Easy Road to Final Provides Unique Challenges for USMNT

IMAGE, MLSSOCCER.COM

by DENY GALLAGHER
USMNT Staff Writer

Lets keep it real right off the bat. The United States doesn’t just have an easy path to the Gold Cup final — it has a cakewalk.

To reach the final, the United States has to beat a Cuban team that is a little more than a month removed from a 4-1 defeat to the New York Cosmos on their home pitch in Havana. After that the United States has to beat either Haiti or Jamaica to punch their ticket to Philadelphia. While Jamaica won their group with an impressive draw against Costa Rica, barely getting by the likes of El Salvador and Canada with 1-0 score lines doesn’t exactly send shockwaves through the CONCACAF landscape.

On the other hand, there is Haiti; the little engine that could at the 2015 Gold Cup. Their first match of the tournament saw them make something out of nothing in the last five minutes against Panama to get the 1-1 draw. Then came a 1-0 defeat to a United States side that played the furthest thing from its best game. The side did flex their muscle against Honduras, knocking the traditional power out of the tournament after just three games with a 1-0 win.

This leaves the United States in a lose-lose situation heading into the knockout rounds. You can only beat teams by so much, but anything short of convincing results will leave more questions than answers for the American side.

In the next two weeks, it will be crucial that the United States find their form on the practice field and translate that into dominance in game situations. There have been many tests for Jurgen Klinsmann in his time with the United States, but he will have one of his toughest jobs in managing each player so that they are at their best when they reach the Gold Cup final. Motivating them against less-than-ominous opposition is part of that task.

To be frank, the United States is playing against themselves as they tune up for (*cough Mexico cough*) the Gold Cup final. In terms of our neighbor to the south, they have a stretch of matches against Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago or Panama. Either way, El Tri will have to be at their best to get to Philadelphia.

The U.S.? Not so much.

Unfortunately, the questions we have about this team right now may not be answered until the final.

In the mean time, the United States must sit tight and let Klinsmann pull the necessary strings to get this team in position to win a major trophy.