CARSON, Calif. (Thursday, June 7, 2007) -- Striker Clint Dempsey scored midway through the first half, enough to lead the United States men to a 1-0 decision over Guatemala in both nations' opening Gold Cup Group B matches before 21,334 at The Home Depot Center tonight.
The crowd of 21,334 cheered heavily for Guatemala, another occasion of the Americans assuming the role of visitor on their home soil.
The U.S. prevailed despite playing a man down following defender Oguchi Onyewu's ejection for his second yellow card of the second half in the 73rd minute. The Americans sit atop Group B with El Salvador, also 1-0 following its 2-1 victory over Trinidad & Tobago. On Saturday, the U.S. faces Trinidad & Tobago here at 5 p.m. (ET), a match to be broadcast by Fox Soccer Channel and Spanish-language Telefutura, while Guatemala and El Salvador meet.
The U.S. raised its record under head coach Bob Bradley to 5-0-1, but the performance was ragged at best.
The U.S. took the lead in the 26th minute when Dempsey recorded his eighth career goal in his 25th international appearance. Defender Jonathan Bornstein took a back-pass and lofted a long ball to the left sideline where midfielder DaMarcus Beasley nodded a header for forward Taylor Twellman to catch up to just outside of the left perimeter of the penalty area. Twellman cut into the box and carried nearly to the end-line, touching twice with his right foot before sending a left-foot cross to the center of the six-yard-line. Dempsey raced onto the ball and, without a marker within two yards, drilled a right-footer into the left corner of the net past helpless goalkeeper Ricardo Trigueño.
"I thought the sequence that led to the goal was very well done," Bradley said. "The ball from Taylor and the run and finish from Clint was excellent. We had some chances right at the end of the first half to get a second goal and that would have obviously been important. We ended up playing with 10 guys and I thought we adjusted quite well and managed during that period of the game to keep the ball and also to defend intelligently."
Dempsey's goal was his second in five days after finding net in Saturday's 4-1 triumph over China in a friendly in San Jose, Calif. "It was good to get that goal against China," Dempsey said. "I hadn't been scoring for the U.S. in awhile. I'm just running on confidence right now."
With the U.S. in the lead, Guatermala loosened up its packed-in defense which allowed the Americans another prime opportunity in the 38th minute. Striker Landon Donovan carried down the right flank and lifted a perfect near-post pass to Twellman, who elevated and snapped his 10-yard header over the crossbar.
The Americans also came up empty on a pair of great chances in first-half stoppage time. First Beasley was wide-open when he took Twellman's cross in the left side of the box, but his shot was blocked by a sliding defender. A minute later, Donovan's angled shot from the right side of the box was parried away by Trigueño.
In the 50th minute, Guatemala defender Lionel Noriega hit a dipping shot from 35 yards, but U.S. keeper Tim Howard pushed the shot over his crossbar. Ten minutes later, Guatemala forward Carlos Ruiz drilled a free kick down the middle and Howard dropped to his right and easily smothered it. Those were the Chapines' best chances to equalize.
Onyewu's first yellow card came in the 56th minute with a seemingly innocuous shoulder-to-shoulder challenge on Ruiz. An inauspicious evening ended for Onyewu in the 73rd minute when he was cautioned for bowling over Mario Rodriguez as both chased a long ball sent toward the American net.
Four minutes earlier, Ruiz leveled Donovan, who remained face-down on the turf for nearly a minute. Donovan had to briefly leave the game.
"Anytime you start a tournament like the Gold Cup, the expectation is that the first game is difficult," Bradley said. "Teams know how important it is to play the first game very tight. Guatemela is a very well-organized team and we saw that when we played them in Dallas (a 0-0 draw on March 28). They played in a similar fashion today. We felt good about the fact that we improved in some areas from the last time we played them. I think we did a better job attacking wide. We definitely did a better job in finding some spaces that we didn't find the last time."
One interesting decision by Bradley paid dividends. He started Twellman instead of Eddie Johnson, who had scored three goals in each of his last two matches for the Kansas City Wizards, the first time that hat tricks had been recorded in consecutive Major League Soccer matches.
"This game was tailor-made for Taylor, sorry, and his instincts in the penalty area," Bradley explained.
Johnson replaced Dempsey in the 61st minute.
Notes: The U.S., the defending a three-time Gold Cup champion, is 19-0-1 in group play in the tournament's history.
In Group A last night, Costa Rica edged Canada 2-1, while Guadaloupe and Haiti tied 1-1.
United States 1, Guatemala 0
Lineups: United States - Tim Howard, Frankie Hejduk, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra (captain), Jonathan Bornstein, Michael Bradley, Benny Feilhaber (Jay DeMerit 81), Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Taylor Twellman (Steve Ralston 71), Clint Dempsey (Eddie Johnson 61). Guatemala - Ricardo Trigueño , Leonel Noriega (Luis Swisher 89), Pablo Melgar, Henry Medina, Gustavo Cabrera (captain), Claudio Albizuris, Jose Contreras, Marvin Avila (Carlos Figueroa 81), Rigoberto Gomez (Mario Rodriguez 71), Carlos Quinones, Carlos Ruiz.
United States - Dempsey (Twellman) 26.
Shots: United States 17, Guatemala 11.
Saves: United States 3, Guatemala 5.
Corner kicks: United States 4, Guatemala 3.
Fouls: United States 21, Guatemala 16.
Offside: United States 1, Guatemala 4.
Yellow card cautions: United States - Hejduk 42, Onyewu 56, Bocanegra 77; Guatemala - Gomez 67, Noriega 86,
Red card ejection: United States - Onyewu (second yellow card) 73.
Referee: Jose Pineda (Honduras).
Assistant referees: Alejandro Azofeifa (Costa Rica), Roberto Giron (Honduras).
Fourth official: Roberto Moreno (Panama).
Attendance: 21,334 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Weather: 70, sunny, clear.
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