The U.S. Men’s National Team put together its best performance in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup this afternoon with an impressive 2-0 victory against Jamaica at RFK Stadium to advance to the semifinals.
The U.S. dominated the match and created numerous chances, finally breaking through in the second half when Jermaine Jones’ one-timer from the top of the penalty area found the back on the net. After a red card to Jermaine Taylor, the U.S. used their man advantage to put the game away with an attractive passing sequence the led to a well-composed finish from close range by Clint Dempsey.
The victory extended the United States’ unbeaten record against Jamaica to 18 matches and was their largest margin of victory in a Gold Cup quarterfinal match since 2005.
The U.S. will face Panama in the semifinals on Wednesday, June 22, at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. Kickoff for the match is at 6 p.m. CT can be seen live on FOX Soccer and Univision. FOX Soccer will also have a 30-minute pre-game show beginning at 5:30 p.m. CT.
In the other quarterfinals played on Saturday, Mexico defeated Guatemala 2-1 while Honduras got past Costa Rica on penalty kicks. Mexico and Honduras will face off in the other semifinal match of the evening, kicking off at 9 p.m. CT.
“I thought we played a good game today. From the start we were able to do a good job establishing control, passing the ball and keeping the ball,” said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. “It took a while to get the goal and the second goal, but certainly as far as establishing our game today I thought we did an excellent job.”
Dempsey and Landon Donovan both returned to the team early this morning after being excused from camp earlier in the week to attend their sisters’ weddings on Saturday. After evaluating all factors, the coaching staff decided to have Dempsey start and put Donovan on the reserve list. It was a rare occurrence for the all-time leading scorer to be used off the bench, and he entered in the 66th minute to make his first appearance as a substitute since the 2007 Gold Cup against Trinidad & Tobago.
While replacing Donovan, the coaching staff also changed up the formation, opting for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Jozy Altidore up top as the lone forward. Alejandro Bedoya and Sacha Kljestan made their first starts in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, with Bedoya playing on the wing normally patrolled by Donovan and Kljestan sliding into the center.
While the U.S. dominated the majority of the match, Jamaica provided an early scare with a fantastic opportunity after a U.S turnover near midfield in the fourth minute. Dane Richards dribbled up the right side and cut into the penalty area before sliding the ball back to Rodolph Austin who mishit his shot but the ball managed to skip through the U.S. defense to Ryan Johnson unmarked at the left post. Howard came up with an impressive save on Johnson’s point blank shot, and the U.S. was fortunate that Luton Shelton skied the rebound from nine yards out while staring at a wide-open net.
Four minutes later, the U.S. was dealt a blow when Jozy Altidore pulled up holding his left hamstring after running down a long ball. The forward tried to walk it off, but shortly gestured to the U.S. bench that he needed to be substituted and Juan Agudelo was brought in a few minutes later after a quick warm-up on the sideline.
Dempsey once again was active in the attack and tested Jamaica goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts for the full 90 minutes. In the 13th minute, Bedoya did well to head a cross back to Dempsey near the top of the penalty area and he hit a sliding volley hard on target, but Ricketts was able to push the attempt over the bar.
A minute later, Dempsey did well to keep a ball in play inside the penalty area and then put in a dangerous ball across the goalmouth, but no one was able to get a foot to direct it on goal.
Dempsey continued his barrage against the Reggae Boyz with a free kick in the 36th minute, hitting a swerving shot near the top of the goal but again Ricketts was up to the challenge with a right-handed save to parry it over the crossbar.
On their heels for the previous 30 minutes, Jamaica did well to build a counterattack after a U.S. corner kick. Richards ran onto to a pass into the left side of the penalty area and cut back against his defender to take a shot from a tough angle, but Howard was barely tested at the near post.
After the Jamaica attack, the U.S. once again took control and produced five more shots in the final six minutes of the half. In the 39th minute, Kljestan hit a strike from 24 yards out that forced Ricketts into a save, and then a minute later Dempsey tried an ambitious bicycle kick from 12 yards out off a corner kick that went just wide. Bedoya found himself in the same location as Dempsey shortly after but his snap header off a Klejstan cross went wide left as well.
Agudelo was active all game despite coming on unexpectedly for the injured Altidore and almost put the U.S. up in the 42nd minute. With three defenders shadowing him, Agudelo did well to create some space to hit a drive from top of the 18 that Ricketts had to stretch out to keep the ball from finding the net. The rebound fell to the left for Jones, but he couldn’t get a solid strike on the ball from a tough angle.
With a minute left in the half, Michael Bradley slipped a ball into the penalty area for Eric Lichaj, but the young defender’s one-timer was swallowed up by Ricketts.
The U.S. came out with the same attacking mentality in the second half, and finally got past Ricketts with a little help in the 49th minute. Lichaj hit a cross into the penalty area that was headed out by Jermaine Taylor, falling to Jones near the top of the penalty area. Jones struck the ball first time through traffic where Taylor stuck out a foot to block the shot, but instead deflected it to the left side of the goal leaving Ricketts helpless as he dove the other way. The goal was the first of Jones’ career with the U.S. in nine appearances.
Later in the half after a throw-in deep on the right sideline, Cherundolo served in a ball that skipped through to Dempsey at the far post. Dempsey’s dove to get his head to the cross from five yards out but again Ricketts was able to thwart the chance by quickly shifting to his right to make an impressive save with his chest.
Behind the stellar performance by Ricketts, Jamaica was able to hold on to the hope that they could get back in the match but that all changed in the 67th minute when Taylor was sent off for denying Jones a goalscoring opportunity. A pass by Dempsey ricocheted off two Jamaican defenders and fell to Jones in the center circle where he took a good initial touch to get past Taylor with a clear path to goal. Trailing Jones, Taylor slid and tripped up the midfielder about 40 yards from goal.
In the 79th minute, Kljestan won a loose ball, dribbled forward toward the midfield stripe and provided a perfect through ball for Donovan who got behind the final defender. Donovan took a touch but Ricketts came out of the box to cut off his angle, forcing Donovan to drop the ball back to Dempsey. Instead of taking a shot from distance, Dempsey played it back to Donovan who was called offside as Ricketts was in advance of the ball but a Jamaican defender was covering the goal line.
A minute later, Dempsey finally broke through with his second goal of the 2011 Gold Cup to solidify the win for the United States. The U.S. won the ball and quickly got it to Agudelo, who dribbled up the right side and played a beautiful give-and-go with Donovan to break down the three Jamaica defenders that were tracking back. Agudelo slipped the ball across the penalty area for Dempsey who cleverly took a composed touch to his left to avoid the onrushing Ricketts, then calmly tapped the ball into the open net.
Dempsey’s goal was the 21st of his career, putting him tied with 2011 National Soccer Hall of Fame Inductee Bruce Murray for the fifth-most goals scored in U.S. history. Dempsey has scored four career Gold Cup goals, including two in the 2011 Gold Cup.