The United States men's national soccer team faces Belize in each side's opening Gold Cup match on Tuesday July 8, 2013 at 11 p.m. EST.
Jurgen Klinsmann and the U.S. are riding a five-game winning streak, having recorded three clean sheets in a row. Their most recent victory was a 6-0 dismantling of Guatemala in a Gold Cup tune-up match.
The U.S. is atop the Hexagonal round of CONCACAF's World Cup qualifying group, ahead of Costa Rica and Mexico. Klinsmann recently welcomed back Landon Donovan to U.S. ranks, who bagged two goals against Guatemala bringing him to 51 all-time international goals, a U.S. record.
Other notable veteran returnees to the U.S. Gold Cup squad are center back Oguchi Onyewu and midfielder Stuart Holden.
While the U.S. may not be boasting some regular first-choice starters like Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Tim Howard, Klinsmann recently insisted that there is a lot on the line for his current Gold Cup squad, like a World Cup roster spot, for starters (MLSSoccer.com).
Things are very different for Belize, a team struggling as of late, having only managed to score one goal in their last five matches. They, too, most recently faced Guatemala, drawing 0-0. Their last goal came in a 2-1 victory over Nicaragua on January 22, 2013.
This will be the first Gold Cup experience for Belize, who have been competing internationally for 20 years now. And while they might be considered massive underdogs, their American coach Ian Mork hopes the team can surprise the competition. (Concacaf.com).
The majority of the Belize roster plies its trade in the Premier League of Belize, founded in 2011. Michael Salazar, a 20-year-old striker, is looking to make his first appearance for the senior national team after spending some time in the youth ranks. He plays collegiate soccer for the University of California-Riverside.
This match has great potential to be a lopsided affair, based on many factors, one of which is experience. The U.S. roster is stocked with players who have made an impact for both club and country at some of the highest levels in world soccer. They know what it takes to compete in CONCACAF. Not to mention the U.S.' home-field advantage and the fine form the team has experienced as of late.
Belize will have to make a tactical decision early in the match as to if they want to try and attack the U.S. Smart money suggests the likely decision is to sit back and try to absorb as much pressure as possible before countering on occasion. Going toe-to-toe with the U.S. could be a critical mistake, considering how well the Yanks can move the ball right now into open areas.
Staying compact is key for Belize. Even that, though, will be a daunting task.
U.S. 4-0 Belize.
The U.S. simply has too much firepower for this young Belize squad to handle.