While the United States came into the Gold Cup attempting to win, the tournament is just as important to evaluate players before the World Cup.
Through two matches, coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been able to do both with victories over Belize and Cuba. In these contests, a few players have stood out enough to believe that they have already earned a spot on the World Cup roster.
Although a lot can change between now and next summer, these men have proven themselves in the last few matches and are clearly among the best America has to offer.
For most fans, there was never a doubt about Landon Donovan's role on the national team. He is one of the best American players in history and has been a key part of virtually every major tournament for the past decade.
However, he had been left on the roster for much of World Cup qualifying, and there were questions about whether he was still the same player he was a few years ago.
It is now clear that he is as good as ever with two goals and two assists in two matches. In reality, his stellar play around the net could have led to five or six assists if his teammates were able to finish better.
He also displayed his versatility by lining up as a forward against Cuba. This gives Klinsmann the opportunity to utilize some interesting lineups when he has the full roster at his disposal. Either way, Donovan will certainly be on the pitch as much as possible.
Although DaMarcus Beasley likely earned his spot in recent World Cup qualifiers, his continued strong efforts should help him secure a starting nod at left back.
The veteran midfielder recently converted to defense for the U.S. team and has been outstanding in the spot. He has utilized his speed and passing ability to create another dimension for the offensive attack while also holding his own on defense.
When Edgar Eduardo Castillo played the position against Cuba, it was clear how much of a difference Beasley makes, and he was certainly missed.
The U.S. is a more dynamic team when Beasley is playing, and he should remain a starter for the squad in the matches that count.
No one has turned more heads in the Gold Cup so far than Chris Wondolowski. The veteran forward has five goals in two matches and seems to be just getting started.
While Wondolowski has done well in the MLS, there was plenty of doubt whether he could translate that skill into international competition. Those questions have been answered in the early going of this tournament.
The forward might not have the skill of the elite strikers in the world, but he knows where to be on the pitch and puts himself in good locations. He then can finish around the net as well as anyone out there.
Considering that the U.S. has sometimes struggled to get the ball into the goal against inferior opponents, adding a player like Wondolowski would provide instant offense when it is lacking.
It is unlikely he would be able to start matches when players like Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey are on the roster, but he can certainly come off the bench when the squad is trailing late in important matches.
Players Who Still Must Prove Themselves
Fortunately for a number of guys, this tournament still has a lot of matches left to play. This will provide more opportunity for players to show that they deserve a spot on the final roster.
Which young player is most likely to make the World Cup roster?
The most likely people in this group are veterans Oguchi Onyewu and Herculez Gomez. They have both been on the roster for big matches in the past, and they must simply show that they still have the ability to help the team.
Stuart Holden is similar to being in this group, although he also has to deal with showing that his leg injuries are behind him.
Two of the more intriguing young players who have a chance of proving themselves in the coming matches are Brek Shea and Mikkel Diskerud. Each of these midfielders have an opportunity to make the roster and have played well at times, but they must show more consistency at the international level.
Finally, Clarence Goodson has been a part of World Cup qualifying but has really struggled at center back. He needs to improve in a hurry if he wants to make the roster.
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