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USMNT at the Gold Cup: Have Mihailovic, Zendejas, others actually impressed?

This Gold Cup is all about player identification for the United States.

7 min read

This Gold Cup has a very specific purpose for the United States men’s national team.

The introduction of the Concacaf Nations League — a shorter, sleeker competition held earlier in the summer that allows many of the USMNT’s top players to participate before heading back across the Atlantic for preseason — changed things for the United States.

Instead of the Gold Cup being the U.S.’s priority this summer, it’s become an opportunity to identify and develop players.

Sure, winning regional championships is nice. But from the moment U.S. Soccer decided to let almost all of their best players rest during the 2023 Gold Cup, the purpose shifted. With speculative call-ups in every line of the field, the USMNT’s biggest Gold Cup goal is testing players to find the ones who can help the team win more important competitions down the road.

If this Gold Cup is about testing players, then the obvious question is this: has anyone passed? Has anyone actually impressed enough at this tournament, where the USMNT will meet Panama in the semifinal on Wednesday evening, to demand a roster spot when the top group of players get together?

Let’s dive into some players who have struggled and some who may have put themselves into the A-Team conversation.

High hopes, poor play

We won’t get through every player in B.J. Callaghan’s 23-man squad, but we’ll hit on a lot of them, starting with this “high hopes, poor play” category. Coming into this competition, there were two players that many folks (myself included) were particularly excited to see: Alejandro Zendejas and Djordje Mihailovic.

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