Goals by Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey, plus a timely red card against Jamaica, helped the United States win their sixth ever Gold Cup quarterfinal match 2-0, in front of a mostly full RFK Stadium in Washington DC. The United States advances to play the winner of El Salvador/Panama in Houston at 7 PM ET Wednesday.
Bob Bradley’s lineup was full of surprises, as Landon Donovan started the match on the bench. Chris Wondolowsk and Oguchi Onyewu were left off the roster while Freddy Adu was added to the bench. After the game, Bradley simply said about the Donovan decision, “when you make a decision on a lineup, you size up all sorts of things… it made sense to bring him on as a sub today.”
The first half was appropriately scoreless as both teams had good scoring chances but failed to convert. For their part, the US had dominant stretches at the beginning of the half and around the 35th minute. Although it was the best half of soccer for the Americans to that point in the Gold Cup, the team was lacking any offensive creativity. The best chance for the Yanks may have been Clint Dempsey’s overhead shot late in the first half that cleared the bar. The US, cognizant of Jamaica’s speed, was conservative in midfield but tried to work the edges to create scoring opportunities.
The second half turned quickly on a couple of key plays. Almost immediately at the beginning of the second half, Jermaine Jones launched a blistering shot thirty yards from goal. The shot deflected off Jamaican defender Jermaine Taylor and all Donovan Ricketts could do was watch the ball go past him into the net. Jones and Taylor would be connected again on another critical play less than 20 minutes later. Jones broke free in the midfield and had a clear path to the goal before Taylor seemingly clipped him from behind. Referee Marco Rodriguez showed Taylor red and Jamaica had to play the rest of the match a man down. After some missed chances by the US (including a Dempsey-Donovan exchange in front of the Jamaican net), Clint Dempsey received a pass from Juan Agudelo and stepped by Ricketts to score.
The United States today played its best match of the 2011 Gold Cup. Lifted by a vocal American and Pro-American El Salvador crowd, the U.S. excelled in all facets of the game. Eric Lichaj and Steve Cherundolohandled the speedy Jamaican wing players and limited the number of crosses in. Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley linked well in the midfield to create good passing lanes as well as scoring opportunities. “It does seem like there seems to be more flow [in the midfield],” noted Tim Howard afterwards. “Hopefully that will continue because we’re playing with confidence now.” Juan Agudelo, who came on in the twelfth minute for an injured Jozy Altidore, started off slow but created good opportunities in the second half including on the Dempsey goal. The mood on the team was upbeat; even Bob Bradley, who had been under a lot of pressure after the Panama loss, began his press conference in German as an homage to Jermaine Jones and his Q&A right before.
Jamaica again fell into the same failed tactics of Guadeloupe and Canada by playing very passively in the first half. They finished with a total of seven shots, three on goal, and only challenged Tim Howard a couple of time. Their best chance may have been in the fourth minute when Howard had to knock away a Demar Phillips’ chance. After the match, Reggae Boyz’s coach Theodore Whitmore acknowledged they could have been more aggressive: “we tended to settle for the first 25 minutes… and the U.S. kept pushing us around. I think we gave [Michael] Bradley a lot of space to play in and that hurt us.”
As mentioned, Jozy Altidore injured his hamstring and was carried off the field. Bob Bradley had no injury updates after the game except to say that he hopes Altidore is able to play Wednesday and that “everybody’s needed in this kind of a tournament.” When asked who he would rather win the second game of the day, Bradley simply dodged and said the U.S. would be ready for whomever they play.
Keep checking MLS Talk for more details and stories on this match and the entire Gold Cup.