SAN DIEGO – The US national team that's heading into the Gold Cup has many players who are returning to the mix after absences from the team.
“No one’s road has been as long as mine, surely,” US midfielder Stuart Holden joked to reporters following the national team’s 6-0 win over Guatemala in a pre-tournament friendly Friday at Qualcomm Stadium.
That may be true, as Holden struggled with major injuries for the better part of two years, but with the likes of Landon Donovan, Oguchi Onyewu, DaMarcus Beasley, and Michael Parkhurst returning to the fold after absences, for various reasons, it appears a quest for redemption on the international stage is a common factor.
So is this Gold Cup squad “team redemption”? Holden thinks so, not only for the individual players but the national team overall.
“Guys have a point to prove personally, but on a team note, as a nation, we want to win the Gold Cup. We want [the trophy] back on our home soil,” Holden said.
“We really have a chip on our shoulder this tournament. We have something to prove,” he continued. “We’re not happy with second best. We’re in first place in CONCACAF qualifying, but the main priority right now is the Gold Cup.”
In that respect, the drubbing of Guatemala seemed to be a good step forward in the road to the regional title, which begins for the US Tuesday in Portland against Belize. Holden agreed.
“I think that was a good half for me personally and for the team, to set up some positive momentum now heading into the Gold Cup.”
The Bolton midfielder, who stressed the team ethos in his postgame comments, was widely credited with helping the United States break out offensively after he entered the match to start the second half.
Although US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann said earlier in the week that his starting lineup against Guatemala would essentially be his starting lineup for the Gold Cup, the substitution of Holden and Mix Diskerud for Jose Torres and Kyle Beckerman at the half was pre-planned and could indicate some changes in central midfield at some point.
“I told all four central midfielders yesterday at training, ‘Guys, we’re going to share 45 each,’ because in training all four were on a very high level,” Klinsmann said.
Still the coach was unafraid to give Holden praise for his performance on the night, which included two assists.
“It’s really good to see the last couple weeks the work Stuart put in, that he also gets rewarded,” Klinsmann explained.
“With every training session he gets more confident. He hit some wonderful passes, and that’s his game. He’s on his way back, and every day will get better.”