The United States men's national team will kick off the knockout phase of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore against Cuba on Saturday afternoon.
The Yanks are seen as heavy favorites to advance to the semi-final round, but as we have seen so far in the competition, no result is guaranteed.
Although their backs will be against the wall on Saturday, Cuba can pull from Haiti and Panama's matches against the USMNT in the group stage in order to find a way to slow down the Yanks.
Below is all the vital information you need to know for the quarter-final contest.
Date: Saturday, July 18, 2015
Time: 5 p.m. ET
TV: Fox (US), BT Sport Extra (UK)
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go (US), BT Sport Player (UK)
Klinsmann Makes Three Changes Ahead of Knockout Round
The big news out of the USMNT camp is the three changes made by manager Jurgen Klinsmann. DaMarcus Beasley, Joe Corona and Alan Gordon are in with Greg Garza, Alfredo Morales and Jozy Altidore out.
Beasley should be the top contributor of the three new faces as he will fill a need in the starting 11 at left-back.
"Having DaMarcus come into the team is huge, because of his character, his giving nature, the spirit he brings, but also the high quality he brings. He brings a lot of experience into this group, and he’s hungry. He’s still as hungry as day one in his career," Klinsmann told U.S. Soccer.com.
As for Corona, Klinsmann spoke about his experience compared to the young Morales as to why the midfielder is now in the 23-man squad.
"There are certain things that just don’t click yet (with Morales), and it’ll just take a little bit of time. Right now in the tournament, we don’t have that time. In the tournament now we need to produce results and get things done. With Joe we have that option to bring him in now," Klinsmann said.
In the same article, Klinsmann also praised the ability of Gordon, who is known as one of the best closers in Major League Soccer. The LA Galaxy man will be used off the bench if the Yanks need a crucial goal late in the match.
"He’s fully fit, he’s so full of energy, he scores goals with the Galaxy, and he fits in right away. He’s a pure giver to the group, and he might be a player that can make a difference at any second when you bring him in," the USMNT boss said.
Cuba Look to Play Role of Cinderella
While their appearance in this part of the tournament seems unlikely, Cuba are not total strangers to the final eight of the Gold Cup.
Back in 2013, Cuba advanced to the quarter-final stage before losing to Panama 6-1. Panama went on to beat Mexico in the semi-final before falling to the USMNT in the championship game.
However, the one big difference from two years ago is the number of goals scored by the Lions of the Caribbean over the first three games of the Gold Cup. In 2013, they were able to find the back of the net on five occasions on their way to a third-place finish in Group C.
While they did earn three points in Group C once again in 2015, Cuba only scored once. The lone goal came from Maikel Reyes in the 73rd minute against Guatemala. Reyes will be called upon in the quarter-final to provide for Cuba once again, but depending on which USMNT defense shows up, he may run into trouble.
Change Coming at the Back for the USMNT
Speaking of the USMNT back four, they have been far from consistent so far at the Gold Cup. Due to the shaky nature of the young defensive setup, Klinsmann called in Beasley to add more experience with an automatic berth to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup on the line.
Beasley's entrance to the starting 11 will allow Fabian Johnson to shift over to right-back, or into the middle of the pitch if Klinsmann is confident enough in DeAndre Yedlin's abilities.
Since John Brooks is suspended due to yellow-card accumulation, Ventura Alvarado will have a new partner at center-back. Due to the positional understanding of the players in the squad, Bolton Wanderers man Tim Ream is set to take over for Brooks.
If Klinsmann wants to shake things up further, he could use Omar Gonzalez in place of Alvarado. After a rough start against Haiti, Gonzalez and Ream found a rhythm and delivered a solid performance for the Yanks.
Prediction: United States 3-1
The attacking firepower in the USMNT lineup should push them through to the final four with ease. Even if Klinsmann's defense concedes a goal, they should be able to recover fine and secure a match against either Haiti or Jamaica in the next round.
Joe Tansey covers U.S. Soccer for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.