Assessing Team USA Post-Gold Cup

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2013

Jul 28, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; USA player Brek Shea (23) celebrates with his teammates including Landon Donovan (10) after scoring a goal against Panama during the 2013 Gold Cup championship game at Soldier Field. USA won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The United States men's national team has been on a roll as of late, and most recently, they took back the Gold Cup.

The 2013 tournament was all about the Americans. They capped off the tournament with a 1-0 victory over Panama. The tournament was a definite plus for the squad. It has given them more confidence moving forward as the attention turns back towards World Cup qualifying.

It is important to note that due to qualifying the Gold Cup rosters were not at full force. However, that has had some positives for the USMNT. Most notably, it will assist head coach Jurgen Klinsmann in filling out the depth chart.

Where is the team now?

At keeper, Tim Howard will still be between the posts. He was not participating at the Gold Cup, but as one of the top keepers in the world, the U.S. is lucky to have him. Nick Rimando stepped up, and he will be the backup headed to Brazil. The keeper position is on lock.

One of the major concerns for the USMNT has been the defense. It has routinely been a problem, and since Klinsman took over, we have seen a myriad of changes along the backline.

The Gold Cup was a chance for players to step up.

That did not happen. If anything, it only went to show how far the U.S. still has to go.

The defenders let in too many goals against too inferior of competition, and the set piece defense still has to improve. Klinsmann still has a lot of work to put in before the World Cup if the U.S. wants to make a significant run in the tournament.

The forward position is one of the most exciting for the U.S. Landon Donovan is the linchpin for the team, and Jozy Altidore is finally living up to his potential on the international stage. Altidore didn't participate at the Gold Cup, but his World Cup qualifying performances have solidified his position.

Also exciting, players that would come off the bench are showing their offensive prowess.

Eddie Johnson has looked solid this past year, Chris Wondolowski came up big in several matches at the Gold Cup and several other players lay in the wings.

Quite possibly the most important assessment from the Gold Cup came from the midfield. Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey are two of the most vital pieces for the USMNT, and Klinsmann will be looking for a couple more to complement their game.

Stuart Holden looked to make his case for a future starting position. The oft-injured midfielder had stepped up in a big way since his return, and then tragedy struck again. In the Gold Cup final, Holden went down with another torn ACL—an unfortunate occurrence.

There is plenty of raw talent at midfield, but no one has stepped up on a consistent basis. The young guns of the USMNT could prove very helpful come next summer.

Overall, the USMNT have had an amazing run in 2013. They are gaining confidence, and everyone is buying into Klinsmann's system. The offensive production is up, and excitement continues to build for the American squad.

The Gold Cup victory was great, but for the team moving forward, it didn't answer too many questions. It will give Klinsmann more options to play with as he tries to narrow down who will make the World Cup roster.

The final months of preparation will be telling and exciting.

Competition at positions is fantastic, but at some point, decisions have to be made. Keep an eye on Klinsmann's roster choices for the remainder of the World Cup qualifying matches.