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US Soccer Team Looking for Improvement against Jamaica

United States' Clint Dempsey (8) holds off a challenge by a Guadeloupe player during their CONCACAF Gold Cup match at Livestrong Stadium in Kansas City, Kansas June 14, 2011

The U.S. men's soccer team is set to take on Jamaica Sunday in Washington in the quarterfinals of the biennial Gold Cup regional championship. The team is looking to improve on its recent performances.

When the U.S. soccer team was routed 4-0 by world champion Spain June 4 in a friendly home warm-up match for this year's Gold Cup, not too many seemed concerned. After all, it was a preparation game and Spain is ranked No. 1 in the world.

But now there are concerns after the Americans' performance in first round group play at the Gold Cup being hosted by the United States. A 2-0 win over Canada was followed by a shocking 2-1 upset loss to Panama and then a surprisingly close 1-0 win over tiny Guadeloupe. It's the first time the U.S. has not placed first in its group at a Gold Cup.

U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra says often when you're the favorite, it can be more difficult.

"Everybody's always out to beat you," said Bocanegra. "Seems like they pump themselves up and play their best game against the States every time. But we know that. And you know that's why we need to bring energy, we need to bring enthusiasm, aggressiveness from the start."

Bocanegra admits the team must play better. "To be fair it just wasn't good enough in the first round as a team, and that's something to us as players we look back on, and like I said, we're a little bit disappointed," he added. "But, well, that's finished now and we're on to the second round and the knockout stages, and now we have a chance to prove to ourselves and raise the level."

The U.S. has never lost to Jamaica, with nine wins and eight draws. But this appears to be a much better team than at past Gold Cups. The Jamaicans won their first round group, allowing no goals in wins over Grenada (4-0), Guatemala (2-0) and Honduras (1-0).

In the second quarterfinal at Washington's RFK Stadium Sunday, Panama takes on El Salvador.

The other two quarterfinals are Saturday in suburban New York and feature Costa Rica against Honduras and Mexico against Guatemala. The semifinals will be played in Houston, and the championship match in Pasadena, California.

The winner of this Gold Cup earns a berth in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil that serves as a tune-up event one year before the next World Cup.