Five storylines to follow entering U.S.-Panama semifinal clash
HOUSTON -- Five things on my mind as we get ready for the Gold Cup semifinals on Wednesday between the U.S. and Panama (7 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer, Univisión) and Mexico and Honduras (10 p.m. ET, same channels):
GK: Tim Howard
D: Steve Cherundolo-Clarence Goodson-Carlos Bocanegra-Eric Lichaj
M: Michael Bradley-Jermaine Jones
M: Landon Donovan-Sacha Kljestan-Clint Dempsey
F: Juan Agudelo
Panama's best player, forward Blas Pérez, has to sit out this semifinal on a red-card suspension (see
"I think Jermaine will still be fine," says U.S. assistant coach Jesse Marsch. "He's an experienced guy, he's played at high levels. He's smart enough to understand that now carrying a yellow that in different moments he's got to be a little more careful in how he defends and does those things. One of the best things about this tournament is we've gotten to know Jermaine really well and learned to trust him, and I think he's learned to trust us. We're going to keep building on that."
"In an ideal world, when you get good movement, the forward's not alone that often," says Bradley. "There are still ways that other people are moving quickly when necessary to join in and be available so that you're not just leaving him stranded.
"One of the things that becomes key to making that happen is you need to be able to move the ball well. If it's a day when you're under pressure and you've got a lot of guys back, now when you get the ball you're pressed right away and all you can do is play it up to the forward and he'll feel like he's on his own. But if it's a day when you're good with the ball, then often it doesn't really look or feel like one forward. In the game these days, all forwards need to understand that there are times when on their own -- their abilities to hold balls, move along the line and cause trouble are all a part of the job. We've tried with all our forwards to get them to understand that."
"But one can only do that through development, not through willing it to happen," says U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati. "As MLS continues to get stronger and the economics get better and the level continues to get better, then the flows will change." How long could that take? Potentially decades.