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h0304 BC-SOC-GoldCup-Canada-U 06-20 0767

Soccer

U.S. favorite at Gold Cup

CHICAGO — For a decade, the core U.S. team didn’t have to worry about that awkward, uncomfortable getting-to-know-you stage.

Let other countries figure out who was doing what and where. With ageless veterans like Claudio Reyna, Brian McBride and Eddie Pope, and Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley around since grade school it seemed, the national team was an almost seamless fit.

Everybody knew their roles and what they had to do. More importantly, they knew what everybody else could do, too.

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Those days are now over. While much of the roster from last summer’s World Cup squad is still intact — Donovan and Beasley have been elevated to "old man" status — Reyna, McBride and Pope have moved on, and there’s a new group of players trying to work their way onto the squad.

Which is what makes games like tonight’s CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal against Canada so important.

In this part of the world, at least, the Americans have more depth than anyone else, more skilled players, more speed. What they don’t have is that wealth of experience in big-time games. The only way to get that is by playing.

"The competition right now to get on the field is strong," coach Bob Bradley said. "The mentality of this group I think continues to improve every day. We realize these are important steps to new heights. You have to have goals. You have to have an understanding of what it takes to win. Those are things we are trying to experience at this time."

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