One of the many new faces in this Gold Cup squad is Chicago Fire midfielder Logan Pause. A member of the U-23 team in 2003-04, he is getting his first sniff with the full team during this tournament. Pause has partnered in central midfield with Kyle Beckerman in three matches, including the 2-1 quarterfinal victory against Panama. ussoccer.com spoke with Logan about his experience in the Gold Cup.
ussoccer.com: Do you remember where you were when you first heard you had been called up to the 2009 Gold Cup squad?
Logan Pause: “I heard from Denis Hamlett that I was in the mix, but I didn't hear anything until I got an e-mail. I was at home and I was thrilled. I had tried not to get my hopes up too much but I was honored to get the call.”
ussoccer.com: You were one of a handful of players to make your national team debut in the game in Seattle. Take us through that experience.
LP: “It was huge to get a win in that first game of the tournament. It was a great opportunity to get my legs under me. You dream as a kid of wearing the national team crest and representing your country, and it was a wonderful feeling. Obviously there were quite a bit of nerves, and listening to the national anthem was such an amazing time. We have such a great group of guys and we went into that game confident and believing in each other. Once the game got started it was all about focusing on the task at hand.”
ussoccer.com: As the team has moved forward in the tournament there's been a real sense that this group has developed a good camaraderie as they try to achieve the goal of winning the tournament. How has the positive atmosphere within this group helped guys who maybe weren't familiar with one another at first?
LP: “It's played a huge part. It's no secret that the majority of the guys here are looking to break in and showcase as much as we can and that adds motivation for guys to do well. This group of guys believes that doing well for yourselves will come first and foremost from us doing well as a team.”
ussoccer.com: We've been together for a little while now, so there's also been the opportunity to get to know players that maybe you didn't know as well from the first day...
LP: “Absolutely. The guys even that you don't know really well, the ones who are playing on opposing teams, it's nice to get to know them better. I wasn't one of the guys in the U-17 program but a lot of guys have been together in some capacity since age 15. Continuing those relationships and friendships over the course of however many years is definitely special from a personal standpoint. Of course it helps when you're playing with players that you do know as well.”
ussoccer.com: One person you've known for a while is Kyle Beckerman. He's your roommate here and you've also partnered him in the center of midfield in three of the four games thus far...
LP: “I've known Kyle for years since we've played for the U-23s in 2003 and 2004. We're good buddies and we get along well. All that helps when you get on the field. It's been nice to reconnect with him and be able to spend some time with him over the last three weeks. We definitely enjoy playing with each other.”
ussoccer.com: Coming into the national team is a new experience for a lot of members of this Gold Cup squad. What has it been like for you?
LP: “It's a different perspective, but I've played with players and under coaches that have worked with Bob and his staff, from Jesse Marsch to Chris Armas to our coaches in Chicago, Denis Hamlett and Mike Jeffries. It's been a fantastic opportunity and I had some people who helped paint a picture of what to expect.”
ussoccer.com: What advice did they give you before you met up with the U.S. team?
LP: “Some of the best advice was probably just to enjoy it and stay within myself. As a player I've always tried to do that. I'm not a flashy player. I just do my job. I think that was the one thing that the majority of people were telling me, to continue to do what I do and not try to go out and over-impress or anything like that.”
ussoccer.com: The U.S. played Honduras two weeks ago at RFK Stadium, but this situation and this game will be much different.
LP: “It's definitely going to be a different game then the last one. We're in the semifinal of the Gold Cup and we know they're going to put a lot into it. They'll be hungry, but we feel with our group the important thing is concentrating on what we do. In a short period of time, the U.S. has beat Honduras twice now, but we're looking at this game just by itself, as a semifinal. We've learned by playing them, but we're looking forward to it and we know it will be a difficult task.”
ussoccer.com: How is this U.S. team different from the one that stepped on the field in the first game?
LP: “The more experience that you get, even if it's one or two games, makes a difference. The more we're around each other and the more comfortable we get always helps. The first couple of games I thought we did well to get results but guys were still coming into their own in terms of being comfortable on and off the field. A game or two means the world in terms of experience in a tournament like this.”
ussoccer.com: As a Chicagoan (or at least an adopted-Chicagoan), what will it be like to step onto Soldier Field representing your country?
LP: “I think it definitely would be special to represent the U.S. in what's become my hometown, in front of friends and family. In the whole scheme of things, though, it's not too different from any other game. I'm sure I'll have a few more people coming to the game than I did in Boston, but that's no different in terms of my preparation and what I'm looking to help contribute to the team. If I play it'll be a fantastic experience.”
ussoccer.com: It promises to be an exciting atmosphere during Thursday night's semifinal. Honduras will be looking to avenge their losses from earlier in this tournament and at Soldier Field last month. A berth in the tournament final is at stake as well. What do you expect from a game with a lot on the line?
LP: “We're expecting a very difficult game. We know they'll come out flying but we know we will be prepared. In order for us to succeed we need to come out and start well. We need to execute our game plan and stick together as a team. That's what has got us to this point in the tournament. I think guys are looking forward to the opportunity and challenge on Thursday as we try to get one step closer to the ultimate goal of lifting a trophy this summer.”