Still recovering from a shock semi-final loss to Jamaica, the United States seeks redemption against Panama in Saturday`s Gold Cup third-place consolation match with an eye on key upcoming contests.
The Americans were beaten 2-1 Wednesday by the "Reggae Boyz" while Mexico needed extra time and two penalty kick goals to subdue 10-man Panama 2-1.
That set the stage for a consolation match replay of a US-Panama group stage meeting that ended in a 1-1 draw, although both teams suffered intense losses. Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez called his team`s loss a robbery thanks to poor referee calls while the Americans deal with a humbling loss to a team that had beaten them only once in 22 prior meetings.
"There`s no choice but to move ourselves forward," US captain Michael Bradley said. "Obviously it`s a disappointment. But we will be back at it. There`s no other way to go."
US goalkeeper Brad Guzan pointed to road wins last month against top-10 foes, 4-3 at the Dutch and 2-1 at reigning World Cup champion Germany, to say the loss was not a spirit crusher for the Americans.
"It`s disappointing, but we will pick ourselves up. It doesn`t make us a bad team," Guzan said. "It doesn`t erase a lot of the good stuff we`ve done. Just as when we beat Holland and Germany, a single game doesn`t define us."
What it will do is force the US team to play the winner of Sunday`s final for a berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup, a key warmup event in Russia for the 2018 World Cup.
"It`s a loss in a tournament that was very important for us, but now we`ve got to pick ourselves up and make sure we`re ready for the playoff," Guzan said.
"We want to make sure we go in and put together a good performance and finish this Gold Cup on a high."
The Americans have plenty of work left this year, including home friendlies against Brazil and Peru in September, the Confederations Cup playoff and Olympic qualifying for some younger team members in October and the start of the penultimate round of North American regional qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in early November.
But for US coach Jurgen Klinsmann, playing best in those matches starts with playing well against Panama.
"Finishing off in style Saturday in front of our fans, being third then and doing that with the right attitude and right approach -- you owe that to fans and the tournament," Klinsmann said.
"Then we keep building, keep progressing, we keep working hard in order to go toward World Cup qualifying by the end of the year and it starts all over again."
A player Klinsmann said has made strides during the Gold Cup is striker Aron Johannsson.
"Aron made another step forward in this tournament, with the group and also within the hierarchy of the team," Klinsmann said.