US Men’s National Team and the CONCACAF Gold Cup

USMNTvsGUALineup-ISIPhotos.com_

The US Men’s team has played their first official Gold Cup match after the thrashing on Friday in the friendly against Guatemala. From those two matches, we can start to get an idea of how this Gold Cup will play out, at least as far as lineup goes.

Let me start this by saying Jurgen Klinsmann is a very smart man and knows far more about soccer than I do. I trust that Jurgen knows what he’s doing. But, being an RSL fan, I still have a few question marks about our players’ involvement in the national team and general disappointment that it’s not a more critical role. Don’t get me wrong. Jurgen has his pick of the best of the best, American players from around the world at the top of their game. It’s an honor to be selected among them, even if all you’re doing is warming the bench with your butt cheeks. I’m thrilled that we have 3 players from Real Salt Lake currently active on the national team roster for the Gold Cup. Still, let me gripe a bit…

Nick Rimando
Let’s face it. Unless both Brad Guzan and Tim Howard get injuries, Nick is unlikely to be anything on the national team other than a backup. The single Belize goal that kept Nick from a shutout was a case of bad (or non-existent) marking — not much Nick could do about it, unfortunately. I’ve been frustrated that we haven’t seen Nick be Nick very much in this campaign. He made one great save to keep the ball from curling inside the post last night but there’s not much defending needed when your team scores 12 goals in two games. More than that, though, Nick can kick a long ball to drop on a dime 80 yards away, but mostly what I’ve seen him do is kick it shallow to his defenders. It would be nice if we could show everyone that, yes, Nick is an amazing keeper that deserves a spot on the USMNT.

Kyle Beckerman
Kyle made some amazing crosses last night, including one curling ball over the top that lead to one of Wondo’s three goals. And yet, he’s pulled out at the half just like the Guatemala game. What gives? I can only assume that Kyle’s particular style of play doesn’t match with what Klinsmann is going for, but what? Stuart Holden comes in and is an attacking menace — which is great, but did we need more of an attacking midfielder to come in at the half when we’re up 3-1?  I’ve got to be missing something when it comes to how Klinsmann uses Beckerman, it doesn’t make sense to me.

Tony Beltran
Ah, Tony. To my mind, he looked fantastic in the friendly he was called up to play in several months ago. Now he’s been called up again and has yet to see the pitch. Again, I’ve got to be missing something. Tony is quick, he can get into (and out of) tight spaces, and he can move upfield and deliver the ball into the box — all things that we saw last night in Portland. So it’s not a style of play thing. What then? Tony is one of the best right backs in the league, Klinsmann even said he was “a special talent” (though how he defines “special” leaves one to wonder after your “special” defender still yet to see minutes).

All in all, it’s frustrating. Sabo gets called up to the Costa Rica national team and starts with the captains armband. Everyone looks to Sabo as a top quality player. But is Nick not a top quality player? Is Kyle not? I don’t see Real Salt Lake floundering because our only player worth mentioning has missed more club games than he’s played this season. I don’t see his head elevated higher than any other player on our team, and yet he’s the one people recognize both in the MLS and internationally. My favorite tweet from last night came from RSL Soapbox‘s Matt Montgomery:

It seems to me like we have a lot of really underappreciated players and yes, that’s part of the deal. Garth Lagerwey even talked about it, saying “we look at it, with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder, like we’re going to do this; we’re going to prove everybody wrong.” And part of the reason I am so passionate about Real Salt Lake is because they aren’t the LA Galaxy, because they put the team ahead of individual players. I love rooting for the scrappy underdog. You wouldn’t think RSL qualifies as an underdog with 4 players currently on national call-ups and a fifth a regular with the Gambian national team, a sixth captaining the U-20 squad. But we don’t have the Goonies, we don’t have Thierry Henry and despite our national team players, we lack anyone in the 11 already selected for the MLS All Star game.

I’m not questioning your game, Jurgen — you obviously have a good thing going. But with three Real Salt Lake players at your disposal, it’s frustrating as an RSL fan to not see a more significant use of them. That’s all.

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