Gold Cup v. Copa: Mixed Up, but Content

The opening round of punditry about the United States' participation in both the CONCACAF Gold Cup and South America's Copa America has produced something of a consensus view, even if it's one with ample shades of grey. The basic point: Bradley will take something like two separate teams to each tournament, a decision that carries the potential to cheat our players out of what the Copa would ideally provide them - a chance at meaningful games against top-quality competition. The second part of this consensus amounts to an "oh well" acceptance that Bradley's position makes sense.

That's not to say everyone is quite on board. For instance, ESPN's Jeff Carlisle takes the strongest position against(-ish):

"Yet I can't shake the feeling that in some ways, the logic is all backwards. The primary reason for entering Copa America is that it provides better competition in a much more hostile environment than the Gold Cup does. But instead of sending its strongest team to Venezuela, the U.S. will be sending its B team. Both Brazil and Argentina have taken a similar approach in the past, but if last summer's World Cup proved anything, it's that even the most experienced American players would benefit from playing in Copa America, and the fact that they won't is a shame."

As you can see, I modified the word "against" above (yes, to the point of making it non-sensical) in part because I don't think Carlisle would disagree with Ives Galarcep's assessment of the circumstances under which Bradley works:

"The reality is that Bob Bradley doesn't have much of a choice when it comes to a preference for one major fact. The Gold Cup is a regional championship that clubs must allow its CONCACAF players compete in. Copa America is not the US team's regional championship and therefore clubs can stop their players from going, especially since that tournament takes place much closer to the European season."

I almost wrote a post last week trying to split the difference between Carlisle and Galarcep; put another way, I think they both have a point, even as I believe Galarcep's better faces up to the realities in play. I'd go so far as to say I was leaning in Carlisle's direction. For whatever reason, I'm not all that sold on the Confederations' Cup as a high-stakes tournament - do participating countries take it as seriously as we think they do? - but the bigger point for me was seeing our players gain this experience. As a result, I'd be comfortable if Bradley turned the logic on its head and take players he is confident are World-Cup-2010-bound to the Copa for some seasoning.

But something I came across today - a Jeff Rusnack column, in fact - gave me a little more to think about:

"Ideally, for U.S. interests, the dates for the tournaments would be reversed. But they aren't, which might not be so bad. After all, Onyewu, Beasley, Dempsey and other World Cup veterans have received their international baptism. Newcomers such as Jonathan Bornstein, Ricardo Clark and Jimmy Conrad are just getting theirs. And there's nothing like a game against Argentina on foreign soil to see whether they're ready."

That's a good argument...dammit. Good enough to knock me from contrarian to agnostic, to begin.

But another consideration has me leaning toward priotizing the Gold Cup - a simple desire to win something. Put it this way: I can't see us winning the Copa America, even with our best squad. Not this year, anyway. But the Gold Cup? If we bring our best squad, I expect us to win. And I'll take a happy feeling - e.g. winning an international tournament - over an intangible benefit any day.



B_Washington said...

I pretty much agree that the Copa America would be the best thing for the US "A" team, as Carlisle calls it. I don't see why taking young potential World Cup caliber MLS talent-level players would be such a bad thing.

One thing I think the Copa America will help is in the marketing department too. I think people think of Soccer and the World Cup like the olympics now. A spectacular event once every 4 years. The Gold Cup, sure we can win. But other than Mexico who else are peple going to turn in to watch us play? Costa Rica? Guatemala?

But when the US plays Argentina and Columbia more people will tune in, and maybe see that this is a great sport more than once every 4 years.If they can advance and play Mexico or Brazil I think you'll see an interest in the Men's team that isn't their in non-world cup years

Brian said...

I didn't see any of these article's until I finished my piece railing against Trecker today.

I still think that th ebest thing for a long term healthy USMNT player pool would be to send Cooper, Bornstein, Clark and the new guys to the Copa.

The Manly Ferry said...

Thanks for the tip on Trecker's. I'll have to check that out.

Regarding both comments, this is a tricky question, isn't it? Even with what I wrote yesterday, I still think it's fair to describe me as agnostic; it just seems like everyone's right...which I suppose is a good thing given the suggests no one is wrong....right?