Bruce Arena: El Salvador a 'difficult' test for U.S. in Gold Cup quarterfinals
PHILADELPHIA -- U.S. national team manager Bruce Arena says he doesn't think there are any favorites to win the 2017 Gold Cup right now, and that Wednesday's quarterfinal opponent El Salvador has played "some of the best football in the Gold Cup so far."
"There are eight favorites to win right now," he told reporters, referring to the eight quarterfinalists. "This is the knockout round now, it's one game at a time for everybody."
As for El Salvador, Arena said he has been especially impressed with Los Cuscatlecos' speed of play.
"They keep the ball on the ground, they move it, they've got a good quickness in the attack, their strikers are quality, their wide players have been very good," he said. "They're going to be a difficult team to play against."
The U.S. team enjoyed its opening day of training on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. In attendance were the six roster additions -- forwards Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, midfielders Michael Bradley and Darlington Nagbe, and goalkeepers Tim Howard and Jesse Gonzalez -- that the U.S. announced on Sunday.
"I think we're bringing in some experienced players, players of quality, and that only helps our team," Arena said. "That was our plan all along, we did it before the tournament, that we were going in this direction.
"They've come in with a good attitude, they've made a good impression on the team, and I'm hopeful we play our best soccer, obviously as we move, hopefully, from the quarterfinals to the semifinals to the final."
As expected, Arena said that the team would be using Tim Howard in goal as the team moves forward in the tournament, and that it was "not likely" that he would use Gonzalez, who just recently had his one-time switch of national affiliation from Mexico to the U.S. approved.
"[Gonzalez] is a young goalkeeper. I haven't seen him before [nor] has our goalkeeping coach," said Arena. "We just want to see what he's about. The last couple of days in camp has been good."
While the addition of five likely starters will make it exceedingly difficult for the existing players to earn minutes, Arena did praise the play of Joe Corona and Gyasi Zardes in the group stage.
"[Corona] has done a good job," he said. "We've played him a couple of different ways. He scored a big goal the other day, and has been pretty solid."
Arena added that he feels Zardes is getting back to his best in a season that has seen him miss time due to a variety of injuries.
"[Zardes] is more confident now," he said. "He's going after defenders one-on-one, which has been an important part of his game. He's always the great ability to get up and down the field, he has good pace, so we're starting to see all those things get pieced together."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.