COMMENTARY | The outlook is brighter now for the United States Men's National Team than at any other time during the Jurgen Klinsmann era. They've won nine straight and are also two victories away from Gold Cup glory, while rivals Mexico have been in complete disarray since the completion of the 2012-13 European calendar, and they have stumbled through a Gold Cup tournament that they were favorites to win just a couple of months ago. It's all sunshine and gumdrops for U.S. Soccer, yes?
A wind of change has blown through CONCACAF since the beginning of June, and the current U.S. squad referred to as a "B-team" by many is no longer one that will hopefully just make it to the final game of the Gold Cup. They're now the favorites, the big dogs who should absolutely have their way with Honduras on July 24 before taking it to either Panama or Mexico on the last Sunday of the month. Victory for the Americans is, on paper, inevitable.
Unfortunately for Klinsmann and company, the luster of such an accomplishment that hasn't yet happened is already partially, if not totally, gone. Casual sports fans who only watch a handful of U.S. Soccer matches every year have been witnesses to dominating performances that have resulted in "Can Anybody Stop the U.S.?" headlines. The U.S. winning the 2013 Gold Cup will elicit a fist pump or two and not much more from these individuals.
Diehard supporters who follow the sport 12 months out of the year, on the other hand, are well aware that the Gold Cup hardly features the best of the best of CONCACAF. This tournament, for these viewers, is as much about the U.S. preparing for next summer's World Cup as it is about the Americans winning a trophy. Sure, our second-squad being better than Mexico's is good for a chuckle and a smile. No real U.S. Soccer supporter is dreaming of a significant run in Brazil next summer because of what has taken place this July.
Life is not fair. That's a statement that is as true in sports as it is in any other facet of life. The harsh fact is that the USMNT really can't win this week. They'll be branded as an overrated side that merely beat up on minnows if they fall short in either the Semifinal or the Final. A Gold Cup victory will, for the U.S., mean that the competition's best overall side didn't trip over itself en route to doing what it was always supposed to do. Big deal.
Of course, the U.S. was supposed to win the Gold Cup. Of course, the U.S. is supposed to qualify for the World Cup. Of course, the U.S. should win The Hex considering the state of Mexican football.
How far we've come from those "Klinsmann Out!" cries that were heard earlier this very year.For more: Landon is back
Zac has been covering the USMNT, Holland, Tottenham Hotspur, New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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