For the United States men's national team, the Gold Cup is more than just a CONCACAF tournament—it's a tryout.
That's not to say winning shouldn't be the No. 1 priority. It's a prideful moment whenever your country wins an international tournament, not to mention halting rival Mexico's two-tournament winning streak would be especially satisfying.
But right now, the Stars and Stripes are expected to win.
Mexico is struggling immensely and the Americans have begun the tournament with drubbings of Belize and Cuba.
As such, this tournament is about more than just winning soccer games. It's about the players proving to Jurgen Klinsmann they belong on the first team for the World Cup.
Landon Donovan, and very likely Chris Wondolowski, have already earned two of those spots.
With Group C's top spot on the line against Costa Rica, let's take a look at two other players—for two very different reasons—who will be worth paying close attention to.
Mikkel Morgenstar Pålssønn Diskerud, better (and thankfully) known as "Mix," was born in Norway and originally began his international career with the Norwegian under-18 and under-19 teams.
However, his mother is from Arizona, making him also eligible to represent the United States, and after playing against Belize in this tournament's opener, he became cap-tied for the Americans, per FOX Soccer Trax:
Thanks, Mix's mom.
At just 22 years old, Diskerud is an immense talent who the USMNT is very fortunate to have.
After starting against Belize, he came on as a substitute in the 57th minute against Cuba. Both times, positive things happened for the Americans while he was on the pitch.
He has consistently shown the ability to make the right pass, he has willingness and energy to attack and create off the dribble and he has even garnered respect from the USWNT's Tobin Heath:
That's as much of an endorsement as I need. Hopefully Diskerud gets the start in the Americans' toughest Gold Cup match so far. He's a playmaker.
This one isn't nearly as fun.
After a lively, encouraging performance as a sub against Belize, Brek Shea undoubtedly earned himself a start against Cuba on Saturday.
What he did with that start was nothing short of atrocious. ESPN's Paul Carr and Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke had the details:
Shea couldn't beat his man one-on-one, couldn't connect with short passes, was horribly inaccurate with his crosses and was subsequently taken off at halftime, a move that paid major dividends for Klinsmann.
Still, let's not rush to conclusions.
The Stoke City winger can be a dangerous playmaker down the left sideline, and if he hasn't completely fallen out of Klinsmann's lineup considerations, it will be intriguing to see how he responds to his worst game in a red and white shirt.
Despite a truly forgettable performance against a weak opponent, the 23-year-old still has first-team talent.
Let's see if he can remind his now large group of critics that fact.
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