U.S. set to open Gold Cup against Canada

6 Jun

As we all know, Spain is a rather phenomenal football team.  The U.S.? Not so much.  There’s nothing like a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the World Cup champs to get ready the Red, White and Blue for the Gold Cup this week.  Sure, you could say the U.S. wasn’t playing its best lineup, but then again, neither was Spain.  The real problem for the U.S. was the complete lack of passion and the inability to mark anyone in a white jersey in the penalty box.

Regardless of the reasons for the lackluster effort against the supremely talented Spanish, the U.S. has to regroup quickly as Gold Cup play opens Tuesday against Canada.  Winning this year’s Gold Cup is important to the U.S. because it would earn the team a spot in the next Confederations Cup in Brazil. And we all remember what happened at the 2009 Confederations Cup. (In case you forgot, the US advanced to the final after beating Spain and blew a 2-0 lead against Brazil in the final.)  Playing in the Confederations Cup would be extremely beneficial for the team going into a World Cup year as its a meaningful tournament and a good barometer of where the team is and what needs to improve.

Here are three keys to U.S. success in the Gold Cup:

1. Get the defense figured out – Let’s just say that the starters in Saturday’s game (Tim Ream, Oguchi Onyewu, Eric Lichaj and Jonathan Spector) failed to lock down any major minutes in the Gold Cup.  There was too much standing around and not enough guarding the opposing team.  Let’s hope that the likely top choice line of Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo,  along with two of the three following: Jonathan Bornstein or Clarence Goodson or Spector can put on a better, stronger and smarter performance.  If not, Tim Howard is going to have a coronary and/or get arrested for murder.

2. Take advantage of the opportunities – If there is no one between you and the net except the goalie, please shoot the ball.  The U.S. hasn’t exactly been a goal-scoring machine as of late, so it is important to take the chances when they are presented.  Going hand-in-hand with this sentiment is the play of the team’s strikers.  Jozy Altidore was ok at best against Spain and Juan Agudelo fell into the same category, although he actually hustled, which is always a plus.  The only other forward on the roster is Chris Wondolowski and I don’t see him being able to make much of an impact.  The trio, particularly Altidore, has to step it up and convert chances in this tournament.  I could see the U.S. moving Clint Dempsey up front if the strikers are struggling.

3. Fringe players need to step up – We all know what players like Landon Donovan and Carlos Bocanegra bring to the table.  In order for the U.S. to be successful both in this tournament and in the future, some of the other players need to show they can contribute – players like Agudelo, Robbie Rogers, Sacha Kljestan and even Freddy Adu.  The U.S. can’t rely on the same small group of people all the time.  Other athletes need to show that they can be difference makers too and that they are willing to take advantage of their opportunities.

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