For the first time since 2013, the USMNT will have the opportunity to lay it all on the line in an attempt to hoist the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
[ MORE: Dempsey propels USMNT past Costa Rica in Gold Cup semis ]
This summer’s competition has been a unique one for manager Bruce Arena and his side, with a large host of players seeing time in the tournament as the second-term boss looks to establish his roster heading into next summer’s World Cup.
[ MORE: Player ratings from USMNT’s semifinal victory ]
Arena and Co. made its move into the Gold Cup final on Saturday night after disposing of Costa Rica behind a pair of second-half finishes from Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey.
The U.S. will now move on to face either Mexico or Jamaica in Wednesday night’s finale, but first, here’s a look at three takeaways from the Stars and Stripes’ victory on Saturday.
Dempsey continues as lead contributor in U.S. attack
Outside of Christian Pulisic, who wasn’t selected for this month’s Gold Cup, there isn’t a more consistent and threatening goalscorer than Clint Dempsey for the USMNT.
The Seattle Sounders veteran was directly involved in both goals last night, with the second — a finish of his own — putting Dempsey on level terms as U.S. Soccer’s all-time leading scorer with Landon Donovan.
Albeit at 34 years of age and likely on the back nine of his career, Dempsey has proven time and time again just how critical his usage and production can be for the Stars and Stripes. Even if Dempsey doesn’t see as much time moving forward with the likes of Pulisic earning starting minutes, the Texas-native is more than deserving of a rotational role within the squad.
Altidore still proving his worth up front
Jozy Altidore opened the scoring for the U.S. on Saturday night, and it was his brilliant, probing run through the Costa Rica backline that freed himself up for Dempsey to pick out his long-time compatriot inside the Ticos area.
The Toronto FC striker has always been scrutinized on the international level, despite being one of the national team’s go-to threats in the attacking third.
Although Jordan Morris and Dom Dwyer each displayed well during the group stage of the competition, Altidore is the veteran of the group. He’s played at two World Cups and is currently the team’s second active leading scorer all-time, only trailing Dempsey.
Mexico may be only true threat to USMNT
Assuming Mexico is able to dispatch of Jamaica on Sunday and reach another Gold Cup final, it’s difficult to imagine a situation more perfect than a USA-Mexico conclusion. Forget the storied rivalry for a second and consider what this tournament means to both sides.
Yes, there’s a trophy on the line. However, this edition of the Gold Cup is way more important to both programs’ long-term growth, most notably next summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Mexico didn’t bring any of its regulars to this tournament, after many had played the month prior at the FIFA Confederations Cup, but even El Tri’s backups have held up well against their CONCACAF competition.
El Tri has allowed just one goal in four matches thus far, and Jamaica’s attack hasn’t exactly proven to be an offensive juggernaut, so it shouldn’t come as a shock if Mexico does set up a date with the U.S.