Extending their winning streak to a team record 10 matches by beating Honduras 3-1 in the Gold Cup semifinals, life has gotten rather comfortable for the United States. Landon Donovan is in peak form, the strikers are actually scoring goals and they've outscored their opponents 19-4 over their five Gold Cup matches. In short, the U.S. team is celebrating their federation's 100th anniversary by doing something they've rarely done in that span: what they're supposed to.
As magnificent and encouraging as that achievement is, it's also the kind of thing that can lead to complacency if you're not careful. So just as the U.S. was preparing to close out the win against Honduras, manager Jurgen Klinsmann showed his unrelenting fire and infectious passion by loudly protesting the increasingly rough and dangerous play of his discouraged opponents. And in the 87th minute, the referee sent him off when he punctuated his protests by throwing a ball at the ground in frustration. As a result, the CONCACAF disciplinary committee will now decide whether Klinsmann will serve a touchline ban during the final. That keeps everyone on their toes, eh?
It was a punishment that seemed to come as a surprise even to Klinsmann himself. The kind of thing that sparks conspiracy theories like how the referee, who was Costa Rican, might've been out for revenge after Costa Rica protested their loss to the USA in a World Cup Qualifier during a Colorado blizzard earlier this year.
Regardless of the motives, it's hard to see the referee's overzealous punishment being extended under the scrutiny of the disciplinary committee. But, then again, it is CONCACAF. Klinsmann apologized for his part when he spoke to the press after the match. From Newsday:
"It was just a reaction out of frustration," Klinsmann said, "because the fouls added up. It just kind of boiled over . . . I apologize for the reaction. It was not meant for the referee."
So Klinsmann continues to win over his doubters with decisive results while galvanizing his team with his impassioned defense of their well-being. Together, with a newfound consistency against inferior regional competition, they can now complete a tournament to remember with their first Gold Cup win since 2007. At least until something bigger comes along.
UPDATE: Panama beat Mexico 2-1 for the second time in this tournament to meet the U.S. in the final.