United States riding high heading into Gold Cup semifinal vs. Honduras
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Jurgen Klinsmann wants to get a better picture of what his squad will look like for its likely trip to Brazil next year.
If the United States national team’s current form continues through July, he will have some tougher decisions to make than previously anticipated.
As the Americans prepare to take on Honduras in the semifinals of the Gold Cup tonight at Cowboys Stadium, they bring with them a national-team record nine-match winning streak and a bevy of second-teamers looking to impress.
“It’s an opportunity for us to see players coming through the system, and you want to evaluate them and see them in every training session,” said Klinsmann, who took over the team after a second-place finish in the 2011 version of the CONCACAF championship. “You want to see them every minute they are on the field in order to get a better picture of them towards the World Cup in 2014.”
So far, those looking to catch Klinsmann’s eye have done so.
The United States has won all four of its games in the biennial tournament, outscoring opponents 16-3. The only close game the United States has played in the tournament was a 1-0 victory against Costa Rica to close out group play in first place.
The majority of the regulars — such as Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore — are not at the Gold Cup after a highly successful string of World Cup qualifiers. The United States sits atop the final leg of qualifying with four games left.
The United States is also coming off its most successful year in team history in 2012 with a 9-2-3 mark.
However, the replacements are doing their best to break into the first-team rotation.
“I think all of us know that we’ll stand out individually if we do well as a team,” said United States forward Chris Wondolowski, whose five goals lead all Gold Cup scorers. “And so I think we have that, first and foremost, and I think that’s going to be the key and we’ve all bought in on that. I think you can see the camaraderie in the group, and it’s definitely team-first here.”
While players like the 30-year-old Wondolowski, who has scored all six of his international career goals this month, are trying to prove they belong, former national team stars also are hoping to catch on. Most notably, three-time World Cup veteran Landon Donovan.
Donovan has been among the top United States players through four games in the Gold Cup. He has five goals and seven assists in his five games back with the squad after a self-imposed hiatus from the sport.
Despite his years of success with the national team, he hasn’t been a part of such an historic run. Until now.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Donovan said. “It’s really enjoyable to play in, not only the goals but we’re creating lots of chances, and that’s enjoyable.”
Brek Shea, a Texas native, said the weight of the win streak hasn’t gotten to the team, nor do the Americans talk about the record. The 23-year-old Shea scored the winner against Costa Rica after coming on as a substitute.
He said the team doesn’t want to put more pressure on itself to win.
“I think everyone is just excited to play,” Shea said. “We’ve had a really fun time in this tournament. On and off the field it’s a great group of guys.”
The United States and Mexico were pre-tournament favorites to reach the Gold Cup final. Mexico meets Panama in the second semifinal.
The championship game is scheduled for Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago.
While United States-Mexico is the final most expected, Honduras hopes to break up the party with a victory today. Honduras, the fifth-ranked team in the region by FIFA, is the last CONCACAF team to defeat the United States in competitive play, at the beginning of World Cup qualifying.
“We’re conscious of what’s upon us,” Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez said. “It’s going to be a difficult game. The U.S. is a team that has great optimism. They’ve played games where the U.S. has shown great superiority over its rivals.”
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