The United States began its Gold Cup journey with a 6-1 victory over Belize. Although the result wasn't a surprise, there were some key elements from the match that bode well for the team's title chances and moving forward in World Cup qualifying.
Since the squad is filled with players hoping to prove their worth as the World Cup begins to come into focus, there's no shortage of motivation. It's all about continued progress for Jurgen Klinsmann's bunch, and these "B" team players want to be a part of it.
Let's examine three of the biggest takeaways from the tournament-opener for the United States. For a complete look at the Gold Cup results and a list of upcoming fixtures, visit the event's official site.
Landon Donovan Remains An Impact Player
Nobody was sure exactly what to expect from Donovan after an extended absence from the national team. At 31, it was possible he would have lost a step and failed to make the same type of impact he did during his prime. Luckily for the U.S., that hasn't been the case.
Starting with a friendly victory over Guatemala and continuing against Belize, the veteran American superstar has been a force. His combination of vision, playmaking ability and composure from the penalty spot hasn't faded away.
Yes, the level of competition isn't on a World Cup level, but the fact Donovan has been able to dominate in such an impressive manner is a positive sign. As things stand right now, it would be a surprise if he doesn't get more heavily involved with the first team through next summer.
Chris Wondolowski Is Carving Out A Niche
A team can never have enough players capable of providing instant offense. After some initial struggles on the international level, Wondolowski netted a hat trick against Belize. He attacked the box relentlessly, and it paid off in a major way.
The San Jose Earthquakes striker isn't going to take a starting spot away from the likes of Jozy Altidore or Clint Dempsey. That said, he's got a realistic shot to emerge as a reserve option who can come off the bench when the Americans need some extra attacking talent.
He's not the fastest or strongest player on the pitch. However, as he showed in the Gold Cup opener, Wondolowski has a terrific work rate and a good finishing touch. A few more solid performances should keep him in the mix as Klinsmann builds future squads.
Stuart Holden Has Started To Find Top Form
Before injury woes temporarily derailed his promising career, Holden was one of the United States' most exciting rising stars. A midfielder with creativity and a willingness to take chances, he was projected to become a major asset for the Americans.
Even though it took longer than expected, perhaps Holden can still live up to those lofty expectations. Fitness is an issue that he'll deal with over time now that he's approaching full strength, and consistency takes time to return, but the skill set is still there.
He came on after halftime against Belize and played a major role in the United States pulling away from its overmatched counterparts. The pinpoint passes are slowly returning and the confidence isn't far behind. It lends hope Holden can return to top form in the coming months.
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