Gold Cup 2013: Players Who Must Step Up Their Game in Tournament Final
The United States and Panama will battle for the Gold Cup title in a rematch of the 2005 championship match, which the Americans won after penalty kicks. To repeat that feat, they will have to overcome the absence of manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
The CONCACAF Disciplinary Committee has suspended U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann for the final of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) July 27, 2013
How the squad responds without its emotional head coach on the sidelines will be key. So far, the United States has been the most dominant side in the tournament. The CONCACAF powerhouse has scored 19 goals in five matches.
Panama is going to provide a tricky test.
The Canaleros have already defeated Mexico—the event's other top team—twice en route to the final. Finding a way to slow down the suddenly dynamic American attack will be necessary for a championship upset.
With that in mind, let's examine three players who must elevate their level of play in the final for their team to come out on top.
Stuart Holden (United States)
Although Stuart Holden has shown flashes of past form in his return to the national team, especially early in the latest stint, his play has dropped off in recent appearances. He's failed to make the same type of impact as a playmaker after that initial surge.
His role heading into the final is unclear. He could draw the start or enter as a second-half substitute to bolster the attack.
Either way, the Americans need him to make his presence felt by creating some scoring chances against a steady Panamanian back line.
The resistance from the Canaleros is something the United States hasn't dealt with much throughout the tournament. It's going to be a good measuring stick of exactly how much progress has been made, and Holden should play an important role.
Matt Besler (United States)
Matt Besler has quietly been making a very strong case not just to make the “A” team, but to grab a spot in the starting lineup. He's brought some much-needed stability to the center of defense, something the side has lacked in recent years.
Which team will win the 2013 Gold Cup?
The Sporting Kansas City star isn't flashy, but he makes all the necessary plays and has done a terrific job of limiting the major mistakes that can cost a team the match. He's simply a solid player who puts the U.S. in a position to win matches.
Besler will have a difficult challenge against Panama, however.
Gabriel Torres and Blas Perez have racked up a combined eight goals in the tournament. It's the best offensive duo the Americans will have faced. Besler must stop them from taking over the game.
Roman Torres (Panama)
Panama hasn't allowed more than one goal in any match during the tournament.
Roman Torres, a star centre-back and the team's captain, is a major reason for that defensive success. His combination of size, strength and natural skill make him a force at the back.
Slowing down the American attack is going to take a complete team effort, but it all starts with Torres.
He must ensure that his back line remains on the same page throughout. The United States has taken advantage of plenty of mistakes during its current 10-match winning streak.
Stopping Landon Donovan would be an ideal way to start. He's been creating chances, both for himself and his teammates, at an amazing rate in the Gold Cup. Expect Torres to spend a lot of time tracking him in the final third as Panama seeks the upset.
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