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SOCCER

USMNT: Looking to 2018

By Gabriel Mesa - Jul 02, 2014

As the historic 2013 year ended, hopes were high for the United States as the World Cup approached. With a new coach in Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. was set to take Brazil by storm and hopefully help propel soccer back home to new heights. But a lot of those hopes came crashing down when the U.S. was drawn into the Group of Death with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana.

 

People didn’t expect the team to escape the group stage, some even thought they wouldn’t even register a point or a goal against such tough competition. Instead, the team took the country on an incredible run that culminated with heartbreak on Tuesday.

 

Coming in with so much adversity and so many questions, the U.S. came into Brazil and took everyone by storm. They earned some sweet revenge against their international rival, Ghana, who kicked them out of the World Cup the last two times. Against Portugal, the United States shut down one of the best players in the world and played some of the best football the country has ever seen, but let up an agonizing goal which allowed Portugal to tie.

 

But after everything, the US advanced to the Round of 16, second in the Group of Death to Germany. The team did all this without forward Jozy Altidore, whose absence really hurt them on offense and with possession, the team's biggest problem this World Cup.

 

Against Belgium, the United States was under constant pressure, but Tim Howard came up and showed why he is one of the best keepers in the entire world. Even after being down 2-0 in extra time, the U.S. kept fighting and youngster Julian Green scored his first goal for the U.S. with his first ever touch in the World Cup. The U.S. fought and fought until the end and brought and immense amount of pride to the nation. The “I believe” chant infected the nation and made the world take notice of United States soccer.

 

The success of the country this World Cup was due in large part to the play of the Latinos on the team. Alejandro Bedoya was excellent on the wing and played a pivotal role in shutting down Cristiano Ronaldo. He sometimes was missing on the offense side of the ball, but overall he had a very good tournament and will likely continue to be featured for the U.S.

 

Omar Gonzalez was replaced in the starting lineup to start the tournament by the excellent play of Geoff Cameron, but when Klinsmann needed some size against Germany and Belgium, Gonzalez answered. Many doubted the decision, but he showed why many thought he would be a key part of the U.S. back line for years to come. He played well against Germany and Belgium, making the battle in the center of the defense something to watch in the upcoming cycle.

 

As Klinsmann looks for the upcoming Gold Cup and the future of the United States, many Latinos will be waiting in the wings to represent the country. Klinsmann does not care about age, as he showed with DeAndre Yedlin, John Anthony Brooks and Julian Green who all played extremely well. Two of the brightest spots in Major League Soccer who could represent the Red, White and Blue are Luis Gil and Diego Fagundez.

 

Gil could be the next "10," or target man, for the United States if his development continues. Fagundez still has to officially gain U.S. citizenship, but all signs point to the Uruguay native representing the U.S. He could be the creative winger the team has lacked for some time.

 

Meanwhile, in the college ranks, other Latinos are starting to shine before they even head to MLS. One of them is Cristian Roldan of the University of Washington. The California native is impressive on the ball and his skill with the ball is masterful. He will skyrocket through the national ranks and is one to definitely watch for.

 

The U.S. may not have matched their most successful run, but they showed why the team could be reckoned with in 2018 in Russia. Klinsmann fought through the controversy and showed why he was an upgrade from the last World Cup with Bob Bradley at the helm. Now it is time for the United States to show they can develop players to go along with the heart and determination that makes U.S. soccer such a threat to the old guards of football. 

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