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Direct from San Diego

Americans Hope to Build Chemistry, Improve Position

It's not a World Cup qualifier, but the Gold Cup is important for a number of reasons. Jon Arnold talks to Landon Donovan and Stuart Holden about why they need to bring their A games.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
July 05, 2013
4:18 PM
SAN DIEGO—Jurgen Klinsmann’s hierarchy is set, and it stands to reason. The Gold Cup is important, but World Cup qualification is more so.

So where does a friendly against Guatemala, a team that missed qualifying for the tournament by losing a fifth-place Copa Centroamericana match, rate on the scale?

It’s still highly meaningful, if you listen to the Americans on the Gold Cup squad.

“For us, it’s really important because a lot of players here haven’t played together,” Landon Donovan told reporters in Spanish. “Tomorrow is going to be the first time a lot of us have played together. It’s important to form a bit of relationship with each other, to show we have a desire to play together and win. And we’re going to show tomorrow that we can in the Gold Cup.”

Building chemistry is expected from national teams, but it’s something the U.S. hasn’t had to do too much of lately. Klinsmann has called his best teams for World Cup qualifiers, and the groups have largely been made up of the same players.

This competition sees some new faces who have never experienced the national team before but also sees veteran players who have been around the block a few times. Unlike in qualification, when most players have worked with each other on the field in previous matches, the Gold Cup will see lots of new partnerships being forged.

“It’s important because it’s our last tune-up, and this group of guys specifically doesn’t have much practice together,” said midfielder Stuart Holden. “So for us to try and get a rhythm and feel each other out and really get a sense of who’s going to be in what roles going forward. I think it’s a great opportunity, a great opponent, and it’ll be interesting to see how (Friday) night goes.”

It should go just fine. The American team has a fair amount of talent and even a few World Cup veterans, while Guatemala brings a team based almost entirely in Guatemala. There are some veterans who can fill starting roles, but even without much familiarity the U.S. can beat Guatemala on paper.

Of course, that’s probably the same way Mexico felt when losing to a second division Mexican club; how El Salvador felt when losing to a domestic club; and how Canada felt when it drew a PDL club.

The build-up to the Gold Cup has been wacky, but the Americans say their attention will be focused on tonight, no matter where it falls on the "importance scale."

Jon Arnold is an ASN contributing editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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