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TAMPA, FL - JULY 12: Jordan Morris #8 of the United States brings the ball up past Daniel Herelle #19 of Martinique during the first half of the CONCACAF Group B match at Raymond James Stadium on July 12, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

OPINION: USMNT Must Continue To Fight In Gold Cup Play

Heading into the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, how should the U.S. Men’s National Team feel about its performance?

Not nearly as satisfied as it should be.

Head Coach Bruce Arena’s roster moves have been unorthodox for casual soccer fans, with many wondering where the star players were in group play. The answer to that question? They weren’t even dressed.

Arena used the most of his six roster moves allowed before the knockout stage of the Gold Cup, adding big names such as Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. These four have been the face of the USMNT for the past several years.

This addition proves how much importance the United States values the Gold Cup. Ranked 35th in the FIFA World Rankings, the third-highest of all CONCACAF teams, the Americans find themselves fighting for a World Cup spot that is not guaranteed, even for the world’s third-largest country and certainly the most prominent when it comes to being watched on an international stage. Interest perks up when the U.S. plays in big matches, as seen in Gold Cup play, held all across the country throughout the month. Most do not expect the Americans to stumble, but the sport is grueling and faces change constantly.

The USMNT is young and looking for stability under Arena. After back-to-back home losses to Mexico and Costa Rica, the top-two CONCACAF teams in November, they have done just that. A draw against Mexico in Mexico City was huge for the Americans, and there success at the Gold Cup will certainly continue to set the tone for the road to come, which will feature several bouts with top CONCACAF teams in the fall.

The United States finished 2-0-1 in the group stage of the Gold Cup, which wrapped up on Saturday. After a disappointing 1-1 draw with Panama to open the Cup, the team defeated Martinique and Nicaragua. The USMNT draws El Salvador in the quarterfinals on Wednesday at 9 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. A win will pair them up against either Costa Rica or Panama, which will certainly challenge the Americans. Mexico still stands on the other end of the bracket, and are still the formidable favorites.

Arena used 22 different players in the three group stage matches, and will continue to utilize more with the addition of the star players added for the knockout stage. The Americans have a solid chance to win against El Salvador, who bring a better team to the table but have only defeated the United states once in 22 all-time meetings. A finish better than fourth – the team’s worst ever – in the 2015 Gold Cup has to be the least the U.S. can hope for.

In order to make an impact to the rest of CONCACAF and FIFA, the United States must perform as expected. A Gold Cup Finals appearance may not exceed expectations, but to win one would. The USMNT, while winning its group in 13 of 14 Gold Cups, have only taken home the title once since 2009, back in 2013.

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Written by Matthew Lamb