United States v Cuba: Reigning champs primed for title defence
United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann said the reigning CONCACAF Gold Cup champions are ready to kick on and win back-to-back titles.
Klinsmann and Co. will face Cuba at the M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Saturday, with a spot in the semi-finals on the line.
USA advanced to the quarter-finals as unbeaten winners of Group A, after winning two matches and drawing another, but the co-hosts have been far from impressive in the 13th edition of the tournament.
A hard-fought 2-1 victory over Honduras was followed by an uninspiring 1-0 win against Haiti, while USA drew 1-1 with Panama in their final group fixture.
Klinsmann preferred to put a positive spin on USA's form leading into the quarters, claiming his side are battle-hardened in their bid for success.
"I think it can only benefit you if you've had real games already in the group phase," Klinsmann said.
"Two years ago, we had Belize and Cuba and things looked very easy. Going into this tournament, we needed to be on our toes from the first second and we were. There's no real preparation for the Gold Cup, so it's difficult to be in a flow, it's difficult to be playing in a way that you're going to see a lot of automatic things, in the way of passing flow and fine tuning elements.
"You won't get them in the group phase because you don't have the time to train those things. Now being together for more than two weeks, hopefully we can get more and more into that phase where we combine better, we're shifting better and doing certain things better that only come with time."
USA will come up against a Cuba side full of confidence, having progressed to the knockout rounds from Group C by the skin of their teeth.
Cuba recovered from a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Mexico and a 2-0 loss to Trinidad and Tobago, with a dramatic 1-0 victory over Guatemala, which saw the nation advance as one of the three third-placed teams.