United States defender Lauren Crandall (left) works against South Africa during the 2012 Olympics. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena).

RIO DE JANEIRO -- The United States believes it can return to the podium in women's field hockey.

The team immediately will face one of its most daunting roadblocks. The Americans begin their quest for a medal Saturday night against Argentina, which is ranked No. 2 in the world.

The Americans haven’t medaled since 1984, when they claimed bronze in Los Angeles. The United States gained momentum this summer by placing third in the Champions Trophy event in June, and its No. 5 world ranking is its highest slot ever.

“We want this program to be number one in the world,” midfielder Rachel Dawson said. “We understand that the only way that we’re going to do that is by doing it together, by each of us bringing our individual strengths and making something that’s bigger than any of us individually.”

Argentina is among the sport’s greatest powers, but the United States beat Argentina last year to win gold at the Pan American Games.

Argentina is rolling now, having won the Champions Trophy event final against the Netherlands, the world’s No. 1-ranked team. Still, Argentina respects the Americans.

“We were watching videos on how to play them,” star Carla Rebecchi said. “It's going to be a very tough game. The first game is always complicated, you are very anxious. But I think that makes it special."

United States defender Lauren Crandall, a team captain, said she’s feeling good after breaking her foot seven weeks ago.

All games will be streamed live at NBCOlympics.com.

Here is the pool play schedule for the United States:

8/6 -- Argentina, 4 p.m. Eastern, USA

8/8 -- Australia, 9 a.m., NBCSN

8/10 -- Japan, 4 p.m., NBCSN

8/11 -- India, 6:30 p.m., NBCSN

8/13 -- Great Britain, 5 p.m., CNBC