HOUSTON - JUNE 22: Clint Dempsey #8 of the U.S.A. celebrates with Landon Donovan #10 after scoring in the second half against Panama at Reliant Stadium on June 22, 2011 in Houston, Texas. U.S.A. won 1-0. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
About 200,000 words have been written (that's just at the SB Nation coverage) on Saturday night's Gold Cup Final between the two rivals. For Mexico this one is about firmly declaring a return to their superiority of not just talent but continuing in their results (8 1st place finishes in 20 tournaments, 13 in top 3 total). While it would be great for the United States to win the trophy again, making it 3 of the last 4, there is something that will help US soccer much more than another Gold Cup win.
That would be the emergence of an offensive force beyond Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. D&D have been pretty good players, but for the next World Cup they will be late peak, or even past prime guys and so it is time for the next edition for the USMNT. So tonight, it is the process and discovery of who else emerges that will be key.
At one point Jozy Altidore was seen as that forward who could become the scorer, but he is out with an injury and so their is a short list of possible replacements. It will be imperative on Bob Bradley to find the magic who can advance for the fortune of the nation to new heights on the international stage in even more important tournaments. Yes, winning the Gold Cup is a step, but merely a step to go to Brazil in 2013 in the Confederations Cup to face the top nations of each region.
Bradley's path of discovery for the next level of play among America's finest talent must begin tonight. Ideally we will see a player with flair, with technique, with panache - with the ability to be hyped. If it is someone who is an expansion of not just the typical American skill-set of hard work and tactical ability it can raise the bar for the sport. Tonight's match will be the most watched soccer game of 2011, and by far. There is an opportunity to capture the imaginations of the present and future fans of America regardless of what shirt their parents support.
It is time to supplement the rare hype that occurs in US soccer with performance. It is time to see a road crowd that will dominate the Rose Bowl be silenced in their adopted home. It is a time to see a kind of magic like the 1999 Women's World Cup brought to their game.
There's really only one player on the roster who has that offensive skill-set with the charisma to entrance general sports fans. He is quick, dexterous even. His previous hype has disappeared, and he is now seen as a flop even though young. But people still know him, and in his age he has gained some wisdom. His pass led directly to the goal that advanced the United States over Panama. It is clear that Freddy Adu's game intelligence has grown.
The US has plenty of conventional players. Players who are decent, they don't hurt you. But they aren't special. Adu is still special, and still has those raw skills that got him the pomp. He's rested, and ready to burst back onto the scene. He shut down his twitter a month ago to focus on this tournament, and with the impending new loan to a new club some where he has every incentive to use this stage for personal and national glory.
Starting the youngster would provide not just spark, but surprise to the Starting XI. His would be another body, a relatively unscouted body, that can do things with his feet that stun one defender and forces others to close down. After the performance against Panama reward the young man and roll the dice.
It is time for AD&D and the expansion of the American game.