With the United States already over halfway through their CONCACAF World Cup qualifying campaign, they now have a different task at hand: Dethroning Mexico as CONCACAF champions.
Jurgen Klinsmann's full roster for the Gold Cup includes several veterans of the first team, but none aside from DaMarcus Beasley that have really featured prominently during The Hex. Landon Donovan (144 caps), Beasley (103) and Oguchi Onyewu (66) are the most experienced players on the roster, though Onyewu hasn't worn a U.S. shirt since 2011. That means a roster of mainly bench players, back-ups and youngsters will be called upon to claim the USMNT's first regional title in six years.
Klinsmann has a delicate job of not only balancing European-based players and those based in MLS/Liga MX, but also balancing them through two very different competitions. The qualification for the World Cup will always take precedence, but the Klinsmann is also after the regional title as well. CONCACAF made a change to their Confederations Cup qualifier, which will now see a playoff between the 2013 winner and 2015 winner to see who goes to Russia in 2017. That amplifies the importance of the tournament for Klinsmann and the USA.
The goalkeepers Nick Rimando, Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid will likely battle it out for not just the starting spot in the Gold Cup, but also the third keeper spot for the rest of qualifying and possibly the World Cup in Brazil. The three MLS keepers have only nine appearances between them, with the 34-year old Rimando the most experienced with six.
The defense still appears to be just as thin as that of the first team. Yes, Beasley, Onyewu and Clarence Goodson are on the roster, as well as two other players from the qualifying roster: Edgar Castillo and former Revolution defender Michael Parkhurst. Somewhere out of those five players is a starting lineup, but behind them is a trio of younger players looking to make an impact. Michael Orozco Fiscal (5 caps), Tony Beltran (1) and Corey Ashe (0) will be looking to impress for more appearances down the road.
The biggest news from the U.S. roster announcement, defensively anyway, might not be who is on it, but rather who is not. Defender Carlos Bocanegra did not make the roster from the 35-man preliminary, and questions will remain about his relationship with the national team. Clearly there is room for Bocanegra on the roster with the U.S. defense already lacking depth and experience so his omission by Klinsmann not just from the Gold Cup but the qualifiers is still perplexing. Defender Steve Cherundolo will undergo another surgery on his knee, and is not included, either. Cherundolo only featured in 20 games for Hannover 96 last year and hasn't played for the USA since October 16, 2012.
At the midfield level, the U.S. appears to be in good shape. Kyle Beckerman will likely feature in the middle, especially if Klinsmann sticks to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, perhaps along side the finally-healthy Stuart Holden. Jose Torres (20 caps) and Alejandro Bedoya (14) add a little experience to the midfield. Mix Diskerud, Joe Corona and Joshua Gatt represent the youngsters, each with a few appearances already under their belts.
The forwards are where the US roster really gets interesting. Landon Donovan is listed as a forward and will get a majority of the attention. Herculez Gomez is the other true veteran on the roster at forward and certainly seeing those two up front would be a formidable strike partnership. A trio of MLSers round out the roster, with Chris Wondolowski, Will Bruin and Jack McInerney will likely make his USMNT debut at some point.
It will be interesting to see how Klinsmann works out his formations in the coming weeks.The USA starts their Gold Cup Group C campaign on July 9th against Belize from Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon.