Don’t read too much into the Gold Cup

Jordan Morris fired an expertly placed strike into the back of the net in the 89th minute to lift the United States to a 2-1 victory over Jamaica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final in Santa Clara last night, thus making sure The Yanks became the soccer equivalent of the valedictorians at summer school.
Don't get me wrong. You want to lift trophies under a confetti flurry on national television. That's quite the ego stroke. Girls love that stuff.
However, this tournament might have exposed the divide that separates our continent from Europe and South America in the world's beautiful game.
Keep in mind that Honduras reached the semifinals of the tournament without scoring a single goal.
Or that Jamaica reached the finals and it had already been eliminated from qualifying for the World Cup.
What can be discerned from the tournament, in my opinion, are two things:
1) Don't overreact about Mexico getting steamrolled by the Reggae Boys in the semifinals. El Tri stretched itself pretty thin in the last month or so, having sent its top players to Russia for a tournament of grander scale. I believe Mexico didn't take this tournament that seriously and got what it deserved.
El Tri has a comfortable lead in World Cup qualifying. That's not going to change.
Having said that, I wish the team had told its fans so that they wouldn't treat the tournament as life and death.
Hell, the USMNT had the same approach. It's the only reason I didn't travel to see the team play in Tampa. You send your B team to play in a downpour and want me to sit through a driving rainstorm? I'll pass.
2) Andre Blake needs to get out of MLS.
The Jamaicans are young, quick and well-organized on the back line. Tournament organizers called Blake — who plays for the Philadelphia Union — the best goalie. I agree.
He's also too good for MLS. For his good and the benefit of his national team, he needs to take his talents overseas against the best in the world.
3) Juergen Klinsmann was right. The United States needed to change its approach. Only his execution of that change stunk and current coach Bruce Arena has a clear vision of what the team will look like.
What do I mean? I think Clint Dempsey's days as a starter are numbered. Dempsey, who tied Landon Donovan for most goals in USMNT history during the tourney, was sidelined with a heart condition last season. As desirable as scoring is in any sport, a coach has to be able to rely on his players to stay alive.
I know that reads like a sick joke. Look at the men and women who play the game. It's a different body type. Soccer players are cardiovascular machines, built to run for more than 90 minutes. Can a man with a heart condition be expected to run at top speed for 90 minutes?
Which players acquitted themselves for a shot at the World Cup team, should the USMNT qualify? Morris, for one. I think midfielder Darlington Nagbe played with more creativity and intellect than the much-hyped Kellyn Acosta.
Anyone else? To be frank, no. Dom Dwyer got a look, but a missed penalty shot likely killed his future. How can anyone argue that his upside is greater than Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood, both of whom have played for superior European teams?
Simply put, if you follow soccer on our humble continent, you know who the better players are for both Mexico and the United States. You'll also see the difference when they play in World Cup qualifying in September.

There’s no gold standard in this soccer tourney

After more than a week of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, suffice it to say this soccer tournament is indicative of everything going on in North America right now. In other words, it sucks.

This is not one of those “I hate soccer” columns. It’s an “I love international soccer” one. No, it’s a “For soccer to continue to grow in popularity in the United States, you can’t expect people to watch this schlock” opinion. Gold is simply too precious a metal for a cup that clearly none of the bigger countries care about.

Of the 12 nations invited to participate in this alleged showcase of North American soccer, the United States and Mexico purposefully didn’t include their top players in pool play. They had reasons that made some sense. The Mexicans sent their best players last month to Russia for the Confederations Cup, a precursor to the World Cup. The Confederation Cup finished July 2. Mexico started Gold Cup on July 9.

Oh wait. That’s plenty of time to get over jet lag.

The Americans, meanwhile, sent their B team because they didn’t want to tucker out the first unit for World Cup qualifying later this year.

Golly, the more I think about it, these are craptacular excuses.

You know what’s also craptacular? The fact that only four of 12 teams were eliminated in pool play. Two-thirds advancing is similar to allowing the Cincinnati Bengals (6-9-1) into the NFL playoffs. The four “nations” that were eliminated? Two of them are so insignificant they played the French national anthem before their games. If nobody cares enough to write a song about your country, you have no business on the stage, Johan.

Oh sure. Now that the knockout round kicks off Wednesday — with eight countries that you’ve heard of — CONCACAF has allowed the surviving teams to reboot their rosters. The Mexicans and the United States were too happy to do so, with players you’ve heard of. The Americans swapped six front liners.

They shouldn’t get to do that. It’s kind of a punk move and I root for the U.S.

If the Gold Cup is merely a minor league version of World Cup qualifying, that’s fine. There are soccer junkies like me willing to see the next generation of players from Mexico and the U.S. who will get stomped by the Germans or Brazilians.

But at least be up front about it. Send your best or develop new talent. You don’t get to do both.