The group stages of the Gold Cup are finished, with Team America winning Group B after defeating Grenada and Honduras handily, then settling for a last-gasp tie against Haiti. The quarterfinals will feature a host of familiar CONCACAF foes, with Panama up first next Saturday in Philly. U.S. Coach Bob Bradley (aka Stoneface) has used a combination of young up-and-comers and veterans trying to prove they still belong in this round. At this point, it’s all about finding those role-players and backups for the remainder of World Cup Qualifying and next summer’s South Africa roster.
It’s difficult to draw too many conclusions from games against tiny Grenada and a Honduran team that left it’s best players at home. The Haiti game was a little more useful in that it showed a few guys who definitely aren’t ready as well as some who never were. But everyone else is doing their analysis, so we will, too…
Five points in the Pentagram…
- These guys look ready – whether it’s spot or emergency duty or even to step and contribute at Azteca next month or South Africa next summer: Stuart Holden, Robbie Rogers, Chad Marshall. Holden is an ideal utility midfielder; a guy with athleticism, vision, and a blistering outside shot. Rogers has speed to burn and could be a deadly 2nd half sub, and he’s improved his tactical awareness. Marshall is good centerback cover and could be more in time.
- The guys don’t… Freddy Adu, Kenny Cooper, Michael Parkhurst – all of whom have had their advocates on the scene and are on some folks’ 23 man rosters. Freddy needs to find a way to play and right now. The only way he can make it now is to find a club and stick earn that starting role for a season. Cooper should get a few more chances due to lack of forward options on the team; hopefully he shows better next time. Parkhurst just looks too slow and too small. No discussion for guys like Pause, Heaps, Evans, etc., who were never in contention.
- Question marks include Kyle Beckerman, Davy Arnaud, and Jimmy Conrad. Let’s see how they do in the knockout rounds and whether Coach Stoneface likes it. Beckerman has looked very solid, but his position is the deepest on the team. Conrad remains a rock and doesn’t look to have slowed at all – I would bring him along because you know he’s a good guy who steps up. Arnaud? Is he quick and strong enough?
- I don’t think we’ll win this time – because Bob sent Feilhaber and Adu back to Europe and he may send Charlie Davies as well. Torres is resting and I don’t see him calling in his other provisional (ringer) players. That would take most of the speed and creativity out of an attack that has looked bogged down at times. Then again, Mexico looks shaky, and Costa Rica can’t beat us away from Saprissa. I have a feeling Canada might win it this time; they’ve looked motivated and refreshingly competent so far.
- What about the new converts? Too bad the FIFA ruling allowing guys with dual citizenship to switch allegiance didn’t come a month or so sooner. This would have been a great opportunity to test out Edgar Castillo at left back, a position of continued weakness. We wouldn’t have seen Schalke’s Jermayne Jones anyway because he has a hairline stress fracture and is out for months, but both of these guys are very good. US Soccer should get them both into the first camp for which they’re both eligible; we don’t have the luxury of wussing around with established players egos and hurt feelings over a couple of new guys coming to the party late. Maybe Coach Bob’s stonefaceness will actually help in this respect for once. He can use the old, “they both play quality minutes for their clubs” linr with them all day long.