Following the 1-0 win over Panama in Sunday’s Gold Cup final, plenty of USMNT players will pleased with their contribution over the past month.
Six games in searing temperatures, at packed out stadiums, facing energy-sapping opposition will have taken its toll on plenty of the USA’s stars.
But after a well-deserved break, a few Yanks in particular will be all smiles with Gold Cup medals around their neck.
We are going to leave Landon Donovan out of this conversation because, well, quite frankly he should never be in it in the first place.
And some may disagree with this, but Chris Wondolowski doesn’t make the cut. We already knew he could score against poor opposition but he showed he still can’t do it against the better teams after his display in the quarterfinal.
Back to Donovan, in my opinion he would be on the plane to Brazil and involved in the upcoming qualifiers in a heartbeat. And after his MVP showing during the Gold Cup, plenty more will assume Donovan’s place in the US squad is rubber stamped, for now.
However there were some players who shone almost as brightly as Donovan, as Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad triumphed. Let’s see who.
1. Kyle Beckerman
He cleaned up the space in front of the USA’s central defenders with consummate ease throughout the tournament. Real Salt Lake’s captain doesn’t do anything spectacularly well and you can’t really rave about him, as readers on this blog have pointed out to me in the past. But he keeps things ticking over nicely, does a tremendous job of shutting off the oppositions passing lanes and is calmness personified in the heat of the battle. Every team needs a man like him. Barcelona have Sergio Busquets, Real Madrid have Xabi Alonso and if one of the first choice midfielders is injured, the USA would be fine with Beckerman patrolling in front of the back four. True professional and a great tournament.
2. Mix Diskerud
Not too many people had seen Diskerud play before this Gold Cup, apart from that stunning goal vs. Russsia, and now they want to see more. The Norwegian-American was known for his vast range of passing and delicate interplay, but we saw a real grit and determination from him. Especially in the final. Diskerud must have been disappointed to be left out of the starting lineup but when Holden went off injured, he came on and solidified the midfield with a ruthless shift of tackles and clever probing. Panama’s midfielder never got a chance to settle on the ball. This tournament did Diskerud no harm at all.
3. Clarence Goodson
Signing for the San Jose Earthquakes on the eve of the tournament, US fans were pleased to see Goodson heading back to MLS. And now they’ll be even more excited after the dominate displays he put in. The former Brondby captain was calm and assured on the ball but matched every challenge thrown at him. Plus his two exquisite long range balls to help set up goals in the USA’s win over Honduras were sublime. Goodson, Matt Besler or Omar Gonzalez? Now it’s a tough decision.
4. Eddie Johnson
After being added to the squad for the knockout rounds, EJ came up big, twice, as the US downed El Salvador and then Hondruas. 2-1 up and struggling to get that vital third goal against El Salvador against the partisan crowd in Baltimore, EJ came off the bench and scored with his first touch. Then he struck early to settle US nerves against Honduras in Dallas. So often the man for the big occasion, Johnson must now be second on the depth chart after Jozy Altidore for the central strikers role. A job well done.
5. Brek Shea
This may raise some eyebrows, but Shea needed this tournament, big time. You have to remember he wasn’t even on the roster but after Josh Gatt’s injury, Klinsmann kept Shea around and the rest is history. His goal won the Gold Cup after his first touch as a sub in the final, it wasn’t a classic but they all count. But whenever he came onto the pitch he added pace, whipped in some great balls and was a huge nuisance. It was a glimpse of the old Shea, which is something we haven’t seen for a while. However, I think we’ll be seeing plenty more of him for the national team in the coming months.