One game away from a chance to win its third straight Gold Cup, the U.S. national team plays Honduras for the third time in the past seven weeks on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel, TeleFutura) with a different team than it used the last two times.
Such is the nature of a very crowded June and July. If the U.S. reaches Sunday's final, it will have played 13 games in three different competitions on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Most people would call it crazy; head coach
Bradley used most of his "A" team players in a 2-1 Hexagonal victory over Honduras last month at Soldier Field -- the site of Thursday night's encounter -- and named a very different team in a 2-0 win in the Gold Cup's group phase earlier this month in Washington, D.C. Since that match, five players have left the team for their European clubs and only two replacements have been summoned.
"Throughout this tournament, we've been able to pick a good starting XI but also have guys come off the bench at the right moment," says Bradley. "The other day,
Cooper's penalty kick in the final minute of the first overtime Saturday enabled the Americans to beat Panama 2-1 in their quarterfinal match. Honduras got past Canada 1-0 also with the aid of a penalty, this one resulting from a very dubious foul called against defender
A few of the weapons Bradley called upon in the group phase aren't available. Midfielder
Pause is one of several national-team debutantes to play impressively at the Gold Cup. "Logan's been a real solid player for the Fire, someone who does a strong job in the center of the field every game and I think he's been able to help our national team with the same kind of effort," says Bradley.
He's been paired with Real Salt Lake midfielder
"I've known Kyle for years since we've played for the U-23s in 2003 and 2004," says Pause, drafted by Chicago out of North Carolina in the third round of the '03 SuperDraft. "We're good buddies and we get along well. All that helps when you get on the field."
Pause and Beckerman manned the middle -- with
Fatigue will be problematic Sunday, with only two rest days as well as a trip to New Jersey separating the semis from the final.
Holden, who scored goals against Grenada and Haiti in his first two U.S. appearances, is the lone U.S. player to score more than once at the Gold Cup. As the goals have been spread around, so has the playing time; of the 19 players listed on the semifinal roster, only goalie
"It's definitely going to be a different game then the last one," says Pause. "We're in the semifinal of the Gold Cup and we know they're going to put a lot into it. They'll be hungry, but we feel with our group the important thing is concentrating on what we do. In a short period of time, the U.S. has beat Honduras twice now, but we're looking at this game just by itself, as a semifinal."