Champions of CONCACAF once again. It wasn’t the prettiest of tournaments or the most convincing of performances throughout, but the United States is alone at the Gold Cup mountain top this year. With a late, dramatic win over Jamaica in the final, the Americans captured their sixth Gold Cup title, pulling them just one behind Mexico for the all-time record.
While this Gold Cup wasn’t the most intense or competitive as far as the best teams showing up and fighting for the cup, it was an important one for the fringe players. Especially for Bruce Arena who has some important roster decisions to make as World Cup qualifying resumes in September. With that in mind, what did we learn from this Gold Cup? Who helped their cause the most? Let’s dive in.
40 years from now, you’ll tell your grandkids about the time Jordan Morris singlehandedly won the 2017 Gold Cup for the three-time World Cup champion, USMNT. Not only was Morris the team’s hero when it needed it most, but he was also their leading scorer in the tournament, missing out on the golden boot due to a tiebreaker. It wasn’t a flawless performance for the Seattle Sounders forward, but he proved that he belongs despite his injury-plagued MLS season thus far.
Versatility is another aspect of Morris’ game that should help him as big roster decisions loom in the future. While he showed the ability to play alongside Jozy Altidore in a starting role, his speed off the bench and ability to play either wing spot is what could possibly give him an edge in Arena’s eyes.
Alright. You most likely know how I feel about Nagbe by now, so there’s really no way to set this up and deliver it without sounding biased. No, he doesn’t score many goals. He doesn’t even provide the final ball very often. What he does, is sit in pockets of space and make everyone around him better. During the final, they talked about Jorge Villafana saying that he’s not scared to ever venture forward because he knows Nagbe will very rarely, if ever, lose the ball. That’s what Nagbe provides, a security blanket for the whole team to use as an outlet and a vital link between defending and attacking.
We all knew Nagbe was probably a lock for any 23-man roster that Arena would have to name. There’s a very strong argument to be made after this tournament that Nagbe is a must in any starting lineup put out onto the field. While situations will dictate the personnel and formation, Nagbe’s ability to retain the ball in the tightest and most dangerous spots on the field make him a very rare commodity in the player pool. Do we want to see more of that spectacular element that he every so often shows off for the Timbers? Yes. But, what we get on a consistent basis is just fine.
This is a confusing entry, but one we just have to use some common sense with. Kelyn Rowe was the USMNT’s best player in the group stage. I say this with great confidence. However, Kelyn Rowe was also sent home after the group stage. What gives? You have to assume that the move was pre-planned and a deal was struck between New England and U.S. Soccer. The Revs are struggling and cannot afford to lose one of their best players as they attempt to claw their way into a playoff spot. So, let’s just use that explanation to quell that argument for now.
On the field, Rowe was very good. A bright spot in an otherwise extremely dull group stage performance. His flank play on the left was inspired. He was one of the few who had the ability to make things happen when nothing was really working for the attack.
What does this mean for his USMNT standing? That’s a hard question to answer. It’s a very positive sign if supporters of the team go from “Oh, he’s on the roster? Sure, why not?” to “HOW CAN YOU SEND HIM HOME? WHAT R U DOIN’?” — Does this mean he’ll get called up in September? Maybe, maybe not. What we do know is, he’s in a much better position now than he was before his Gold Cup showing.
Honorable Mention: Paul Arriola, Jozy Altidore
This is my positive spin on the Gold Cup! I’ll be back soon with the bad side. Feel free to persuade my choices in the comments.