USMNT Report: Breaking Past Belize

The Americans prepare for their Gold Cup opener against Belize
by Herb Scribner   |   Tuesday, July 09, 2013

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

The United States Men’s National Team is searching for redemption, and the quest to find it begins tonight at JELD-WEN Field in Portland, Ore., where the Americans will face Belize in both teams’ Gold Cup opener.

It’s never been an easy road for the US, but the confidence built under manager Jurgen Klinsmann may be enough to push the Yanks through the tournament without too much cause for concern.

THE ROAD TO NOW: In a warm-up match before the Gold Cup’s kickoff, the United States faced off against Guatemala in San Diego.

Landon Donovan made his return to the United States in high fashion, scoring 2 goals and contributing on another strike that was put in by Chris Wondolowski, which was his 1st goal for the national team.

Clarence Goodson, Alejandro Bedoya and Herculez Gomez also scored in the 6-0 rout over Los Chapines.

PRE-GAME CHATTER: Klinsmann made it very clear yesterday that the Gold Cup roster is not a B team.

The former German international said age doesn’t matter for his players, but rather how well they perform on the pitch.

Donovan’s confidence seems to be raised after his 2 goals against Guatemala, saying that he’s having fun again on the field.

For tonight's match, the American Outlaws are looking to energize the Portland audience. Phil Mitchell, a member of the American Outlaws, released an open letter, calling all Portland fans to head to the game.

ANALYSIS: Last Friday night’s 6-0 win over Guatemala was as easy as it’ll get for the United States, at least for a while. Guatemala is incredibly inferior and barely deserved the few chances it got during the rout.

Things shouldn’t be too different in the Gold Cup’s opening stages, especially tonight’s encounter. Belize, which has qualified for the Gold Cup for the 1st time, is another CONCACAF side that failed to move forward in World Cup qualification. It’s also the 1st time the Americans will face Belize in international play.

Belize will be coached by manager Ian Mork, who was born in Kansas and took over the Jaguars in 2009. The American manager is looking to pull off an upset against his home country.

The Jaguar’s top striker, Deon McCaulay, is the all-time leading scorer for the country with 16 total goals. He was dynamic in the World Cup qualification process with 11 goals in 8 games. Considering Belize earned its independence from Great Britain in 1981, and has only been in CONCACAF since 1986, McCaulay’s tallies show the progress of the minnow country.

Few should seriously doubt the United States’ ability to come out and secure 3 points against the Jaguars, especially if the US plays the way it did in the 2nd half against Guatemala. The Americans need to be confident and creative on the ball and can’t lose shape if Belize gets an opportunity off its defend-and-counter strategy.

Donovan’s pair of goals should raise his own morale and shake away the rusty play we saw in the 1st half hour against Guatemala. Klinsmann should consider playing him up top and central, which worked extremely well against Guatemala. The Los Angeles Galaxy star is the all-time leading scorer for the US and the Gold Cup, having netted 13 goals in the tournament.

Stuart Holden deserves a start after his recent showing, assisting on a Donovan goal and providing long passes through the midfield. Putting him back in the starting rotation against a lower-level side like Belize could be the right move to get his pace and stamina back, which will slowly build him into a full national starter for the Americans once again.

And although Klinsmann said this USA side is by no means a B team, we’ve yet to see the Americans put under pressure and in a tough situation. Tonight’s showcase won’t be much of an indicator either, though. We’ll certainly see what looks like an A team cruise past Guatemala, Belize and most likely Cuba.

But we won’t know what side this really is until the United States plays Costa Rica next Tuesday. Costa Rica is a formidable opponent that has always been a thorn in the US’ side, so it’ll be a true test to see how the Americans measure up then.

Tonight’s contest, though, should be another easy encounter for the Yanks. They’ll be facing a team that’ll be playing defensively, but they can’t let up on the attack. Belize’s goalkeeper Shane Orio, who plays for CD Marathon in Honduras, might pose a bit of a threat in between the posts, but it’s doubtful he’ll stay composed if the US brings the same pressure it did against Guatemala.

That’s the key for tonight’s game – more of the same. The Americans played its best half of soccer in the Klinsmann era against Guatemala, and they need to continue that play for 90 minutes against Belize if they want to make an early statement in the Gold Cup.

Many of the Gold Cup squad members are fighting for a spot on the 1st team, as well as a possible slot in the 2014 World Cup lineup. To win against Belize and start the Gold Cup in a dominant fashion will only increase the chances of some of the these squad members getting on the top roster.

From the World Cup Qualifiers to last Friday’s friendly, the USMNT is riding a wave of top performances. Tonight – barring any mishaps – should be more of the same.

NEXT UP: July 9 – Gold Cup: United States vs. Belize, JELD-WEN Field, Portland, Ore. 11 p.m. EST, FOX Soccer Channel.

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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