72113_isi_klinsmannjurgen_usmntbs071913103 Brad Smith/isiphotos.com
2013 Gold Cup

Eight Is Not Enough: U.S. Targets Ninth Straight Win

Any way you slice it, the United States should seize control of today's match against El Salvador and earn a berth in the semifinal round of the 2013 Gold Cup.
BY John Godfrey Posted
July 21, 2013
12:27 PM
FIFA RANKINGS, like so much about the scandal-plagued organization, warrant a healthy dose of suspicion.

But the CONCACAF rankings at right should provide at least some perspective in advance of Sunday's Gold Cup quarterfinal match between the United States and El Salvador (4 p.m. Eastern, FOX). The U.S., riding an eight-game winning streak, is ranked 2nd in the region and 22nd in the world, and both numbers should improve when the list is updated August 8.

El Salvador, currently ranked 94th globally, is just not very good.

La Azul y Blanco may be better than Suriname, as the ratings indicate, and El Salvador has a stronger soccer tradition than, say, Antigua & Barbuda. But the Central American nation is roughly equivalent to the Guatemala team (93rd) the Americans dismantled, 6-0, a few weeks ago in San Diego. Anything short of a dominant win will be disappointing to Jurgen Klinsmann and his charges.

You get a sense that the team knows that.

“We are playing for a championship," team captain DaMarcus Beasley said. "This is something that we can achieve as a group, a chance for these 23 guys to do something special as a team together. The guys know that. We have some young guys, some inexperienced guys, and guys getting their first caps and first goals. For us, it’s a group that has a lot of potential."

"No one here is focused on trying to make a World Cup roster," he continued. "All we are worried about is trying to win a Gold Cup final.”

Even if that second statement is a bit dubious—everybody on the squad has the 2014 World Cup in mind, if only in private—the fact remains that this team is playing well, and playing for each other.

“It’s a great atmosphere in the group now,” Mix Diskerud said after Tuesday's 1-0 win over Costa Rica. “Coming into the locker room now everybody is happy and smiling and supporting each other. People have their lucky socks and their lucky boxers, and I think it’s all just working for everybody.”


Whether players are motivated by hoisting a Gold Cup trophy, winning for each other, or fighting their way onto the 2014 World Cup roster, it shouldn't really matter for Sunday's quarterfinal match. The stats, history, and trends all favor the Americans:

  • The United States has only lost once during the Gold Cup quarterfinals, back in 2000. El Salvador has only made it to the quarterfinals three times, losing all three of those matches.

  • El Salvador has scored three goals so far this tournament, all by one man—Rodolfo Zelaya.

  • American striker Chris Wondolowski leads all Gold Cup scorers with five. The Yanks have 11 tallies in total.

  • El Salvador is expected to bunker today, but the U.S. has proven adept at breaking defensive-minded opponents so far this tournament. Thanks to some smart wide play and some ruthless finishing, the Yanks have rarely looked better in confronting a team determined to park the bus.

  • The U.S. back line has not been tested much so far this tournament, but with the arrival of first-team starter Matt Besler (and the departure of Oguchi Onyewu), the defense is getting stronger as the tournament progresses. Omar Gonzalez is expected to join the team if it makes it to the semifinal round on Wednesday, further bolstering the central defense.

    Now that the group stage is over, every game is an elimination match, which should only help the Yanks focus early and get out to an early lead.

    “The focus definitely changes knowing that any little mistake in a game can cost you the tournament," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "You have to be extra prepared.”

    That said, the team does not seem particularly worried about today's contest.

    “The confidence is huge right now within the group," Rimando added. "To finish first in our group and with the results we put together, especially the great win against Costa Rica, the confidence is flying.”

    So tell us, soccer fans—what are your predictions for today's match? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

    John Godfrey is the founder and editor in chief of American Soccer Now.
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