Despite criticism, US "completely focused on ourselves" as Gold Cup arrives

Matt Doyle: Why USMNT are struggling ahead of Concacaf Gold Cup

BLAINE, Minn. – Despite two disappointing friendly defeats and the loss of two players to injury, the US men’s national team remain one of the favorites to win the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup as they approach their first group-stage match against Guyana on Tuesday (10 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN).

The USMNT are no strangers to success in the competition, having lifted the trophy six times, most recently in the 2017 edition. Several members of the team were part of those previous championship runs, bringing valuable experience to the current squad.

“It’s a unique tournament,” explained Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley. “It’s a long tournament. It’s a challenging tournament. There’s a lot that gets thrown at you. Games come quickly, there’s travel, there’s heat, there’s humidity.”

With all those obstacles standing between the United States and a spot in the final on July 7, a focus on the bigger picture of the tournament is required.

“It’s not a tournament where every moment of every game is perfect,” said Bradley. “You have to understand that, you have to embrace that. You have to still know how to play well, but you also have to know how to get your results.”

D.C. United winger Paul Arriola thinks it also takes a little something special.

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“In the end, you need players to make big plays,” he said. “I remember two years ago, Tim Howard making some great saves to keep us in games and Jozy [Altidore] making big plays, Jordan Morris scoring in the final. It requires big plays and at the same time it requires every single teammate to be there.”

Before they turn their attention to the knockout stages and hopes of hardware, the USMNT have to navigate Group D, where they’ll also face Trinidad & Tobago and Panama. Despite the criticism directed their way after losses in warm-up friendlies vs. Jamaicaand Venezuela, the team maintains that the early games hold their normal importance.

“I wouldn’t say there’s any extra pressure. In any tournament … getting points and results early and quickly is important,” Bradley said.

The Gold Cup will mark the USMNT’s first competitive matches in nearly two years. But it’s still “just like any tournament,” according to Arriola.

“We’re completely focused on ourselves, forgetting about what anyone is saying about us, or what they think, or who the favorite is,” he said. “For us, we just want to go out there and play our best and play like we’ve been learning.”