For the first time since 2007, the U.S. men's national soccer team has won the Gold Cup title. From dominant wins to gritty escapes, we saw the character of Team USA shine through en route to a monumental feat.
With the 2014 World Cup looming, however, the Americans cannot afford to become complacent.
There's no question how convincing a tournament this was for the U.S., as it outscored the opposition by a count of 20-3 in six games. In that time, the Americans overcame their tendency to play down to the level of the opposition and displayed flashes of becoming a power.
With that being said, it's a long process to reach that plateau—even in the midst of an 11-game winning streak.
If Team USA hopes to overcome its lackluster past, it'll need to view this winning streak as a push in the right direction—not the end-all, be-all.
Burden of Past Failure
The U.S. men's national team may be hot right now, but that hardly discredits the failures of past teams.
The 2010 World Cup squad lost 2-1 to Ghana in the Round of 16, the 2006 team failed to make it out of group play and the 2002 Americans' run to the quarterfinals is a distant memory.
At this point, anything short of a quarterfinals appearance in the 2014 World Cup would be yet another failed season.
Team USA has been looking to break through for years, but no matter how much we hype its current iteration, it never comes to fruition.
While they may be in their best form since 2002, that doesn't mean the Americans have reason to believe they've reached their peak.
Instead, Team USA must use its success at the Gold Cup as a standard, meeting or surpassing it in every game. If they're able to do so, then the Americans' style of play permits them to reach new heights of success.
As we all know, this team has become complacent before—and this is the perfect stage for them to repeat those past performances.
World Cup Qualifying
Team USA enters the final leg of World Cup Qualifying with as much momentum as any team in the CONCACAF grouping. It's fresh off of winning the Gold Cup title, is in first place in the World Cup qualifying table and seven points ahead of fifth-place Panama.
Team USA looks to be headed to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, but this isn't the time for the Americans to become comfortable.
Mexico has played, arguably, its worst football of the decade and still remains just five points behind Team USA for first place.
If that's not enough for you, a loss to Costa Rica on Sept. 6 would result in Team USA losing its group lead. The Americans needed a goal by Brek Shea in the 82nd minute to win 1-0 on July 16.
Who's to say the U.S. won't run into similar trouble in September?
If there's ever been a time to believe in the U.S. soccer team, it is right now. This is the best we've seen the red, white and blue play in quite some time, and it won the Gold Cup without the services of stars such as Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.
Just because more star power will be added doesn't mean the team can assume improvements will come naturally—that's exactly why Team USA must continue to work on improving.
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