Which U.S. men have already gone from the little Gold Cup to the big ol’ World Cup?

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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.

(MORE: Four who could go exploit a Gold Cup launch)

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.

(MORE: Gold Cup preview of United States vs. Belize)

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).

After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.

VIDEO: de Bruyne delivers gorgeous assist on Lukaku goal

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It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.

The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal close in on Leno; Man City near Jorginho signing, and more

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Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.

According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.

Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.

It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe.

(more…)

VIDEO: Mertens scores wonderstrike for Belgium

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After a frustrating 45 minutes, it took only two minutes for Belgium to finally get on the board, even if it was a goal sprinkled with magic dust.

Off a partially cleared ball on the right side of the box, Belgium attacker Dries Mertens whalloped a shot that arced over Panama (and former LA Galaxy) goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]