Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna
USA wicketkeeper-batsman Akeem Dodson has pinned the team's batting struggles against Canada during the Auty Cup on a mental block that needs to be cleared before the team opens up ICC WCL Division Four in two weeks. Dodson, who top-scored with 73 in USA's 17-run loss, believes his side but needs a little more time to get comfortable in their new roles to establish a winning mentality.
"I think for us right now that area is a mental battle more than it is a physical one," Dodson said of USA's batting struggles in the two losses to Canada at Woodley Park on Thursday and Friday. "I think the players themselves need to get set in their roles. Once they're set in their roles and in their position, they'll start to play much more fluidly, like the players we're accustomed to seeing most of the time.
"I think we can probably compare it to those first couple of games in Ireland [at the 2015 World T20 Qualifier] where we hadn't gotten into stride yet and we were losing and no one knew which way to go. But all we needed was that one game to get it right and have things clicking and then everyone was all set, three in a row after that. The same thing needs to happen here."
Dodson and opener Fahad Babar added 127 runs for the fourth-wicket, a USA record, but the batting looked bleak after that with all but Dodson, Babar and Elmore Hutchinson - who made 37 not out - failing to reach double figures.
Dodson said the team is trying to remain upbeat taking into consideration the standard of competition Canada provides, sitting above USA in Division Three. "Canada is still a level ahead of us so to be competing with them right now where we're at to be getting better day by day is definitely a plus for us," Dodson said. "We need to make we keep improving and keep getting better by the time we come up against the other Division Four teams."
"So far I think our biggest lesson we're learning is how long the 50-over game actually is. For guys who are used to playing 40 overs, when you're playing 50-overs now especially against top opposition, you start to realize this 50-over game takes a bit of time and a bit of temperament batting and bowling to settle yourself and take your time, assess the game, move forward and close it out."
USA has also been affected by the absence of allrounder Timroy Allen and fast bowler Ali Khan during the Auty Cup. Allen had to withdraw due to personal reasons, while Khan suffered a hamstring injury at USA's national camp in Indianapolis last month. Both are expected to be back in time for Division Four. Dodson said their absence was felt.
"They're definitely senior members in the team and we need them in Division Four to be at our utmost best. Yesterday we had the opportunity to close out the game against Canada and we let the ninth-wicket partnership score 50 runs. I think with Timroy and Ali Khan in that position there, they would be perfect guys to come on and close it out, get those two wickets and wrap the game up.
"Timroy Allen and Ali Khan are also excellent fielders and I think in this team here where a lot of the guys are just coming into the team and fresh to this level of intensity and this level of cricket that they get lost sometimes in the field. It's a learning curve and they'll improve as we play and get better."
While some of USA's squad will be heading home after Sunday's final match in the three-match series work commitments before returning to Los Angeles on October 23 for a week of training ahead of Division Four, Dodson is one of six out-of-town players who will remain in Los Angeles to train with coach Pubudu Dassanayake ahead of their next assignment. He hopes the time spent together will make an impact by the time USA's first match begins against Bermuda on October 29.
"We're just getting started," Dodson said. "There's a lot of room for improvement and a lot of room for us to grow. We're definitely here to put in the work. Everyone here is committed and ready to see ourselves grow and put the work in that's going to help us not just win Division Four and move forward to Division Three but to Division Two and Division One and do all the things that we want to do."