By IVES GALARCEP
How do you get pumped up for a match that you are supposed to win by multiple goals? For the U.S. Men’s National Team, motivation for tonight’s CONCACAF Gold Cup opener goes well beyond simply wanting a result. For every player taking the field, the match is their chance to not only earn more minutes in the Gold Cup, but also potentially move their name up the USMNT depth chart.
It would be wrong for the U.S. to overlook their opponent tonight, but all signs point to a comfortable victory a U.S. team with the weapons to overwhelm the tiny Central American nation. There will really be no excuse for the Americans not to put in a strong showing and the focus will be as much on developing a familiarity within the group as it will be on the actual result of the match.
What will be the key things to watch for tonight when the USA faces Belize (11pm, Fox Soccer Channel)? Here are some key things to watch:
USMNT vs. BELIZE: FIVE KEY QUESTIONS
1. WHERE WILL LANDON LINE UP?
Will he play on the right wing? Will he line up as a forward? How about underneath a lone striker? Donovan’s versatility makes him viable at a variety of spots and where he is deployed tonight should let us know where Klinsmann sees him long term.
2. WILL HOLDEN BE GIVEN THE STARTING NOD?
After his masterful outing vs. Guatemala, Stuart Holden has become the player most U.S. fans want to see moved into the starting lineup. The real question here is whether Klinsmann thinks he’s ready to go 90. If he doesn’t start tonight, it doesn’t mean he won’t be gradually moved into that role later in the tournament. Either way, Holden will have a big part to play in this Gold Cup.
3. CAN THE CENTERBACKS DOMINATE?
Maybe that’s a little ambitious. How about “Can the U.S. centerbacks play well and not look shaky”. Oguchi Onyewu and Clarence Goodson enter the Gold Cup essentially playing for the USMNT lives. A good tournament could ensure they are called in when World Cup qualifying rolls around in September. If either or both struggle, it could open the door for Carlos Bocanegra to return.
4. WILL BEASLEY SHINE AS CAPTAIN?
Sometimes players can see their play improve dramatically when handed the captain’s armband, and while Beasley was pretty solid in recent World Cup qualifiers, he showed signs against Guatemala of a player playing with supreme confidence and poised for a big Gold Cup. He has a chance to really boost his chances of remaining Klinsmann preferred left back option with a strong tournament.
5. HOW CLOSE IS SHEA TO BEING ALL THE WAY BACK?
Brek Shea wasn’t even going to play in the Gold Cup until an injury to Josh Gatt opened the door for him to join the team. Now, instead of fighting to impress new manager Mark Hughes at Stoke City, Shea will be looking to show Klinsmann that he can once again be the player Klinsmann once used to hand regular starts with the first team.
And here are some other questions USMNT fans will be hoping to have an answer to in the coming weeks at the Gold Cup:
Will Jack McInerney get some minutes?
Will Mix Diskerud get a chance to start?
Can Chris Wondolowski build on his first USMNT goal?
Will Kyle Beckerman play well enough to silence the hordes of USMNT fans critical of his place in the starting lineup?
Can Joe Corona break through and finally make a real impact on the national team?
Can Jose Torres reach the potential he showed as a young player worthy of World Cup start in 2010?
These are just a few of the questions to ponder both tonight and during the Gold Cup.
What questions are you hoping to see answered? Which of the above questions will you be paying the most attention to finding an answer?
Share your thoughts below.
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