July 18, 2015
By Michael Lewis
EVERYTHING TO LOSE
Klinsmann: 'We're definitely the team to beat' in the Gold Cup
|Michael Bradley: "You come into a tournament like this and everyone's focus has to be on the task at hand. There's no time to worry about the noise on the outside, positive and negative."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
BALTIMORE -- If you go by past results in the competition, expectations and the fact the team is defending champions, the United States national team is the team to beat in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
So says head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
"I think we're definitely the team to beat in this tournament," Klinsmann said at a Friday press conference at M&T Bank Stadium, where the Americans will play Cuba in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m. ET Saturday.
"It was not perfect the way we went through the group stage, but it was impressive the way the players handled everything. And seeing all the other results, the up and downs the other teams had, I think we're very consistent in what we're doing."
Yes, the USA has been far from perfect as it has underachieved and has struggled in its three Group A matches. The Americans defeated Honduras in its opener, 2-1, edged a difficult Haiti side, 1-0, and played Panama in its final group-stage match to a 1-1 draw.
Not exactly imposing scores -- or performances, for that matter.
"I don't spend one minute worrying about expectations from the outside," U.S. captain Michael Bradley told reporters earlier this week. "You come into a tournament like this and everyone's focus has to be on the task at hand. There's no time to worry about the noise on the outside, positive and negative."
But there is a brass ring, a huge one, at the end of the tournament. If the USA wins the Gold Cup, it will punch a ticket to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia. If the Americans fail in their bid, they will play the tournament's winner in a special playoff to see who reaches what is a dress rehearsal for the 2018 World Cup. They captured the 2013 crown, putting them in that enviable position.
“Our goal is stepping it up,” Klinsmann said, “and finishing it off.”