Cologne - The USMNT get their CONCACAF Gold Cup title defence under way against Honduras on Wednesday, with a handful of Bundesliga representatives in their ranks.
Borussia Mönchengladbach wide man Fabian Johnson, Eintracht Frankfurt defender Timothy Chandler, Hertha Berlin centre-back John Anthony Brooks and FC Ingolstadt 04 midfielder Alfredo Morales have all impressed in the build-up to the tournament, but know the path to continental glory is littered with pitfalls.
'We want to be the last ones standing'
“Everyone thinks we’re the favourites,” admitted Johnson. “Honduras, Costa Rica and Mexico are good teams with the potential to beat us, but we want to be the last ones standing. We’re the hosts and the defending champions. If we play to our potential, I’m sure that we’ll lift the crown.”
The Gladbach flier has reason to be optimistic. Recent friendly wins over reigning world champions Germany as well as a Netherlands outfit spearheaded by FC Schalke 04 striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar have proved beyond any doubt that last summer’s stirring run to the last 16 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup - where the US were beaten by Belgium in extra time - was no fluke.
'We need to do more'
Over a year on from that mini triumph, a successful Gold Cup defence would once again do wonders for the national team’s blossoming reputation across the globe. A comfortable warm-up victory over Guatemala ensures the US go into their opening fixture with Honduras on a psychological high, even if the match itself didn’t go quite according to plan.
“The first 10-20 minutes we didn’t play a very good game,” Chandler admitted, despite breaking his international duck in last weekend’s 4-0 triumph. “We gave the ball away a bit. It’s not the best we’ve played in the last few months. After the second goal we did well, but we take head coach Jürgen [Klinsmann]’s comments to heart. We know we need to do more to beat Honduras.”
'We want to win the Gold Cup'
The US will face far sterner tests than the likes of Group A rivals Honduras, Haiti and Panama, but the individual qualities of their German-American contingent stand them in undeniably good stead to fulfil their obligations; not just as tournament favourites but hosts, too.
“I’m really looking forward to the Gold Cup, it's something really special," affirmed Morales, a product of the Hertha Berlin youth academy and key player in Ingolstadt's historic promotion to Germany's top flight. "We want to win the Gold Cup, and we have the chance to win the cup - and in the USA at that. You have to take your chance."