Why the 2014 World Cup in Rio Will Be Team USA's Time to Shine
The United States Men’s National Team has endured a bit of a rocky start to its 2014 World Cup qualification campaign, amassing a 2-1-1 record heading into the final two games of CONCACAF group play.
Over the last year, Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad has put together some nice wins and some great performances, but has also looked stagnant at times and endured some disappointing losses. These type of yo-yo-like displays have made many U.S. fans doubt whether their beloved national team will be successful at the 2014 World Cup, or even qualify for the tournament at all.
However, there are some encouraging signs that things for the USMNT are about to turn around just when it matters most. Here are four signs the U.S. is poised for big things at the 2014 World Cup.
Most of the USMNT regulars are in very good club situations
For a national team to be successful, it is important for its biggest players to be playing regularly for their clubs, and at a high level.
Just a few years ago, it was a novelty to have an American starting regularly for a club in Europe. Today, most of the USMNT regulars are consistent starters for their respective European clubs and a large number of Americans are getting experience in the Europa League and the Champions League.
Clint Dempsey, Steve Cherundolo and Terrence Boyd are all playing in the Europa League this year, as well as USMNT hopefuls Mix Diskerud and Alejandro Bedoya.
Jermaine Jones and Michael Parkhurst are both playing in the Champions League, as is Sacha Kljestan, although Kljestan has not been called up by Klinsmann since February.
The summer transfer window was a very good one for the Americans with Clint Dempsey, Geoff Cameron, Maurice Edu, Carlos Bocanegra, Michael Bradley and Oguchi Onyewu all moving to bigger and better clubs.
In addition, Brad Guzan re-signed with Aston Villa and has finally broken into the lineup, and Terrence Boyd made a move which will result in much more playing time.
Jozy Altidore is off to a hot start in the Eredivisie and Herculez Gomez is seeing the field regularly and playing in the CONCACAF Champions League for Santos Laguna.
In addition, Jose Torres, Clarence Goodson and Fabian Johnson are all seeing regular time for their respective clubs.
Most of the U.S.’ players are playing the best they ever have
Taking a quick look at most of the USMNT reveals that the vast majority of the players are at, or just hitting, the peak of their careers.
Geoff Cameron, a virtual unknown to many USMNT fans just a year ago, now looks to be a regular starter along the American backline and recently made a high profile move to Stoke City in the EPL.
Michael Bradley, who also made a high profile club move this off-season, in his case to Italian Serie A giants AS Roma, has shown over the last year that he is becoming a world-class midfielder. Even though he has been a U.S. midfield mainstay for years, he is playing the best football he ever has.
Danny Williams’ performance against Jamaica two weeks ago showed the level of class he can bring to the team.
Fabian Johnson looks to have permanently locked down the left back position, which over the last five years has been one of the U.S.’ biggest problem areas.
Terrence Boyd has been in a good vein of form for his club, Rapid Vienna, and may soon be ready to do the same for the Nats and, as previously mentioned, Sacha Kljestan has become a regular for Anderlecht in Europe.
Clint Dempsey is coming off his best season yet in England and netted 23 goals in last season’s campaign, and Tim Howard looks as good as ever.
Even Jozy Altidore, whose performances for the national team have admittedly been poor, is in great form for his club, and one has to believe he will turn it around for the USMNT very soon.
The veterans are still getting it done
Many USMNT fans have been worried over the past couple of years about the age of many of the key players, including Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo and Landon Donovan.
However, in the last game against Jamaica, Bocanegra and Cherundolo were both excellent. Bocanegra brought much needed organization to the defense which had been missing in his absence, and Cherundolo was many fan’s and pundit’s Man of the Match.
The U.S. has depth where its age is
If, over the next year and a half, the play of Bocanegra, Cherundolo and/or Donovan drops to the point where they can no longer be counted on to put in a solid shift, the U.S. has some exciting prospects ready to step in at those exact positions.
Omar Gonzalez is now fully recovered from this winter’s ACL tear and has been key to the LA Galaxy turning around its season.
Eric Lichaj is starting to become a regular for Aston Villa and has the added benefit of being able to play on either the left or right side of defense.
Josh Gatt, who actually was called in for the last USMNT camp before withdrawing due to injury, is one of the most exciting attacking prospects the U.S. has seen in the last few years.
All things considered, despite their ups-and-downs, the U.S. may finally be in a position to put in the type of World Cup performance American fans have been dreaming of for years.
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