Christian Pulisic is taking the world by storm. The 18-year old has gone from one of the rising stars of the United States Men's National Team to legitimately one of its best players in a span of just a few short months.
The June international break was proof of just how amazing Pulisic is set to be for the Stars and Stripes. First in a friendly against Venezuela, he slotted home a goal on a fantastic run into the center of the box to salvage a 1-1 draw. When the chips were on the table against Trinidad & Tobago five nights later, Pulisic not only scored once, but twice to give the U.S. three crucial points towards qualifying for the World Cup. Sure, Pulisic was quiet in a 1-1 draw against Mexico, but that was one of the rare times in the history of the USMNT that the team was able to get a competitive point at Estadio Azteca.
What really matters though, is that the Americans have eight points in six matches in the final stage of World Cup qualifying, and they can effectively wrap up a spot in September if they can snare the maximum six points against Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
But first comes a trip to the Gold Cup. The United States will have a prep match against Ghana in Connecticut before leaving for Nashville to open up a tournament it will be expected to win.
Though the Gold Cup is largely considered a secondary tournament, you can bet that Bruce Arena is going to be taking this dead seriously this time around. Mexico won the Gold Cup two years ago, setting up a showdown for the Confederations Cup that was won by El Tri at the Rose Bowl. The Yanks were eliminated in the semifinals by Jamaica in that event, then beaten by Panama in the third place match, leaving a very bitter taste in the mouths of the American Outlaws and the rest of the USA supporters.
Pulisic has firmed himself up as one of the attacking midfielders on this team for years to come, but the bigger issues certainly come at the back.
The United States has some talented players for sure, but with John Brooks not being named to the roster for the Gold Cup, there are going to be some suspect times in the center of the defense. Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler and Graham Zusi all figure to have jobs in defense, while Michael Bradley should be at the back of a four-man midfield diamond to help out as a bit of a sweeper. Brooks, DeMarcus Beasley, Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin and Timmy Chandler, all of whom were named to the roster in the last go around, were left off of the Gold Cup roster.
The other question is whether the Americans will start with Tim Howard or Brad Guzan in net. Howard played the first of two matches in the Hex in June, but it was Guzan who was in the pipes at Estadio Azteca.
Keep an eye on 28-year old Joe Bendik as well. It's not a given that he'll be in the final roster for the Gold Cup or that he'll have a shot to play in any of these matches. That said, he's been one of the very best keepers in the MLS this year, and that has earned him a call-up to the national team from Arena.
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