71013_isi_beasleydonovan_usmntmj070513198 Michael Janosz/isiphotos.com
Direct from Portland

Gold Cup Squad Balances Veterans and Newcomers

DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan reflect on their trip up the ladder from their days together in the U.S. Under-17 Residency Program, and on the new generation of talent coming through the ranks.
BY Liviu Bird Posted
July 10, 2013
6:05 PM
PORTLAND, Ore.—The United States is not short on captains.

Clint Dempsey and Carlos Bocanegra are absent from the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup roster, but there are still plenty of veterans in camp who can lead the team into battle.

DaMarcus Beasley is wearing the armband for the U.S. this tournament, but Landon Donovan has also captained the side in the past. As Beasley said after Tuesday night’s 6-1 win over Belize, it takes all kinds of leaders to make a team run smoothly.

“Everybody has their own way of being a leader,” he said. “Some are more vocal, some are more on the field. It just depends on how they lead a team. All that in account is good for our team.”

Four of the team’s biggest leaders, Beasley, Donovan, Kyle Beckerman, and Oguchi Onyewu, were part of the inaugural U.S. Under-17 Residency Program class of 1999. All but Onyewu have been captain for the senior national team at some point. It’s a quartet that Landon Donovan called “a special group of players.”

“The hope is that now every year, we’re producing more and more talent of that caliber that’s pushing into the national team,” Donovan said. “I think with the development of the academy systems, the way Major League Soccer is progressing, you’re going to see more and more of that.”

On the current Gold Cup roster, 12 players have five or fewer international caps. Corey Ashe and Jack McInerney have yet to earn their first for the U.S., and only Onyewu, Beasley, and Donovan have 50 or more caps.

The hope is that the veterans will be able to make an impact on the young players—who are automatic starters and stars on their club teams—as they transition to a higher level of play.

“The young guys look for leadership from us,” Beasley said. “That’s what we’re trying to provide throughout this tournament, and hopefully, they see that we’re serious about this tournament. It’s not a tournament that we’re taking lightly.”

Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann added: “I think for a player like Jack right now, it’s a tremendous learning curve to train every day with these guys, to see, ‘This is my club level, and this is the national team.’ So he’s coming along. We’re happy with him. We see him, we see his talent, and he’s getting more confident every time he’s getting on the practice field.”

A player’s performance in training impacts his evaluation as heavily as games do. With a maximum of six matches in the competition and only three substitutions that can be made in each, some players are still likely to see limited time, based on reading between the lines of what Klinsmann said.

“It would have been easier maybe (with) two or three preparation games,” he said. “Then, you throw (McInerney) in there to get a couple minutes in—it’s no problem. But now, with the rules—only having three (subs)—you want to make sure that you make the right ones then based on what you see really in training as well. But he’s on a good path.”

In the meantime, the veterans will have their fun with the newcomer.

“We haven’t done any rookie things yet, but I’m sure it will come as the tournament goes,” Beasley said. “He has to do something. But he’s been fitting in great. He’s a good player, a good kid, and he has a lot of talent.”

For their part, the five original Residency players have one sandy location in mind for what could be their final reunion in the red, white, and blue: Brazil.

“For all of us to be here again and fighting for the same thing—getting to the Gold Cup [and] obviously the ultimate goal is making the World Cup team—if we do that together, that would be another page in our U-17 book,” Beasley said. “I hope we all get through it together.”

Liviu Bird is the Cascadia regional editor for Soccerwire.com, as well as an American Soccer Now contributor. Follow him on Twitter.

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