There are a few schools of thought on whether you are taking the Gold Cup too seriously. "You're paying attention to it at all" has now been discredited in most US fan circles. It is now generally accepted that World Cup roster spots are at stake. If the tournament were to end today, the conventional wisdom would be that Wondolowski, Holden, Shea and Donovan have made glorious re-appearings and are now, to use the lamentable cliche, in the mix. People actually pay money to preseason games to see if guys will make the team in other sports, and all you have to do for the Gold Cup is pay your cable or satellite bill.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is watching the US in the Gold Cup, and being way, way too optimistic based on their performance against CONCACAF's scrubbing bubbles. I don't want to name any names, but it's possible to get too excited about the USMNT at this point. Let's at least win the tournament (which is, after all, being played on our home soil) before we vote ourselves most likely to succeed.
Dave Denholm (whose Tweet that was - actually, I guess I did want to name names), by the way, is no soccer dummy. However, he's a talk sports guy, and trolling for attention, and he phrased his question in a very open-ended way - so maybe I'm the idiot here for taking the bait. Sure, the United States CAN win the World Cup. They might even be able to win it without five or six tragic but fortuitously timed cases of mass food poisoning, or without the help of any match-fixing syndicates, but that's significantly less likely. Out of our top three players, one just got back from a non-injury sabbatical, one is in the Tottenham shop window, and one is the coach's son. (Whoops, sorry - adopted son.)
Yeah, the US has a great shot at the World Cup - after all, if Altidore keeps improving at this rate, he'll be a sexed up combination of Puskas and Vinnie Jones as the Juggernaut. And if Wondolowski keeps improving at this rate, George Best will be the second most famous man ever to wear a San Jose Earthquakes jersey. (Caveat - I don't remember if George W. Bush actually put on a Quakes jersey during an MLS Cup White House visit. Or after. Usually they just hold them up for the cameras. If I were President, I'd just lounge around wearing the jerseys of various championship teams, but that's one of the reasons I'm not the President.)
But if you believe that, you're probably taking the Gold Cup a little too seriously.
The other way to tell if you're taking the Gold Cup too seriously is if you're sending healthy players home from the roster in the middle of the tournament. I think this is bush league, and I think it's an insult to the roster that was actually picked.
I do see the upside - we've all lamented that Gonzalez and Besler didn't have a lot of playing time together. Well, here's a cheap and easy way to get them some big crowd pressure playing time. The current defense did allow goals against Cuba and British Belize, and Onyewu was a legitimate injury, so I can't fault Klinsmann for taking advantage. But then, why not
But Eddie Johnson is, to put it mildly, a known quantity. And Alan Gordon is the sort of player a team calls up if they're nowhere near deep enough to win a World Cup. If Klinsmann wanted Johnson and Gordon so badly, why not call them up in the first place, instead of wasting McInerney and Bruin's time? Will Bruin is still apparently on the roster, despite two forwards being called in.
It's entirely possible that McInerney, Bruin, Tony Beltran and Corey Ashe (the big losers in this roster shuffle) have all been just horrible in camp, and nothing would be gained by proving their inadequacy in actual games. My problem is with their replacements. We might be strengthening the team, but we're learning nothing. With the exception of Omar and Matt getting more quality time together, this doesn't benefit the US in its primary goal - World Cup qualification.
It does, however, increase the chances of the US winning the Gold Cup. I'd trade that trophy for a deeper roster, though. But the coaching staff, like the fan base, seems to have a very limited attention span and less patience.
Gonzalez and Besler only play together if the US beats El Salvador, of course. Should that not happen, the reaction from our fanbase will be astounding to behold. I'm not going to come right out and say I'm cheering for El Salvador because of that, but....
I should quickly point out that this isn't just the message board fanbase who have embraced the Gold Cup. For an objectively meaningless tournament - half a ticket to the Confederations Cup, people! Which itself isn't the biggest turkey in the pond, neither - the region's fans have been supportive all out of proportion to what CONCACAF deserves.
Which means, since I'm abusing the word "objective," that I'm objectively wrong about the importance of this tournament. The growing US fan base - which includes more than a few important media outlets - has correctly seen that while these aren't the very best players in the world, they are fighting for their international careers, and the performances are well worth watching. Even if you weren't previously emotionally invested in Brek Shea's current World Cup chances.
I should probably say something about match-fixing, but as a fan of a team that has dropped more injury time points in half a season than some do in a decade, the thought literally frightens the Herbalife out of me. Also, I'm not enough of a journalist to go up to Bruce Arena and say "Are you guys throwing matches?" and get any kind of helpful response. "Yes we are, Dan. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to clean on this," he probably won't say.
And I'm not sure I get how match-fixing works in this case. Huge credit to Gaynair and Belize for turning down the money, but...don't you usually try to bribe the favorite? I mean, what was Belize going to do, not play their best? Give up six goals? It was the Black Sox, not the Black, er, Reds - why? Because the Sox were huge favorites. There's enough uncertainty on betting that bad teams get their ass kicked that people want to make sure? Soccer is weird.
Although I should probably take gambling addiction more seriously as an actual physical affliction, because anyone in the other hemisphere is seeing US-Belize and thinking "I gotta get in on this action!," either they're fixing matches or they're genuinely unwell.