Most people have stopped following the US Men’s National Team after it’s tough loss to Brazil in the finals of the Confederations Cup. The US has actually been participating in the Gold Cup, a tournament for teams in the Americas, over the last several weeks. The matches have all taken place on US soil and the United States has used almost no players who played in the Confederations Cup, but nevertheless, the United States will face Mexico in the Finals tomorrow at Giants Stadium.
For those that have watched the games, the United States certainly hasn’t run over its opponents. The US won the games they needed to win, but didn’t demolish anyone and weren’t at the form seen in South Africa. That would make sense though since the roster has just four carryovers – Freddy Adu, Charlie Davies, Heath Pearce, and Luis Robles. Seven players were looking for their first cap while sixteen of the twenty-three man roster have less than five caps. The team looked nothing like the Confederations Cup roster yet they find themselves winning games and advancing.
Other countries certainly aren’t playing their top rosters either, but the US is putting a second-tier, if not third-tier, squad on the field while other nations are playing maybe half of their regulars. The US is playing such inexperienced and less-skilled players, but are at the level of other CONCACAF teams. That shows progress. World Cup Qualifying hasn’t been smooth, but the US’s ability to win despite playing almost no regulars shows that they have taken a step forward and are now significantly better than other CONCACAF teams. If the US had played their Confederations Cup roster, this tournament would have been a blowout.
If the US can beat Mexico in the final tomorrow, they’ll take home another piece of hardware and know that they beat their biggest rival, Mexico, without their A-team. Regulars Steve Cherundolo and Brian Ching did return to action after missing the Confederations Cup with injuries, but the average number of caps per player is eight versus it being 27 in South Africa. MLS players like Jay Heaps, who has solidly held his position with the New England Revolution for years, have seen significant minutes in this tournament. Heaps is not National Team caliber. He may end up fighting for a starting position on his own team, but he has been skilled enough to face these other CONCACAF teams. Progress. Progress. Progress. The US now must take the next step and let it’s A-squad run through the rest of World Cup Qualifying and show that the US is MUCH better than these other teams and is a contender in 2010.