The United States Men's National Team continued its winning ways with the 2013 Gold Cup tournament. The group extended its all-time winning streak to 11 matches.
Now, the boys donning the crest turn their attention back to World Cup qualifying.
The USMNT stand atop the standings with 10 points. It looks like a foregone conclusion that the guys will be traveling south to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. But are they more prepared for what lies ahead this time? There is still a lot of time for that question to be answered, but thus far it looks like a resounding “yes."
Let's travel back to 2010.
The U.S. went 3-3 before the World Cup in South Africa but played decent competition. However, there were still the same problems as before: shoddy possession play, bad set-piece defense and a lack of overall athleticism.
Following the knockout stage loss to Ghana, the U.S. turned its eyes toward 2014.
Enter 2011 and the Jurgen Klinsmann era.
Klinsmann knew the road to Brazil would be challenging, and a host of changes needed to be made. In the era of instant reaction, the fans were not pleased with the results he was putting out. The United States were changing formations, strategies and, most importantly, personnel.
Klinsmann hasn't found an answer for every deficiency yet, but there has been an obvious improvement. Just making it to The Hex was a challenge in itself.
Now, the USMNT has found a groove. Especially offensively.
There are new faces from the backline all the way up to the forwards. They bring in a competitive spirit that may have been lacking the last go-around. Players such as Jozy Altidore underperformed in previous years, but 2013 has seen him finally come in to form.
There is a growing confidence for the USMNT. That will help the team compete against the best come World Cup time. The players are buying in to Klinsmann's system, and they are making a statement during qualifying.
They are becoming the class of CONCACAF. While some may downplay that, one cannot become a player on the international stage before conquering its own region. The Americans are beginning to do just that.
There is plenty of work to be done, and a recent injury to Stuart Holden is a setback. Nothing is locked in. The roster is still a work in progress, and Klinsmann has many tough decisions awaiting his call. But the new head honcho has the men playing as well as they ever have.
This team is no longer dependent on one or two players. There is a total team effort beginning to happen. The team just has to carry it into 2014.
Time will tell if this momentum and play can be sustained, but there is no debating that the USMNT is in better shape than it was four years ago.