WASHINGTON — The US national team continued preparations for Sunday’s Gold Cup quarterfinal with a heavy training session on Friday morning.
After a relaxed day on Thursday that saw only nine players train at the RFK Stadium Auxiliary Fields, the entire available contingent hit the field for a more rigorous practice.
With just two days to go until the knockout game against the Jamaicans, the team was ready to move on from the tournament’s group stage and improve.
“The first round is always about coming through,” midfielder Michael Bradley said after Thursday’s training. “You don’t get style points. It’s all about just taking it one game at a time, and after three games put yourself in a position to be in the quarterfinal. We’ve done that, we’ve learned from some things along the way.”
The team hopes it has learned enough in an underwhelming group-stage performance to prepare for a power-packed Jamaica team on Sunday (3 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
“We have a job to do now, and I think we’ve prepared well and we’ll be ready for Jamaica,” said defender Steve Cherundolo. “We know we haven’t played our best soccer yet and we’re hungry and motivated to do that.”
Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan were both absent on Friday, having left earlier in the week to each attend a sibling’s wedding. A US Soccer spokesman confirmed that the duo will be flying via private transportation to Texas and California, respectively, and are scheduled to fly back east Saturday night.
Captain Carlos Bocanegra didn’t think it would affect the team’s preparations for the game against Jamaica.
“They’re two really important players on our team,” Bocanegra said. “In an ideal situation, if they were here, it’d be great. They’re professionals, we’re all professionals, we’re preparing the same way with them or without them, and come Sunday, we’re all going to be ready to go in the same direction and fight for each other.”
GOODSON COMING HOME
Sunday’s game will be a homecoming for defender Clarence Goodson. A native of nearby Alexandria, Va., and a product of the University of Maryland, he fielded 18 ticket requests for the day and is looking forward to playing in front of some familiar faces.
“Any time I can come back here and play in front of my hometown and family and friends, it’s obviously a great occasion,” he told reporters after training. “Put the quarterfinal of the Gold Cup on top of that, it makes it that much more special.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark