The Gold Cup semi-finals are almost on us. The US gets to meet Honduras, one of their most familiar opponents in recent times. This is their third meeting in less than two months so the Hondurans could be pardoned if they believe familiarity breeds contempt but in fact, this team wears an unfamiliar look.
Their group meeting which the US won, 2-0 had midfield spark Benny Feilhaber whose late second half introduction broke the stalemate by upping the attacking tempo leading to Santino Quaranta's first international goal and Brian Ching adding a second. He has departed for Europe as has Freddy Adu and Charlie Davis.
Bradley is faced with a centerback dilemma. Veteran defender Jimmy Conrad recalled to the side suffered a nasty concussion against Panama and it is extremely doubtful he will start. He was subbed by Clarence Goodson but Bradley's emergency call up for Parkhurst just days after his return to the Danish league signifies that he is his first choice should Conrad be declared unfit to play. What is missed more will be Conrad's veteran captaincy. Against Honduras it was Cherundolo providing that experience.
Santino Quaranta was overlooked in the Panama match but should be bought back for the Honduras semi-finals. Davy Arnaud had a very good game against Panama setting up Kyle Beckerman's goal.
The Catrachos are missing a lot of their stars- Carlos Pavon, David Suazo, Thomas Hendry, Amado Guevara, and Wilson Palacios. Manager Reinaldo Rueda like Bradley is using the Gold Cup to give less experienced players much needed exposure. Despite that they still have a potent Carlos Costly and Walter Martinez upfront and Roger Espinoza as a creative playmaker in midfield.
Although the US has enjoyed the upper hand in the last two matches, it took a Landon Donovan PK and a Carlos Bocanegra header for a come from behind win in a World Cup qualifier last month. In the Gold Cup group stage the US dominated the game but were unable to capitalize till very late in the second half when two quick goals by Quaranta and Ching lifted the US to victory. Benny Feilhaber proved instrumental in that win. So the third iteration will not be easy but the US has proven that they have players who rise to the occasion. So I predict a win. Plus, who is not rooting for a US - Mexico showdown.
Basically it amounts to the US fending off a more potent attack and exploiting a weaker and less experienced defense. Robbie Rogers should get back to his comfort zone after being rendered ineffective by Panama's Luis Moreno.
The line up by my book:
Troy Perkins (Goallkeeper)
Jay Heaps- Michael Parkhurst- Chad Marshall- Heath Pearce (Defenders)
Robbie Rogers- Kyle Beckerman- Stuart Holden- Santino Quaranta (Midfielders)
Brian Ching- Davy Arnaud (Forwards)