USMNT Report: Pressure for the Friendly

Spotlight on Gold Cup roster to make a statement in San Diego showdown
by Herb Scribner   |   Friday, July 05, 2013

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

The United States celebrated its independence yesterday, and that rejoicing will carry over to San Diego tonight, where the United States Men’s National Team will have its final tune-up match before the 2013 Gold Cup when it faces Guatemala.

Coming off an explosive run through World Cup qualifying, USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann and his squad will look to make some noise before the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup kicks off next week.

THE ROAD TO NOW: June was an excellent month for the USA, as the team blazed through its qualifiers with 3 wins, which was good enough to get the Americans 9 points and the sole seat at the head of the Hexagonal.

After losing 4-2 to Belgium on June 2, the USA responded with a sneaky 4-3 win over Germany, which included a well-timed goal by Jozy Altidore, his 1st international goal since 2011. Altidore’s scoring streak continued in the 2-1 win over Jamaica 5 days later, as he netted the opening goal. It was Brad Evans, a right midfielder-turned-rightback that scored the game-winner at the death to send away the Reggae Boyz with a 2-1 win.

Four days later, the US returned stateside to Seattle and put away Panama, winning 2-0 with goals from Altidore and Eddie Johnson. The US capped off the World Cup Qualifiers with a 1-0 shutout – courtesy of another Altidore goal – of Honduras on June 11 in Sandy, Utah.

PRE-GAME CHATTER: The Gold Cup roster for the USA is mixed of both veterans and youth. And it was the veterans who spoke out ahead of the San Diego friendly about the team’s upcoming schedule.

“There is a lot of optimism in the group,” said Clarence Goodson. “Guys are hungry for the opportunity. They want to prove themselves to Jurgen and the whole country that they can play at this level.”

And DaMarcus Beasley, who will wear the captain’s armband for the Gold Cup, said he’s been offering advice to the younger players.

“You’re on the national team for a reason,” he said. “It’s not because this is our ‘B’ team. They’re good players and they deserve to be here. … Any advice I would tell to the young guys that haven’t got a cap yet is take the opportunity.”

Landon Donovan, who makes his return to the USA after a 4-month sabbatical from soccer, told US Soccer he’s excited to be back on the roster.

“It’s exciting to be part of the team again,” he said. “I am in a little bit of a different place than I was before. Jurgen has created an environment where you are really competing consistently to part of this team. And now I am very much on the outside looking in, and I’ve got to make my way back in. I look forward to it.”

ANALYSIS: If the United States wants to make an impact at the Gold Cup and redeem the trophy from rival Mexico, tonight’s the night to get it started.

It’s a friendly against Guatemala, a team that the USA has defeated 19 times in a row following a 1-0 loss in 1988. Los Chapines also failed to qualify for both the World Cup and Gold Cup, so it’s unlikely they’ll make too much of a problem for the Americans. But the US still wants to come out fast and strong, show its style early and often, and cruise to a victory.

Depending on Klinsmann’s starting lineup, which he said will likely be the same squad he’ll field for the early games of the Gold Cup, it’ll be important for the USA to get the chemistry right. With veterans, youth and returning players coming together in this camp, the team may become unsettled and disoriented.

Players like Oguchi Onyewu and Donovan have been away from the red, white and blue for a while, and might not mix well with some of the youth breaking into the roster, like Jack McInerney and Corey Ashe, who are joining the USMNT senior camp for the 1st time.

The spotlight is definitely on US hopefuls McInerey and Ashe, as well as Tony Beltran and Will Bruin, to make their case for being on the squad. McInerey’s been burying goals all season in MLS, and his call-up for this friendly and subsequent tournament is a good start for getting him primed to be a national team regular.

Some players, like Beasley, Edgar Castillo and Stuart Holden, were often featured in the recent spell of WCQs, which gives them an extra hand in playing to Klinsmann’s style and desires. Hopefully for the US, those players can shine a light for the new crew and avoid any awkward mishaps and misconnections.

But just because Beasley, Castillo and Holden have played for the A squad before, doesn’t mean they’re not also facing pressure. Holden’s looking to get back to his top form that’ll break him into the starting rotation rather than being a late sub. He can use tonight’s friendly, and definitely the Gold Cup, to make that push.

Like it’s been said before, this squad is about redemption, especially for Donovan. Critics have called out Klinsmann for keeping the Los Angeles Galaxy star away from the side, but the former German international has done his part in bringing Donovan back. Now it’s Donovan’s turn to prove why he deserves to wear the red, white and blue. And I have very little doubt that he’ll fail to do so.

And Donovan is excited to be back, which is a good sign seeing as his sabbatical had a lot to do with his disinterest in the game. He’ll be among friends, too, as Beasley, Onyewu and Kyle Beckerman were all a part of the inaugural U-17 Residency Program with Donovan in 1999. It’s been a long road, but the group is back together for this Gold Cup.

Tonight’s friendly won’t matter too much in the long-term. It’s a quick inspection of the roster before the grueling summer tournament begins, and not at all crucial for the USA. A win should come easily.

But the clash from San Diego will shed light on which players, whether it’s a weathered veteran or a wily youngster, will lead the United States forward to snatch back the Gold Cup trophy from Mexico.

NEXT UP: July 5 – Friendly: United States vs. Guatemala, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego. 11 p.m. EST, NBC Sports Network, UniMas.

Herb SCRIBNER

Nationality:
USA
College:
UMass Amherst
Club Domestic:
RSL
Club Foreign:
FC Barcelona
SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.
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