What we said leading up to Saturday's U.S.-Cuba Gold Cup match

In advance of Saturday's U.S. Gold Cup quarterfinal against Cuba, The Baltimore Sun covered all the local and national angles, and will be on the case for the game as well.

Here's a roundup of everything you need to know for the big match at M&T Bank Stadium:


* Don Markus writes that the U.S. isn't taking Cuba lightly.

Two years ago, the U.S. didn't score until the 45th minute against Cuba in what turned out to be a 4-1 win in the group stage. So the U.S. isn't expecting an easy one.


"We have a lot or respect for them. Obviously we know what they're going through, on and off the field," Klinsmann said. "We're not taking anything lightly there tomorrow night. We're going to give it full focus, full concentration and the players have to get the job done."

* Glenn Graham was in attendance for retired U.S. forward Brian McBride's soccer clinic in Baltimore on Thursday.

At the end of the outing, soccer bags and uniform kits also were passed out for the youngsters. McBride's message to the group was simple and direct: Develop friendships, work hard and respect each other and the game.

"In this group, they all knew each other, so you had the fun aspect to it and the challenging aspect to it. But really, just the ability to spend time and when you get a chance to talk about experiences and talk through what they are doing, I really enjoy it," McBride said.

* Markus writes that veterans Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley have been a big part of the U.S. run to the Gold Cup quarters.

Clint Dempsey, the 32-year-old Texan who has replaced Donovan as the team's top striker, scored all three goals in the team's first two games, narrow victories over Honduras (2-1) and Haiti (1-0).

Michael Bradley, who assumed the captain's armband for the start of the Gold Cup after Dempsey was removed from the role by Klinsmann following a controversial red card while playing for his MLS team in the U.S. Open Cup, scored the tying goal in a 1-1 draw Monday against Panama.

* Ryan Baillargeon writes about DaMarcus Beasley coming out of international retirement to play in the Gold Cup.

And despite stepping away from the U.S. team seven months ago, Beasley is eager to help the squad try to capture its second straight Gold Cup title. He was captain of the 2013 team that won the tournament and his teammates appreciate the veteran presence.

"I wasn't expecting to be back here," Beasley said. "I retired for a reason, to spend more time with my family and stuff like that. But what player is going to say no? This is a chance to win something as a group."

* Markus writes that goalie Brad Guzan is finally getting his chance.

Between his shaved head and his near-decade as a member of the U.S. men's national soccer team, goalkeeper Brad Guzan seems more likely to play the role of grizzled veteran than hungry rookie in this year's CONCACAF Gold Cup.


Yet given his history as the perpetual backup to Tim Howard, the 30-year-old Guzan is hoping to show he is more than capable of continuing a strong tradition in the net.

So far, Guzan has been one of the more consistent members of an unbeaten U.S. team (2-0-1) that won its group despite less-than-impressive preliminary-round performances and will play Saturday in the tournament's quarterfinals at M&T Bank Stadium.

* Graham writes that it's just like old times for former Terps teammates Graham Zusi and Omar Gonzalez, who play together for the USMNT.

Gonzalez, who earned his first cap (given for appearances in international competition) with the senior team in 2010 and takes 27 into Saturday's game, has enjoyed being reunited with his former college teammate. The two were roommates at College Park.

"It's been amazing to get to the national team and be able to play with [Graham] — like we haven't skipped a beat from college," Gonzalez said. "We just get back into camp and it's just like old times. It's really great to see him having just as much success as I am and it speaks to the great program that Maryland has in preparing you to become professionals. That was huge for both of us."

Payne, who turned 40 on Monday, is revisiting his roots this week as the goalkeeper coach for the U.S. men's national team, which will play in the Gold Cup quarterfinals Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium.

"Ambition-wise, I always wanted to coach at the highest level possible," Payne said. "I was fortunate to have a playing career and get into coaching at the University of Maryland under Sasho and I learned a lot there. I got a lot of experience there and we won two national championships in five years."

* Baillargeon writes that soccer is at the front of everyone's thinking after the men's World Cup a year ago and the women's World Cup this year.

More than 70,000 soccer fans piled into M&T Bank Stadium in 2013 to watch the United States take on El Salvador in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. While the home of the Ravens is used to selling out on football Sundays, it was an impressive total for a sport that traditionally hasn't had as strong of a following in the United States.

The attendance for the last Gold Cup showed soccer gaining momentum and a strong performance by the U.S. men's team in the 2014 World Cup built on that.

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