NASHVILLE, Tennessee -- When Paul Arriola scored his second goal on his second cap for the United States back in 2016, he celebrated by jumping into the arms of Christian Pulisic. Both players had made their international debuts that same year.
Three years later, and the two young Americans are two of the most important attacking pieces for their national team, as the U.S. pursues a second consecutive Gold Cup title.
The team is two wins away from accomplishing just that. The first task at hand is Wednesday’s semifinal against Jamaica at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
“We’re excited,” said Pulisic. “We know it’s going to be a battle. Jamaica’s always a tough opponent. But these knockout stages are the best part of the tournament. We got to win one more game and we’re in a final.”
“I love just being in this tournament,” Pulisic continued, speaking of his first Gold Cup experience here in 2019. “There’s been some exciting games, and moving onto the knockout stages and just feeling that added tension and pressure of the moment... I love games like this. It’s a blast.”
Arriola played his first Gold Cup in 2017, helping the U.S. to a trophy lift in Santa Clara, California. Now he sees himself as someone who can help bring youth and experience together on a team that includes 13 tournament debutants, as well as veterans like MF Michael Bradley and FW Jozy Altidore.
“There’s a lot less nerves this time around,” Arriola said of his time at Gold Cup 2019, which saw him net two goals in the group stage. “I’m just excited to play. I’m a little more confident in myself than I was two years ago, and I feel like I can have a real impact for our team.”
“Mentally, I feel like we’re all dialed in,” Arriola said ahead of the match with Jamaica. “We’ve got a real solid group. We’re ready to go and get a result.”
The semifinal between the U.S. and Jamaica kicks off at 9:30 ET on Wednesday night.