- Associated Press - Saturday, June 18, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) - Now that the knockout games are here, the United States is ready to put a disappointing CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage behind.

The U.S. lost to Panama and came out of Group C in second place, setting up a quarterfinal match with Jamaica at RFK Stadium on Sunday.

Panama will take on El Salvador in the second match in the quarterfinal doubleheader.

“I think the team is still doing well in the tournament,” U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra said. “Our original goal was to get to the knockout stages. OK, it didn’t come exactly as we wanted, we had the loss against Panama and everyone was disappointed. But we gave ourselves a great opportunity still in the knockout stages and our ultimate goal is to win this tournament.”

The U.S. started the tournament beating Canada 2-0, then came the 2-1 defeat to Panama _ the first ever U.S. loss in Gold Cup group play. The U.S. clinched the quarterfinal berth with a 1-0 win against Guadeloupe.

“I think we came through group play feeling good we were tested, that certain things came to light, and now we’re excited and ready to go,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said.

Jamaica had no trouble earning its berth. The Reggae Boyz have won all three of their games in the tournament without allowing a single goal.

The U.S. has been without two key players as it has prepared for the quarterfinal. Midfielders Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey were excused from the team’s training sessions in Washington to attend their sisters’ weddings _ Donovan in California and Dempsey in Texas. Both will fly into Washington after the weddings to be available for the match.

Bradley said he wasn’t concerned about the players’ absence. He expected to go over film of Jamaica with the two players Sunday morning.

“We’ll take care of everything with Clint and Landon (Sunday),” Bradley said.

The U.S. has won its last five Gold Cup quarterfinal matches, and has never lost to Jamaica, holding a 9-0-8 record. The teams last met in a friendly on April 11, 2006, which the U.S. won 1-0.

“In the group stage we didn’t play anywhere near our best, but we’ve always said we need to keep getting better as the tournament goes on,” midfielder Sacha Kljestan said. “So the quarterfinal right now is a stepping stone, hopefully to bigger things. Bigger performances, and bigger wins for the team.”