When was the last time the U.S. national team really looked to be riding a wave of momentum this big, and so full of confidence?
[ FULL RECAP: Germany 1-2 USA ]
The summer of 2013 comes to mind — 12 straight victories from June to August by a combined score of 39-11 — but even then Jurgen Klinsmann’s side was “only” working its way through World Cup qualifying and a B-team-heavy Gold Cup tournament — a pair of competitions they were supposed to walk through with ease. Winning this summer’s edition of the Gold Cup (July 7-26) represents the loftiest goal the USMNT is bound to chase over the next 24 months.
Perhaps the better question is this: when was the last time the USMNT prepared to enter a major tournament (Gold Cup or World Cup) with this kind of momentum and so obivously full of confidence? Following victories over the Netherlands (last Friday) and Germany (Wednesday), the USMNT finds itself in possession of just that — an abnormal amount of momentum and belief.
Gone is the disastrous streak of conceding late goals; gone once again is the stigma that the U.S. can’t compete with some of the world’s very top teams; gone is the fear that some of CONCACAF’s “lesser” sides — Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras — have closed the gap from themselves, to the USMNT and Mexico, so much that the region’s traditional powers weren’t odds-on favorites to meet once again in the Gold Cup final.
In Michael Bradley, Klinsmann’s side (finally) has its undisputed leader and most influential player turning in some of the best performances of his prolific career. In Kyle Beckerman, the USMNT (finally) has exactly the kind of player — a defensive shield in midfield — that allows Bradley to perform at his very best. In Jordan Morris, the Yanks have a breath of fresh air and (finally) the kind of unexpected game-changer they’ve craved for so long, in the form of a 20-year-old college kid.
It looks as though, for better or for worse, Klinsmann will select a final 23-man roster for the Gold Cup featuring a number of players who helped the USMNT to a pair of famous victories over the last five days. In doing so, he ensures that much of the momentum created in Europe continues right into the U.S.’s most important series of games this calendar year.
With the Gold Cup just 27 days away, the question arguably becomes this: just how much will reinserting back into the team the likes of Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore upset the applecart, which in their absence this week has rolled right along and created its own undeniable mojo? Sometimes — and just maybe the U.S. hasn’t done enough of this in recent history — riding those hot hands and the momentum they bring with them is the most logical path to lifting the Cup.