By Jay and Dan:
As the US national team supporters attempt to decipher the relevance of the Gold Cup victory; there is no shortage of analysis on the team’s collective and individual performances, the predictions on World Cup inclusions, and the significance of the first trophy in the Jurgen Klinsmann era.
Lacking from most Gold Cup coverage has been the appreciation and recognition of the tournament as a showcase for the entire continent’s sporting talent. Fortunately, Major League Soccer clubs did not ignore the scouting opportunity. Several clubs are rumored to be in pursuit of some of the standout performers. With that in mind, we, Dan (@SoccerYankDan) and Jay (@RescindedRed), have collaborated on a list of the Best XI we hope to see in the MLS.
Guidelines are simple: any players not currently on an MLS or Liga MX club at the start of the tournament. We’ve excluded Liga MX on the basis that the Mexican national team was comprised solely on domestic league players, and several of the US national team’s main stands are also with MX. In short, we wanted to write this with one hand tied behind our backs. A 3-4-3 formation was decided upon as many of the squads appeared to be defensively challenged. It is almost certain by the time the transfer window closes on August 8th, many of these names will be attached to a club. Oh, and one last thing, we excluded the recently depart from MLS, no Shea or Holden.
Gabriel Torres – Panama: 5 goals, 1 Assist, 5 caps
Rumored to be in talks with the Colorado Rapids before the finals, Panama’s number 9 showed touch in the box and confidence at the spot. He drew a lot more attention after 2 goals against Mexico in the opener and still continued to produce under the spotlight. In the semi-finals, again against Mexico, he provided the assist on the winning goal. He didn’t display much ability to play with his back to the goal or in the air but then again, it was a limited simple size.
Rodolfo Zelaya – El Salvador: 4 goals, 4 caps
Of all the fowards to play against the US, Zelaya was the stand out. His ball skills froze the US defense on two separate occasions in the quarter-finals and his 4 goals were the only offense El Salvador managed to produce. It is no doubt that ball control ability will be fun to watch on a weekly basis.
Kenwyne Jones – Trinidad and Tobago: 2 goals, 1 assist, 4 caps
Like Zelaya above, Jones was the focal point of his squad’s offense. The Stoke City man remained productive and aggressive, and was able to absorb his oppositions’ best shots. His large frame allows him to play with his back to the goal and the Stoke City style translates well into many current MLS systems.
Mix Diskerud – USA: 1 goal, 6 caps (3 from substitution, played every game)
The last we saw Diskerud, he was a member of the U-23 team that failed to make the Olympics. To his defense, he did not play in the 2-0 loss to Canada. In the Gold Cup, Klinnsman displayed confidence in his ability by playing him in every game and trusting him in the box-to-box role next to Beckerman. It may not have been the smoothest performance game to game, but he demonstrated ability to fill a role in a new system with unfamiliar teammates.
Alejandro Bedoya – US: 2 assist, 4 caps (3 starts in the knockout)
Bedoya wasn’t involved in the scoring frenzy of the Belize and Cuba matches but he was in the starting XI when it counted. The New Jersey native played as a traditional right-winger and did respectable job filling the Graham Zusi role of Klinnsman’s system. This was even more impressive as he was playing out of position; Bedoya normally mans the central midfield role for Swedish club Helsingborgs IF.
Jorge Claros – Honduras: 1 goals, 4 caps (played every minute)
Claros played the holding midfield role for one of the better defensive sides of the tournament. The Hibernian F.C. man played every minute, of his 4 caps. When he was on the field, the only goals surrendered were those against the US in the semi-finals.
Alberto Quintero – Panama: 2 assist, 5 caps
Quintero was one of those players you’ll love when he’s with you and hate him when he’s against you. The crafty attacking midfielder lead the tournament in fouls drawn and could be found all over the attacking half during the final against the US. At only 25, he is football-wise beyond his years.
Román Torres – Panama: 1 goal, 5 caps, 1 clean sheet
The Panamanian center back put out many fires in the final. He was also their man on set pieces, delivering from both sides of the pitch. He was on the receiving side of the Gabriel Torres assist to beat Mexico in the semi-finals. The 27-year-old is a fixture on the Panamanian national team, and with MLS’s current lack of quality individual defenders, he could do himself well to seek a northern migration.
Michael Parkhurst – US: 1 assist, 5 cap (played every minute)
An unknown to many fans before the tournament began but his performance may have landed him a spot on the World Cup team. Along with Goodson, a consistent archer of the US back line, he didn’t venture up as much of Beasley but he held his own against two of our other Best XI members, Gabriel Torres and Rodolfo Zelaya.
Roberto Chen – Panama: 6 cap (played every minute)
The last defensive slot was the most difficult to select. Osman Chávez, of Honduras, was the leading candidate due to his club experience in the Polish league where he received Best XI honors and earned Europa and Champion League caps. However, he appeared slow and out of position in the defeat to the U.S. He could not remain on our list in good conscience.
The 19 year-old Roberto Chen gets the nod on potential, the team’s success, and his ability to be plugged into a lineup consisting of a more experienced core. He also has displayed versatility playing both center and right back. A strong defensive right back is a necessary in any league.
Jaime Penedo – Panama: 1 shutout, 0.80 GA, 10 saves
The Gold Cup keeper of the tournament has been linked to the LA Galaxy. While Donis Escober had better numbers, Penedo faced better competition, only allowing a goal per game to U.S. and Mexico. If Penedo ends up in LA, playing to expectations, it will bring resolution the Galaxy’s biggest weakness and make the playoffs much more interesting.