Jul 21, 2013, 6:30 AM EDT
Having reached the business end of this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, a United States side with a freshly fortified back line and an upgraded attack will be under real pressure for the first time in the tournament Sunday afternoon.
The United States blew through the group stage with the anticipated ease (outscoring the three opponents 11-2). So Jurgen Klinsmann’s team get its first elimination-match test Sunday, facing El Salvador at an M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore that will be packed and steamy.
It will also almost certainly be sharply divided in fan support; the United States will heavily favored, but El Salvador is likely to be heavy with fan support.
“It doesn’t matter if we have now eight in a row or five or two or whatever,” Klinsmann said Saturday. “In order to win this tournament we have to win the next three games. So we are not looking at any statistics. We know we have a difficult match here tomorrow and we are ready for it. For us, the Gold Cup is only successful if we win it.”
If the 11 U.S. goals in three matches look impressive, consider that 10 came against decidedly overmatched Belize and Cuba. While it was surely “mission accomplished,” the United States had a significantly tougher time operating against Costa Rica.
Besides, it was the “2” in that 11-2 goal difference that seemed more important as Klinsmann made four allowable changes between the highly forgiving group stage at the quarterfinals.
Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, the top two center backs in Klinsmann current player pool were added to the Gold Cup roster (although Gonzalez will not join the team until Wednesday’s semifinals in Dallas, assuming safe U.S. arrival.)
Klinsmann also added forwards Alan Gordon and Eddie Johnson. Neither will be the “featured” attacker, however. The bulk of attention will fall on Landon Donovan, who is having a swell time of things in getting back with the national team – never mind that it’s a “B” team version, set so intentionally to get some of the front-line men some rest ahead of their European seasons.
Donovan has two goals and two assists in the tournament, including a picture perfect pass across the field to Brek Shea to create Tuesday’s late breakthrough against Costa Rica. Getting the country’s all-time leading scorer and set-up man folded back into the program and regaining the coach’s trust in him was probably the second most important objective in this semi-annual tournament (after winning it, naturally). To hear Klinsmann talk, it sounds like everything is moving in a great direction.
“His leadership in that moment [late Tuesday] is very important to the team, and he understands that moment,” Klinsmann said. “He’s a player that understands the importance of certain games.”
History suggests the odds are with the United States, which has lost just once in the Gold Cup quarters, that all the way back in 2000.
Other numbers suggest good fortune, too. For instance, the United States is 15-1-5 against El Salvador all-time. The hosts Sunday have faced the small Central American nation four times in the Gold Cup and won all four (1996, 2002, 2003, 2007) by shutout.
What’s more, Tuesday’s 1-0 victory against Costa Rica ran the program’s all-time best winning streak to eight consecutive wins.
None of that will matter, however, if the United States can’t find a way past El Salvador, which sneaked into the quarters after a win, a loss and a draw in group play. It took a Sacha Kljestan stoppage time goal for the United States to find a win last time the teams met, in Tampa in early 2010.
“Our expectation is that they’ll do what every other team has [in the tournament],” Donovan said. “They will defend with everything they have and then try to catch us on perhaps a counter or a set piece or something like that.”
Expect to see Besler and probably Johnson. Assuming all goes well, Besler and Gonzalez would probably see out the tournament as the country’s top central defensive pairing.
“For us it’s a chance to bring in some more experienced guys, so guys that are a little bit fresher, and I think it will help us,” Donovan said.
Jul 29, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT
Mourinho suffers two injuries to key players in Chelsea’s final game of U.S. tour.
Jul 29, 2015, 8:50 AM EDT
Ranieri has a big job on his hands to keep the Foxes out of the relegation zone. Can he succeed at the KP?
Jul 29, 2015, 8:15 AM EDT
Legendary French midfielder is red-hot favorite to replace Blatter.
Jul 29, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT
Oh Eden, stop it. Check out his latest piece of genius.
Jul 28, 2015, 10:08 PM EDT
Close to 80,000 saw Barcelona move to 1-2 in three ICC matches. Barca finishes off its tourney vs. Fiorentina in Florence on Aug. 2.
Jul 28, 2015, 9:16 PM EDT
Thank goodness Haris Vuckic’s brother follows his career over the web.
Jul 28, 2015, 7:16 PM EDT
Something tell us the exhibit won’t bring in the same sort of interest as the actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, but it does fit the bill of organized crime.
Jul 28, 2015, 6:11 PM EDT
Here’s hoping MLS makes the idea of this contest laughable in the next decade, if not sooner. Like tomorrow.
Jul 28, 2015, 5:39 PM EDT
Who takes over the ship, one in which the majority of the hands reportedly liked playing for Herrera?
Jul 28, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT
Will they hold onto Stones and Coleman? If so, expect Everton to be in the Europa League discussion and to make a healthy bid for both Cups.
Jul 28, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
The nation has now changed men’s national team managers 15 times since 2000, and only two of those changes were caretaker moves.
Jul 28, 2015, 1:59 PM EDT
Here’s a look at some of the top deals from another busy day across Europe.
Jul 28, 2015, 12:35 PM EDT
Can the Eagles surprise everyone again? With Cabaye running the show, don’t rule it out.
Jul 28, 2015, 11:25 AM EDT
The latest gossip includes a cryptic message from Benzema.
Jul 28, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
Mourinho: “In my opinion he should be in the top three.”
Jul 28, 2015, 9:54 AM EDT
England international has been ripping it up for City in preseason.
Jul 28, 2015, 9:20 AM EDT
Mourinho’s men are hungry for trophies. All of them.
Jul 28, 2015, 8:15 AM EDT
Putin: “People like Mr Blatter deserve special recognition.”
Jul 27, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT
The Premier League’s big boys each play once more in the USA before heading back to England for the start of the new season.
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- Official: Miguel Herrera fired by Mexico days after Gold Cup win, alleged attack on journalist 14
- Tuesday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Benzema to Arsenal, Berahino to Tottenham 5
- Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Chelsea 1
- Russian president Vladimir Putin believes Sepp Blatter deserves Nobel Prize 6