Bob Bradley decided to field a largely untested Gold Cup squad in 2009 who were good enough to get to the final where they were convincingly trounced by Mexico. None of the big names like Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, or Carlos Bocanegra were included. Bradley's experiment resulted in Stuart Holden making his transition to the MNT where he's become a fixture.
This year's Gold Cup squad composition should reflect two things. To return to the 2013 Confederations Cup as a goal and the improved standards of the CONCACAF region especially Mexico. The US has ceded ground to its arch rivals evident in its recent encounters.
El Tri has signaled its serious intent mixing young talent with experience in its Gold Cup squad. The sensational Chicharito Hernandez and two 2009 Gold Cup stand outs Giovani Dos Santos and Efrain Juarez will share the spotlight with veteran defender Rafa Marquez now with the NY Red Bulls and midfielder Gerardo Torrado.
Honduras is represented by Celtic wing back Emilio Izaguirre, whose exploits have earned him every Scottish honour including player of the year. Los Catrachos also rely on its Premiership veterans Maynor Figueroa, Wilson Palacios, and Hendry Thomas to provide a strong holding midfield with the counterattacking qualities of Carlos Costly and Walter Martínez.
Complicating the US effort is a number of players short of match practice or coming back from injuries.
This is especially true for the defense with Oguchi Onyewu and Jay De Merit. Gooch has been struggling to find form since his knee injury in 2009 and following his short lived stint at AC Milan has not impressed at his new club FC Twente. De Merit has returned to starting squad football with the Vancouver Whitecaps after seasons of dwindling appearances for Watford. Left back continues to be problematic with Bradley switching between Jonathan Bornstein and Carlos Bocanegra. Speedy Eric Lichaj at Leeds could be an option. The right back position could see Timmy Chandler challenge veteran Steve Cherundolo. Especially if Bradley wants wingbacks to really push up and open up the wide game.
New York's Tim Ream and Norwich City's Zak Whitbread could also get call ups.
The situation brightens somewhat in the midfield with Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan virtual locks. Dempsey has had an outstanding season at Fulham scoring the most Premiership goals for a US player in a season. Donovan has been the subject of transfer speculation with AS Roma's US owners reportedly desirous of bringing him from the Galaxy.
Maurice Edu had another solid season with Rangers. Jermaine Jones was one of the bright spots in Man Utd's dismantling of Schalke in the Champions League semi-finals. Michael Bradley's appearances for Aston Villa have been limited since making his loan move from Borussia M'gladbach but that should not slow down the third wheel in the midfield. Benny Feilhaber and Alejandro Bedoya could also benefit from the absence of Stuart Holden due to injury.
Up front, Charlie Davies would have been a prohibitive favourite but he's out with a hamstring problem after a stellar comeback from horrific injuries which kept him out for a year. That leaves the door open for Edson Buddle to partner Jozy Altidore with two strong options in Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury.
There is no better choice than Tim Howard in goal. His back ups could potentially be Marcus Hahnemann and David Yelldell.