US eyes strong Gold Cup
The U.S. men's national team will be trying to follow a well-traveled path to more World Cup success in a few years.
Four years ago, the Americans won the Gold Cup to earn an automatic bid to the 2009 Confederations Cup. They reached the finals of that World Cup dry run to set up last year's run to the second round of soccer's biggest stage in South Africa.
A strong showing in next month's Gold Cup could help the U.S. make even more noise when the World Cup goes to Brazil in 2014.
''The opportunity we have is to take back that Gold Cup trophy,'' U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. ''We pride ourselves on what we can accomplish in CONCACAF play.''
Ten players worked out Friday in North Carolina, where they also spent a few days practicing two months ago, and all 23 will arrive by Tuesday. They play Spain in a friendly next weekend in Foxborough, Mass., in advance of the Gold Cup.
The U.S. opens group play against Canada on June 7, and then plays Panama four days later and Guadeloupe three days after that. Twelve U.S. players will make their Gold Cup debuts.
''You'll see some (new players) that can make an impact,'' defender Oguchi Onyewu said. ''It's probably unfair to say you'll see it next week or in the Gold Cup, but maybe in the long run.''
This cycle feels different.
''The last time around, the big thing was establishing a way of doing things and building a foundation,'' Bradley said. ''This time we're building on experiences we've had. We've been in tough situations. We know each other better.''
Beating Spain two years ago in the Confederations Cup semifinals counted as one of those experiences. So did losing to Mexico in the 2009 Gold Cup final and coming from two goals behind to tie Slovenia in World Cup group play.
''Prior to (the last 30 minutes against Mexico), we felt very good about the way we had moved forward in that tournament,'' Bradley said last week. ''There was a lot at stake, a great crowd at Giants Stadium and it was a tough way for us to finish. That sticks with us.''
In that last meeting, the Americans handed the Spaniards their first loss in 35 games.
''At that time, we had such a good team and that gave us momentum going into the World Cup,'' said U.S. forward Jozy Altidore, who scored the first goal of that game. ''We were so strong, identifying what we needed to do on the pitch and then doing it.''
Onyewu calls Spain ''the best team in the world,'' but wants to keep it in perspective.
''It's only a friendly game, but it's important when you think of the Gold Cup,'' he said. ''We have a big opponent, so we want a great result for the program and our fans and the country.''