USA Gold Cup 2013: Biggest Questions for Americans Heading into Tournament
It's not quite a stacked roster for the U.S. men's national team heading into the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and that's all the more reason to raise questions on the team's performance in the summer tournament.
With some of the most famous American footballers sitting out for the event to rest for World Cup qualifying action later in the summer, a handful of young U.S. players will get the chance to step up on the big stage and prove they're worthy of a roster spot in the 2014 World Cup.
The Americans get underway Tuesday night when they face Belize in the night's second and final match.
Let's take a look at the biggest questions USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will face in the Gold Cup.
Can Landon Donovan Reaffirm His Place?
The most successful U.S. soccer player of all time, Landon Donovan surprisingly has to earn his way back into the good graces of the national team.
He missed the first three matches of the World Cup qualifying in 2013 due to a self-imposed sabbatical, and he was left off Klinsmann's roster in June despite having returned to full playing time with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Now, Donovan is undoubtedly the only big star on this American roster that doesn't feature the nation's most well-known players like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Jozy Altidore.
Away from the Americans' best talents, Donovan will have to do more with less and prove that he can take over a tournament with inferior competition. He'll have no excuse if he comes up short against the likes of Belize, even without some of his elite teammates.
Donovan was a real difference-maker for the U.S. in the 2010 World Cup, and they'll have a diminished chance of having success in 2014 if he's not a regular contributor on offense. Much of that will start this summer in the Gold Cup.
Which Youngsters Will Step Up?
Some of USMNT's opponents in the Gold Cup will see this tournament as a huge opportunity, but it's no secret that Klinsmann is taking this opportunity to assess his team for other competitions.
With that said, he'll have his eye on a number of youngsters who are looking to break out and make themselves worthy of a hard-earned roster spot.
Will it be Brek Shea, the up-and-coming potential star midfielder who was added to the roster late (per Yahoo! Sports)? He's yet to break out for Stoke City ever since moving to the Premier League in early 2013, but injuries have kept him from making an impact.
What about Jose Francisco Torres? The 25-year-old has shown glimpses of promise for the national team and has made 21 career caps.
Will Bruin is another forward to keep your eye on. The 23-year-old is a regular goal-scorer for the Houston Dynamo of the MLS and has shown the goal-scoring touch that the U.S. will need without Altidore in the fold.
These are just the first few of many youngsters who may take this Gold Cup as the chance to get a jump start to their international careers.
Can They Emerge With Depleted Roster?
While teams like Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Haiti and many more will take their most talented rosters to the Gold Cup, the USMNT will leave some of their best players home.
Mexico has done the same, leaving Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Giovani dos Santos off the squad.
Although it may be a depleted roster for Klinsmann, he surely won't be at a disadvantage in talent. After all, the U.S. team is awfully deep compared to many of its Central American foes.
But could an underdog come in with more fire and look to upset the U.S. in its native land? It surely would be a tough pill to swallow for the Americans, whether or not the Gold Cup is a marquee tournament.
Historically, only the U.S. and Mexico have been contenders for the Gold Cup. In fact, Canada's 2000 win was the only time a country other than those two have won the tournament.
Though if America wants to make an impact in keeping that statistic going, they'll have to overcome being without some of their best players.
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