Gold Cup Goodness: The Looming Semi

Two days and, oh, fifteen minutes from now, I'll be cracking the first of what will likely be several drinks ahead of the Gold Cup semifinal between the United States and Canada. And - boy howdy! - am I excited about this one. Judging by the steady stream of commentary, it seems like a lot of other people are too.

To begin, there's a fair amount of looking forward going on. For instance, Ives Galarcep chucked out his usual pre-game roster speculation/analysis; there's nothing too shocking/offensive in there, though I'd point to interested parties to the comments to this post, where a visitor to the site makes a case for avoiding starting both Pablo Mastroeni and Oguchi Onyewu. Other forward-looking stuff deals specifically with scouting the Canadians, though a lot of what I'm reading there just chucks out names and positions.

It also bears noting that the Canadians are watching us...

One of the revelations of my day came with learning that only three teams (!) have lifted the (remarkably hideous) CONCACAF Gold Cup. I found this so hard to believe that I bounced over to Wikipedia to check it out (yeah, yeah, I know): sure enough, that's accurate...provided you chuck the results from the CONCACAF Championship. Put another way, so long as you're talking about the event named the Gold Cup, only three teams have won it. Two of these are thoroughly obvious - the United States and Mexico - but the surprise comes with the third team: Canada. Who knew? (Not that they won it, mind you. The fact that Canada won the Gold Cup in 2000 comes up plenty; it's just the fact that no one else, say, Costa Rica or Honduras, that's surprising.)

Sitting as we are in the doldrums, now seems the time to take a look back at how the U.S. squad reached this point. One curious, yet persistent talking point grows from a sneaking sense insecurity among U.S. fans that our team has, now and again, dropped their guard and what they could mean against the sharper teams we're now facing. U.S. coach Bob Bradley has certainly noticed it (and that's to his credit). Turning to others, Ken Pendleton, writing for USSoccerplayers.com, threw this thought into the mixer:

"The dominance of good individual performances to the detriment of group play might just be the story of this tournament for the United States, and one of the major reasons has been the lineup shuffling."


I think Pendleton is on to something with that. More to the point, that's one of those things that you read and absorb with the realization that it's something you've been thinking all along, but without that specific thought forming cleanly in your head. Another addition in that regard came from Greg Lalas' Sports Illustrated analysis - though what he said here had more to do with why I found it so hard to write about the U.S. v. Panama quarterfinal after it had happened:

"Well, here I am writing about it, but I'm feeling anything but rocked. The Americans got a 2-1 win, the result they needed to advance to the semifinals -- where they'll meet Canada, who cruised past Guatemala 3-0 -- but they didn't exactly fill me with confidence."


The overall performance versus Panama produced feelings not so much of anxiety as something similar to boredom. Once we went up 2-0 - and possibly before then - I never had the feeling the Canaleros were going to get back into it. Sure, they scored their goal, but...I dunno. The game just kind of plugged along. Had they equalized, the experience would have been something like waking from a boring dream to a house on fire, but, as things turned out, the boring dream was reality. There was, perhaps even is, this sense that we're marching toward the final with Mexico and everything else in between is just a rehearsal for that...

...which leaves me fully expecting a horrible, stressful game against Canada. Again, Canada has won it all before, if only once, but that was back when we were "good." The question is whether I actually want that kind of stimulation.

1 comment:

Mark in NRH said...

I'm blushing.

Keep referencing my comments and people will start to believe that I know something about soccer.