Bruce Arena - in front of US national team bench - Gold Cup overlay
USA TODAY Sports/The Tennessean

Arena keeps even keel ahead of US-Martinique but plans on "several changes"

TAMPA, Fla. – After a disappointing opening to the Gold Cup, the US national team face their first bit of adversity in Bruce Arena’s second tenure as manager.

Arena knows the Yanks have plenty to improve on heading into Wednesday night’s second group-stage game against Martinique (9 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN in US, TSN2 in Canada).

One thing in particular stands out.

“Win the game, that’s one thing we’d like to do different,” Arena told reporters Tuesday night. “Play better is second. We’ll make several changes and get a look at some other players.”

The US are also readying for a different stylistic challenge, facing a Martinique side that is less compact and organized than Panama, but potentially lethal in transition. Les Matinino defeated Nicaragua 2-0 in their opening match.

“We’ve seen a fair amount of Martinique,” Arena said. “We saw the last game in group play, which was impressive, and the games in the Caribbean Cup, so we have a decent idea of what to expect from our opponent. They are quick and very good going forward on the break.”

The need to cope with Martinique’s speed and ability to counterattack, coupled with the rigors of playing three games in eight days, will result in changes for the US lineup.

“Obviously, we’re playing three games in a week with travel and difficult conditions and heat and humidity,” Arena said. “We also want to see some other players, which is a key focus of this roster and tournament. All of that plus what Martinique does will mean we’ll make some changes.”

Arena didn’t reveal exactly where fans could expect to see changes. But he did note that the US struggled to find a rhythm in possession and establish a tempo Saturday in Nashville, frustrated by Panama’s plan to pressure the US in possession and flood the midfield zones. Arena feels the Americans can and must do better on Wednesday, and is looking forward to how the players respond.

One player in particular Arena will be monitoring is Kellyn Acosta, who hit his first true speed bump after a meteoric rise with the national team in 2017.

“Young players have ups and downs and how they deal with it is important,” a smiling Arena said, alluding to a former player of his who is now in the media corps. “I see Landon Donovan. Landon had a bad game, occasionally, with the national team. It’s part of it and it will be nice to see how [Acosta] continues in the competition and learns from that struggle and experience. Kellyn’s a good player and I think that he’ll respond.”