US national team players have realized that the more they score in the Gold Cup, the better their chances are of being on next summer's World Cup team.
The players, who are part of a squad that hasn't earned much playing time in the last year, have showcased their skills emphatically, tallying 16 goals in the Gold Cup so far (not including the six they scored against Guatemala in a pre-tournament friendly). They'll try to continue their high-scoring form in the semifinals against Honduras tonight at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.
At no time in recent history have players been so hungry to be on the US team, and that drive to succeed has translated in goals, goals, and more goals as well as an impressed Jurgen Klinsmann, the Head Coach.
"The players that are representing us in this Gold Cup, they clearly know that this a huge opportunity to prove their value and their case to the coaching staff one year prior to the World Cup," explained Klinsmann.
"The door is always open; you never shut the door in soccer to players, no matter what difficult stretch they are going through with their club teams. We made it clear that itís down to the player to understand their opportunities."
Regarded by many as a "B" team, this Gold Cup squad is actually getting better results against regional rivals than Klinsmann's first-choice starters. From Aug. 2011 to June 2013, the US' record against CONCACAF teams was a formidable 8-3-3. But the way the US was getting those results was somewhat unconvincing, winning most of those games by one goal. The Gold Cup squad has made more of a mark, racking up multi-goal victories in all but one game.
The US may be scoring against weaker teams, countries who will definitely not be participating in next summer's World Cup, but that won't diminish how they're evaluated by Klinsmann. The US coach has positions in every area of the field that can still be filled before next summer, and performing well at the Gold Cup is a key stepping stone.
The US will likely play Mexico, the toughest test in the tournament, should they defeat Honduras tonight. Mexico are the Americans' biggest rival and the US hasn't lost to them in Klinsmann's tenure. The US will send a serious message to their coach and the other players in the international player pool if they can be as emphatic against Mexico as they have been versus other tournament teams.
Defense chips in for goals too
In the last five games, central defender Clarence Goodson has scored twice, showing that he is capable of being dangerous on both sides of the ball. He's earned a sizable amount of playing time for the US in the last year, and that could continue following what has so far been a successful Gold Cup campaign.
Michael Orozco Fiscal, who has earned three starts in the tournament, has also scored one goal. Both he and Goodson are fighting for spots in a very congested central defense situation. Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, and Oguchi Onyewu.
Due to injuries, DaMarcus Beasley has slotted in at left back. A natural wing player, Beasley has added speed and a knack for dribbling into the offensive third while filling in as a defender.
Former Revolution defender Michael Parkhurst has earned consistent playing time in the Gold Cup as well. When Parkhurst left MLS in 2008, he was one of the US' best central defenders. Klinsmann has now moved Parkhurst to right back, a position he's shown he's capable in, where he has the unfamiliar task of going up the flank and serving crosses into the penalty area.
You can reach Julian at email@example.com and follow him on twitter @juliancardillo
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