So the Gold Cup is over, and the U.S. is left with a disappointing fourth place finish following their shootout loss to Panama. Here's some final thoughts on the tournament:
1) The U.S. definitely appeared flat in this tournament and the team we fielded didn't play anything like the inspired group we saw beat Germany and the Netherlands overseas. So of course the question comes up, should this tournament cost Klinsmann his job? I say no and it sounds like U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati agrees. Here's my thinking: while the U.S.'s play was poor, a few bad games shouldn't derail what Klinsmann has done. Love him or hate him, there's no debating what the U.S. has accomplished in the Klinsmann era. Wins in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, a Gold Cup title in 2013, emerging from the Group of Death in the 2014 World Cup, and bringing all sorts of new players into the fold (Bobby Wood, Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, Miguel Ibarra, Jordan Morris, Aron Johannsson, etc). Has the era been perfect? No, but like anything, this is a process, and bringing in a new coach now would likely require taking more steps backwards. Does Klinsmann deserve some of the blame for our showing in the Gold Cup? Absolutely. He made some questionable decisions when forming this roster, his inconsistency with starting lineups failed to build continuity and his inability to make in-game adjustments against inferior opponents (Jamaica, Haiti, Panama) definitely hurt us. But I'd argue he's earned enough credit during his tenure to warrant a longer leash than what some fans are calling for.
2) So what did we learn from this tournament? We learned that Joe Corona is not a one-for-one replacement for Kyle Beckerman. We learned that Fabian Johnson is much more valuable in defense than he is in the midfield. We learned that Clint Dempsey is far and away our most dangerous attacking option. We learned that our young center backs, Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks still have a ways to go. We learned that the U.S. suddenly struggles in defending set pieces. We learned that CONCACAF's overall level of play has been elevated and it's no longer just a two-horse race with the U.S. and Mexico. We learned that we have absolutely no idea on a given night who our Starting Eleven might be. And we learned there are still a lot of questions to be answered before the U.S. plays Mexico this fall for a berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup.
3) Speaking of questions that we don't have answers to: When will we see Jozy Altidore in a USA jersey again? Who should be starting in the back? Brad Evans and DaMarcus Beasley are fine, but certainly aren't the future. Are we grooming anyone to take over Kyle Beckerman's role as a holding midfielder? Anyone other than Joe Corona? What is our identity? Attack first? Defend and counter? Can anyone name our Starting Eleven? It changes nightly! I'll leave it at that for now.
4) Mexico is vulnerable right now, especially after an unconvincing tournament win (just ask Costa Rica and Panama) and the fact that they just fired their coach. That makes our October showdown a golden opportunity for the U.S. as a Confederations Cup berth would be a tremendous boost to our 2018 World Cup chances. There's not a lot of time between now and then for Klinsmann to figure things out. I just hope we show up so we don't let this tremendous opportunity go to waste.
MLSers in Action
Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders/USA) - Sub, 60 mins, 2 shots, 1 goal, Made PK
Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/USA) - Started, 120 mins, Missed PK
Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City/USA) - Started, 60 mins
Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy/USA) - Started, 90 mins
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes/USA) - Started, 60 mins, 1 shot
DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo/USA) - Sub, 30 mins, Missed PK
Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls/Jamaica) - Started, 90 mins
Je-Vaughn Watson (FC Dallas/Jamaica) - Started, 89 mins, 1 shot, yellow card
Giles Barnes (Houston Dynamo/Jamaica) - Started, 90 mins, 1 shot
Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps/Jamaica) - Sub, 30 mins 1 shot, 1 goal