. Last time out, in a 0-0 draw against Mexico, Gomez kept Anibal Godoy and Luis Tejada on the bench in what looks like a 4-2-2-2 at times.

[ MORE: Making sense out of the 6-0 win ]

Bruce Arena faces his own issues. In addition to the absences of Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson, the USMNT lost Sebastian Lletget and John Brooks in the win over Honduras.

Lletget’s absence is quickly remedied by either Alejandro Bedoya or, more likely, Jermaine Jones, but Brooks is a bigger problem. The Hertha Berlin man cleaned up several messes made by Omar Gonzalez, the ex-LA Galaxy man who — for better or worse — may not have shaken Arena’s confidence thanks to their long relationship.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Geoff Cameron is his best option at CB, and could serve a similar purpose to Brooks. Still, he’s not 100 percent.

Gonzalez and Matt Besler worked well together a long time ago, but Tim Ream was Arena’s first choice when Brooks hit the turf with dehydration on Friday. There’s also wild card Walker Zimmerman, who would be taking the field in his highest-profile match yet.

Arena will want to take the match to Panama, even on the road. How will it look in front of Tim Howard? This is an option for Arena, though not one we expect:

Howard

Zusi — Cameron — Ream — Villafana

Jones — Bradley — Nagbe

Pulisic

Dempsey — Altidore

Instead, Arena will probably roll the bones with Gonzalez again, and keep things close to the Honduras win. It would be silly to break up the Villafana-Nagbe partnership on the left, and the top three isn’t changing one bit.

The question is whether Arena ruffles Jones, who is both combustible and not part of the long-term future. But Jones, like all of us, would’ve seen 6-0. So, probably, this:

Howard

Cameron — Gonzalez — Ream — Villafana

Bradley

Bedoya — Nagbe

Pulisic

Dempsey — Altidore

If Bradley provides the same picture-perfect cover for the back four and Pulisic continues to hum off the veteran big bodies of Dempsey and Altidore, the latter of which who is due a goal or two, the Yanks win. At worst, they’re beaten for pace by Alberto Quintero and stymied by Jaime Penedo. But the former can be covered by an in-form Howard, and the latter can only hold out for so long.

A draw puts the U.S. behind Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico ahead of two months off and the knowledge that both Mexico and Costa Rica are home for both June qualifiers.

Schweinsteiger waiting on visa, training in Mallorca

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Bastian Schweinsteiger is waiting on a visa to make his trip to Chicago official.

It’s a formality, albeit a bit trickier now given the political climate in the United States. The former Manchester United midfielder is training at Real Mallorca ahead of the move.

The transfer was announced one week ago, and Schweinsteiger is anxious to get back on the pitch. Set for a 1-year, $4.5 million deal, the midfielder has not missed any Chicago matches yet.

[ MORE: Under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

The Fire is 1-1-1 to start the new season under Veljko Paunovic, and has three home matches next: Montreal (Saturday), Columbus (Apr. 8), and New England (Apr. 15)

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.