After the United States' narrow 2-1 defeat against soccer-juggernauts Panama on Saturday in the 2011 Gold Cup, fans are wondering what is this team really made of. There is no reason for panic, however. They played reasonably well, and lets face it: Panama are a great team filled with world-class players, so the fact the US even managed to stay on the field with them is a major accomplishment.
All jokes aside, the US is a team in transition. With the World Cup three years away and qualification practically guaranteed (isn't it great to play in a qualification group with the likes of Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados?), a number of questions remain unanswered. Because of this luxury of playing virtual cupcakes for the four years in between tournaments, coach Bob Bradley has a lot of options when it comes to experimenting.
Of the original 23-man roster for the Gold Cup, only seven play their club football in MLS. The United States has done a good job of sending players abroad, getting them accustomed to playing in the best leagues in the world and bringing these lessons to their national team.
One such opportunity is this years Gold Cup. With a full-strength roster virtually intact, Bradley can look to his young players to see how they will fare in international "competition." The development of these young players will be a major factor in how far the U.S. goes when the next World Cup rolls around.
Here are five youngsters who need to improve their game before Brazil 2014.