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Gold Cup

Seven Men with Something to Prove at the Gold Cup

United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has plenty of players hoping to make an impression. Josh Deaver looks at Landon Donovan and six others who can dramatically improve their place.
BY Josh Deaver Posted
July 03, 2013
2:29 PM
The Gold Cup is about making the most of the occasion. A prestigious line of players have parlayed success into a World Cup ticket. DaMarcus Beasley in 2001, Oguchi Onyewu in 2005, and Stuart Holden in 2009 all made the leap. Pure coincidence would have it that all three are back for the 2013 iteration. They join a diverse mix of players who have the same chance in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup.

It’s hard to say who is under the most pressure coming in to this camp. Is it those long-in-the-tooth veterans who may have a limited number of future opportunities? Or is it their potential scions, who may be expected to extend a good run of form on a bigger stage?

In the end, every member of the 23-man roster is vying for a spot on the A-team. Who has the best opportunity to step up and make his case?

Alejandro Bedoya

The midfielder knows this process well. Bedoya narrowly missed going to South Africa but finds himself in an excellent position to make his case for Brazil. The versatile winger has become a focal point for Helsingborg's attack, scoring five goals in 12 appearances so far this season. Bedoya has made only one appearance in the Klinsmann-era, as a substitute in a paltry scoreless draw with Canada in January, but the American team lacks depth on the wing and he may be a perfect complement for upcoming World Cup qualifying rosters.

Chris Wondolowski

The curse of the sitter. Since that ignominious match against Panama in 2009, his international prospects have been dogged and nearly defined by a single moment. When I talked to Wondolowski in January, his demeanor was restrained. He wanted to score, but didn’t feel he needed to in order to justify his inclusion. Try as he might—and he did try—with more than a half a dozen shots in 45 minutes of action against Canada, the MLS goal machine is still yet to open his account in a U.S. kit. Given the deep crop of potential World Cup forwards, this could be his final chance to make an impact. Joe Corona

The Tijuana midfielder has been a bit of an understudy through the qualifying process. While Klinsmann called him into the last two national team camps, he made only one late substitute appearance in a 2-0 win against Panama. Now with Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and others vacating their spots in midfield for the Gold Cup, Corona may finally have a chance to shine. He has proven himself in Liga MX, helping Tijuana win an Apertura title and go on a lengthy run in Copa Liberatadores. Corona was an also offensive lynchpin for Caleb Porter's under-23 team that failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. His versatility allows him to line up anywhere in the midfield. No matter where it is, after months of riding the pine he will be anxious for more than just a few minutes.

Michael Parkhurst

It was a disappointing year for Parkhurst. After completing a move to Bundesliga-side Augsburg in December from Danish champions Nordsjaelland, Parkhurst was relegated to the bench, making only two appearances for the struggling club. Parkhurst’s position on the squad next season is looking less than secure. With the national team, however, he has a great opportunity to carve out a spot. Timothy Chandler and Steve Cherundolo are out, and the 29-year old will be the most experienced option at right back when the U.S. kicks off against Belize next week.

Oguchi Onyewu

Many, this author included, thought the big center back was done. After some awful showings last summer coupled with a less than fruitful move to Malaga in La Liga, Onyewu appeared to be entering the twilight of his career. Now, however, the U.S. center of defense is as unsure as it was a year ago, and the 31-year old will have perhaps his final opportunity. Along with Clarence Goodson—another player that must prove his worth for Brazil—he is the only other pure center back on the roster. American fans and the U.S. coaching staff will be hoping for a resurrection. Can he deliver?

Jack McInerney

Zero caps, zero goals. As the only one of two uncapped players on the roster, McInerney is starting from the bottom. No stranger to international competition—he scored twice in the U-17 World Cup—this is his first foray with the senior team. McInerney currently leads MLS is scoring and will need to prove that his hot streak can be carried over to his national team duty. The striker pool is no doubt deeper than it’s ever been but it is not out of the question that a solid series of performances could see him in the mix for Brazil. What does he need to do? Score.

Landon Donovan

You didn’t think we’d go a whole article without mentioning his name, did you? He may be under pressure to regain his spot in the national team, but it is doubtful you could characterize Donovan as nervous. He knows—as well as everyone else—that when he is healthy and in form he is one of the best Americans playing today. The question is: can he prove it again to Jurgen Klinsmann, the media, and the fans? After a month or so of vacillating production, Donovan has rounded into form at the right time, with three goals and four assists in 13 appearances this season. For the all-time leading U.S. goal scorer, his road to reclamation begins on Friday.

Josh Deaver is a former academic turned soccer obsessive. Follow him on Twitter, @JoshDeaver.

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