A year before the World Cup, the United States Men's National team is putting together an unprecedented run of success.
With a 1-0 win over Panama in the Gold Cup final on Sunday, the Americans turned a dominant tournament into a trophy. The final score was not indicative of their dominance in this tournament. In their six matches, the Americans outscored the opposition by a combined score of 20-4.
However, that is not the unprecedented part. The Americans are no strangers to Gold Cup titles.
In fact, they now trail Mexico by just one title for the all-time lead.
The unprecedented part is that the victory extended the Americans' win streak to a national record of 11 games.
Also, this was the Americans' first title in this event since 2007, and the proud team took a little time to relish the title while still on the pitch:
While there is no denying this was a step in the right direction for the USMNT, it is important not to get carried away. This team beat a bunch of teams it was supposed to beat, and this wasn't even the "A" squad.
Still, there are plenty of positive things to take away from this tournament.
Landon Donovan Is Not Washed Up
As reported by Goal.com, it wasn't all that long ago Landon Donovan was contemplating retiring from international soccer and the U.S. all-time leading goal scorer was left off the roster for the World Cup qualifiers.
However, Donovan determined he still had more to give, and he proved that to coach Jurgen Klinsmann...and anyone else watching this team in the Gold Cup.
It could be argued that Donovan has never played better than he did during this tournament. He wound up with five goals and seven assists while providing calm leadership on the pitch.
With this performance, Donovan showed his large legacy with the USMNT is still being carved out.
Jurgen Klinsmann Has U.S. Soccer Moving in Right Direction
Due to a suspension, Klinsmann was not on the sidelines for the Americans' ultimate triumph. However, his impact was still apparent on the pitch.
In the title match, the Americans owned 69 percent of possession. This was no accident. When Klinsmann took over this team two years ago, he took great pains to help it learn to control possession.
The Americans made quick strides in this regard, but scoring goals was a real issue. Long periods of offensive ineptitude and tough losing streaks early in Klinsmann's tenure led many to wonder if he was the right man for the job.
In fact, it was just last March when his own players were openly questioning him via a Sporting News piece.
Well, with a strong showing in World Cup qualifying, this title and a record-setting win streak, there are far fewer people questioning his acumen for the job.
And it certainly appears he is winning over fans:
Brek Shea Knows How to Come Through in the Clutch
Brek Shea wasn't even going to be on the roster for the Gold Cup, but he was added due to Josh Gatt's injury as reported by Goal.com.
It's a good thing for the Americans he was.
After coming on as a late substitute, Shea scored the only goal in the championship just moments after stepping onto the pitch.
Obviously, that was not an amazing display of talent as much as it was being in the right place at the right time, but that is a talent in and of itself.
It was also not the first time in this tournament that Shea came through.
In the 82nd minute against Costa Rica in the quarterfinal, he scored the go-ahead goal. As the following tweet highlights, Shea has rebounded from a year riddled by injuries and inactivity to once again become a factor for the international team:
The tall yet explosive Shea has struggled with injuries and has struggled to find playing time as a result. That extends to his club, Stoke City, as well as the international team.
The 23-year-old may still be looking to get his fitness back, but he has shown his eye for creating clutch plays when his team needs them the most. It is hard to quantify a skill like that, but it's a skill that should lead to a long and productive future with the USMNT.
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