Depth keys U.S. run to Gold Cup final
In front of more than 80,000 fans at Cowboys Stadium just outside Dallas, Landon Donovan scored two goals and assisted on the third to send the U.S. to their ninth overall and record fifth consecutive Gold Cup final. They will face Panama, who topped Mexico in the other semi, in Sunday's final at Soldier Field in Chicago, looking to win their fifth Gold Cup crown overall.
When Sunday comes, the U.S. will look to end a two-match losing streak in Gold Cup finals, as they lost to Mexico in both 2009 and 2011 after winning the Cup in vboth 2005 and 2007. Their opponents, a Panamanian team that knocked off Mexico twice in this event after going 0-6-4 against them in their previous 10 Gold Cup meetings, will be out for their own revenge; the Americans won that 2005 crown by beating Panama in penalty kicks after a scoreless draw, topped them again 1-0 in a tough semifinal in 2011 and won their earlier meeting in this Gold Cup as well.
This year's semifinals provided a microcosm for why the U.S. has had such success in this Gold Cup: depth. This depth may not be as apparent when one looks at the box score and sees that Landon Donovan had a part in all three goals in the win over Honduras, but where the depth really shows is in manager Jurgen Klinsmann's confidence to utilize a large number of players to get a proper result.
So far in the tournament, Klinsmann has played 22 of the 27 men on his roster, and considering how strong the team has looked in every match, it illustrates how deep Uncle Sam's team is in their current form.
That surge of depth going through the team could not have come at a better time with the way the Gold Cup matches are scheduled. Teams that reach the finals play three games in seven days in a Sunday, Wednesday, Sunday format, and having multiple options has allowed players like Stu Holden, who is coming off an injury, to have the proper rest, enabling him to be as productive as possible when on the pitch.
One thing that could hurt the U.S. on Sunday, however, is the possible loss of their manager. Klinsmann was ejected in the 87th minute of Wednesday's win, and CONCACAF officials said they would make a determination within 48 hours whether or not he will be suspended for the final.