This is not a Gold Cup.
That was the message from four-time World Cup veteran DaMarcus Beasley to the US men's national team as they get set to kick off Copa America Centenario Friday night against Colombia.
“No disrespect to that tournament [the Gold Cup], but you’re playing against the best South American teams, so you've got to step it up to another level,” said Beasley this week after a Houston Dynamo practice.
Beasley, a four-time Gold Cup champion who has earned 122 caps, believes the US will be one of two teams to advance out of Group A — facing Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay — to the Copa America quarterfinals.
“A hundred percent,'' he said. "It’s a good group. They're going to be fun games. Hard games, but the US is always up for the challenge. They’re going to give it their best shot, but honestly, truly, I do think they’ll get out of the group.”
His Dynamo teammate Ricardo Clark — who scored his first goal for the US at the 2007 Copa America — agreed with Beasley and added that the home-crowd advantage could help the US do better than just get out of the group stage.
Group play starts with a showdown against third-ranked Colombia. Los Cafeteros, along with Brazil, Argentina and other South American teams, are known for their ability to possess the ball and string passing sequences together.
“They love the ball. Sometimes they know how to calm the game down if it needs to be,” said Beasley. “They’re very technical and not so much direct as other teams in our region, including the US.”
That South American creativity on the field, Clark says, is “the main aspect that separates — not in a bad way — but separates the US style from their style.”
Clark — a regular for the US from 2007-10 — and Beasley said veteran leadership will also play a big role for the US, with Beasley singling out 34-year-old Jermaine Jones as a pivotal figure.
“The way he gets around the field, he’s an all-around midfielder,” Beasley said of Jones, who has three goals and two assists in seven games this season for the Colorado Rapids. “He can defend. He can get up and down. He can score goals as well.”