By Daniel Rubens
In the heart of the offseason, most American soccer fans are focused firmly on the Gold Cup. We already covered the team’s first two games of the tournament, in which the USMNT underwhelmed but snuck away with victories, and Monday’s group stage finale was something different altogether.
Again, the Americans were lackluster for long stretches of the 1-1 draw with Panama in Kansas
However, things changed in the second half as the U.S. put together its best half of the tournament so far. It still wasn’t a whole lot better, as the Americans packed it in after tying the match and sat on their laurels, but it was a significant step up in quality from the first five halves the team had played in the Gold Cup.
The introductions of Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur) into Klinsmann’s attack at halftime immediately ignited the side, with Dempsey playing a part in Michael Bradley’s equalizer. Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes worked a nice one-two at the top of the box, with the ball finding Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), making his first Gold Cup appearance. The winger controlled the ball and served it straight to Bradley to tap in from close range to knot the contest up with 35 minutes left.
From there, it was on the defense to secure the draw, which it did. After a poor first half, Brooks was much better after the break, making a few key defensive headers. Right back Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt) also picked things up after a mediocre opening 45 minutes, while goalkeeper Brad Guzan (Aston Villa) made three saves after the break to secure the draw. The Americans will now have five days off before taking the pitch for the quarterfinal in Baltimore on Saturday against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.
Aside from the national team, not many Americans were busy with their club sides over the past week. A few were in action in the Nordic leagues, and others from bigger leagues have started their preseasons, but only a small handful actually played in the past seven days.
Most of those who played league games were, as usual, Tippeligaen players. The headliner of the weekend was Sarpsborg keeper Quentin Westberg, as the 29-year-old earned his first league clean sheet in a scoreless draw with second-place Stabaek. Westberg was stellar in keeping Bob Bradley’s side off the scoreboard, with the French-born keeper helping end his side’s three-game losing streak. Cole Grossman was not available for Stabaek, having traveled back to the U.S. to attend a wedding.
Elsewhere in Norway, Ethan Horvath was in between the sticks for Molde, but his side suffered a 1-0 loss to Haugesund to fall from fourth place into sixth. Fullback Zarek Valentin worked a full shift for Bodo/Glimt in a 2-1 victory over Mjondalen, with both Bodo’s Danny Cruz and Mjondalen’s Rhett Bernstein entering in the 83rd minute. Lastly, Alex De John came off the bench for the final 22 minutes of Start’s 2-1 loss to Tromso. A.J. Soares did not play for Viking in a win over Aalesund, as he is out with a concussion.
Next door in Sweden, no Americans played this weekend, and only goalkeeper Matt Pyzdrowski made the bench for his side. In Finland, however, two yanks played in their team’s back lines, with varying degrees of success. On Sunday, Jordan Seabrook worked a full 90 minutes for VPS, but his side fell to FF Jaro 2-1. A day later, Brian Span played 90 for Mariehamn, with his side drawing at fourth-place FC Inter.
That was it for the competitive matches, but a couple more Americans put in noteworthy displays for their European clubs in preseason friendlies. Those included striker Jerome Kiesewetter, who is getting a look from Stuttgart this preseason after making two Bundesliga appearances last campaign, and right back Eric Lichaj, who has become a stalwart in Nottingham Forest’s back line and will be counted on this year. As teams begin their preseason tours and the Gold Cup concludes, hopefully some more Americans will be able to make impacts as they prepare for league football once again.