There are people to whom this Gold Cup is extremely important - specifically, players on the fringes of national teams which still hope to qualify for Brazil next year. It sounds cruel, but the only fans who need to care about the Gold Cup are the ones who care more about World Cup qualifying. Otherwise, you're just watching the same group of stiffs who couldn't get you to the Hex. (Sorry, Canada. At least you're not Guatemala.) Grant Wahl was right about how important and interesting those stories can be, but I think he (and most of the soccer press) are vastly overfocusing on Landon Donovan, whose comeback story is probably one of the least inspiring outside the Miami Heat locker room.
Seriously, picture the movie. "IN A WORLD where World Cup qualifying starts very soon after the MLS playoffs, one man will take an extended off-season. And he will. Lose. Fitness. This summer, Landon Donovan faces possible odds and surmountable foes in - BLACK SABBATICAL."
Stu Holden's return is vastly more interesting, but keep in mind that he, like Chris Wondolowski, has so far only faced the lightest and most delicious of cupcakes CONCACAF has to offer. Holden at full health is certainly good enough to challenge for playing time even with our crowded midfield...and Wondolowski is probably alive enough to challenge for playing time with our shallow forward pool.
I mean, I like Wondolowski a lot, but he's simply not going to get those chances against quality international opposition. If standing around in JUST the right place were a winning stategy at high levels, everyone would be doing it. Speed, skill and talent, factors almost totally absent from the Belize squad, and sadly not entirely commonplace in MLS defenses, will make that strategy untenable. International defenders can certainly read a developing play, and unlike in MLS the experience advantage in international games will be on the side of Wondolowski's opponents.
Wondolowski has gone through massive upturns in quality before - from Dynamo permasub to Earthquake legend. And he's trying to carry on a tradition of US World Cup forwards that includes Robbie Findley, so it's not an impossible dream. But it's unlikely, and only marginally less likely after feasting on Belizean corpses.
Anyone else freeze the screen and think, "Have I been spelling it wrong all these years? And no one has called me out on it? Is he changing his name, like Stoitchkov and Earnie Stewart did? Am I just seeing things?" Watch all the forwards ask for misspelled jerseys now that Chris scored a hat trick in his. Maybe US Soccer will sell "Wondowlowski" jerseys pre-made.
I think the Gold Cup is like Camp Cupcake writ large - you can't win a spot, you can only lose it. So if I were Michael Parkhurst looking at film of the Gaynair goal, well, I'd be extremely worried. If he can't stop a Belizean forward, how will he hope to slow down Chicharito? He'd better be phenomenal from here on in...assuming Klinsmann even bothers to put him in.
That's why I like tournaments like this, it can replicate the do-or-die, now-or-never sense of the World Cup. This is how these guys perform under serious career pressure - but minimal quality of opponents. I don't think anyone will have won a spot until the Gold Cup is safely hoisted...and maybe not even then.
The tournament is also useful to cap-tie marginal players who have given up hope for anything better, and isn't that inspiring? Mix Diskerud, living the American dream. And his career was nearly ended for his trouble. Which ticks me off more today than it did last night, even. Trevor Lennon is apparently the big hero of Belize's Gold Cup qualification run, but if he was trying to prove that amateurs do not belong on the same field as professionals, he did a sterling job last night. It should be legal to kick back after nonsense like that. He made Dema Kovalenko look like Marco van Basten, and Diskerud is very lucky to still have his day job after that.
Lastly, the Gold Cup has proven to be one of the great festivals of Cuban sport defection - but as Bill's coverage has shown over the years, it's not really that funny. If we're going to schedule games in this country with repressive regimes in the first place, then we should clearly and loudly offer asylum to anyone who wants to stay. Or rush the field after all their games like in "Victory," to cover their change into civilian clothes.
The more often Cuba sends teams over here, the more likely it is that someone's going to get shot. If Cuba has to keep its players on the team by coercion, they shouldn't be entering tournaments, even in CONCACAF.
Sorry for the buzzkill. Let me try to make it up to you, in a poetic tribute to one of the dumber arguments going on in US fan circles (which is really saying something):
"That Timbers fan! That Timbers fan! I do not like that Timbers fan!"
"Do you like Green Uncle Sam?" "I do not like Green Uncle Sam!
Who cares about community or club? This is a US game, you scrub!"
"You don't like our local pride?" "Save it for your local side!
You embarrassed the whole nation With your awful desecration!"
"Well, our fans put the effort in And cheered them on to help them win.
So the next time that YOU host a game Make sure that you do the same.
Yes, I am a US fan! And I liked Green Uncle Sam!"
Well, that was awful. Eh, I'll delete it before I hit "Publish."