CATONSVILLE, Md. – Things are going great for the US national team, so much so that they find themselves in uncharted territory: the longest winning streak in program history, the most goals scored in a four-game stretch in the modern era of U.S. Soccer and should the next three games go to plan, a particularly sweet reclamation of the Gold Cup trophy that hasn't been theirs in more than half a decade.
So the addition of three talented new players to coach Jurgen Klinsmann's roster ahead of Sunday's quarterfinal meeting with El Salvador (4 pm ET, Fox/Univision and LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com) does not feel quite as vital as it would for a struggling squad.
“It might be a little bit of a challenge,” said defender Matt Besler ahead of his first Gold Cup practice on Friday. “These guys have set the tone, certainly, for this tournament. I've got to come in and catch up a little bit, but it shouldn't be an issue.”
Besler was guarded with regards to his own expectations of playing time this weekend. But if he does step into the starting lineup, he will do so at the expense of either Clarence Goodson or Michael Orozco Fiscal, both of whom have performed ably in a tournament in which the hosts have allowed just two goals so far.
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Besler struck up an effective partnership with Omar Gonzalez during the first part of the USMNT's 2013 calendar, but with the LA Galaxy linchpin staying with his club to take part in their match against Vancouver on Saturday, that pairing won't be available to Klinsmann until the semifinals, assuming El Salvador is dispatched.
If he is to slot in seamlessly, Besler effectively has less than three days – and just two trainings – to get on the same page with his colleagues.
“Every group has their own feel, each group of players is different in their own way,” he said on Friday. “That's why the training sessions are going to be useful for me.”
As for his fellow reinforcements, Eddie Johnson took part in most of the year's qualifying slate and both he and Alan Gordon played vital roles in the close-run navigation of the semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying. It helps greatly that a small but influential core of players has been in the US camp nearly that entire time, creating an important sense of continuity.
“I've been watching [the team's previous Gold Cup games], and it's a lot of familiar faces, a lot of guys that have been together and played together, [spent] a whole January camp together. I think we've got enough experience,” said Johnson, who says he's ready to contribute either up top or on the wings.
“At the end of the day, we know what the mentality is, putting on the American jersey and going out there and battling and doing what we've got to do to get a result.”
Captain DaMarcus Beasley is a familiar face to all by now, and he sounded businesslike in his reaction to the new arrivals.
“That's coach's decision, he felt that we needed to bring in other people, which is great – it's going to add a little more power to our team, which is always a plus,” he said. “And I'm excited to see the guys on the pitch again and play with them. We're just concentrated on winning, it doesn't matter who's playing.”