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Gold Cup Preview

Going for Gold: Three Keys for the U.S. Against Belize

DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan lead an amped American team into its first match of the 2013 CONCACAF Championship. Jon Arnold on what Jurgen Klinsmann's troops need to accomplish.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
July 09, 2013
5:26 PM
Odds are Belize won’t beat the United States when the two teams open their Gold Cup campaigns Tuesday night. In fact, the oddsmakers think it’s more likely the U.S. scores four or more goals than they score three or fewer.

But, as any sports fan knows, they play the games for a reason, a truism reinforced this week by a pair of upsets on the first day of the Gold Cup.

That’s why, manager Jurgen Klinsmann and his U.S. players insist, the hosts aren’t taking their own Gold Cup opener lightly. They could probably afford to. Belize is making its first Gold Cup appearance after fourth place Copa Centroamericana finish. In that tournament, the Jaguars registered a scoreless draw against Guatemala and a 2-1 win over Nicaragua thanks to a stoppage time goal from Deon McCauley, a star forward who has trialed with the Portland Timbers. The team, currently coached by American Ian Mork, is composed mostly of semi-pro players with a handful of pros playing in Honduras. It’ll be facing a U.S. squad in which Swedish-based Alejandro Bedoya plays in the league with the least quality. He’s unlikely to feature, with Klinsmann sticking to a starting XI that is similar to the one he utilized against in a Friday friendly against Guatemala. The biggest wrinkle emerging from that match was an excellent performance from Stuart Holden in midfield. He could take the place of Jose Torres or Kyle Beckerman.

The only way the U.S. would falter in this match is if it completely lost focus. That’s not likely to happen with Landon Donovan, the second all-time leader in caps, making his return to the team and DaMarcus Beasley wearing the armband and lending his veteran advice. If the Americans focus on three keys, they will be just fine.

1) Show up
Step one is to arrive to JELD-WEN Stadium on time and take the field. Okay, Okay, we also mean it in the metaphorical sense, too. The team’s leaders say the U.S. isn’t overlooking this contest, but if there’s ever one in which they might lack focus, it could be this one.

2) Stay Persistent
Mork says his team won’t bunker and try to keep the U.S. off the board, which is probably a good strategy. There’s still a chance that an opening goal won’t come immediately. The Stars and Stripes must stay patient and continue to attack the way they’ve planned if they’re not finding success.

3) Enjoy and gel
Donovan should have this one down. He’s all about finding the enjoyment in things these days and believes that when you’re enjoying yourself on the field, you’ll find success. It should be a phenomenal atmosphere in Portland, and players don’t get a chance to experience that kind of thing in often enough. If the game goes as it should, the gang should have some fun. Work with each other and build all-important chemistry, and it will be that much easier when the match with Cuba comes around.

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

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