U.S. advances to Gold Cup quarters, but win over Guadaloupe lacks finish.
By Robert Wagman
(Wednesday, June 15, 2011) -- The United States men dominated their third and final CONCACAF Gold Cup Group C match, but only managed to eke out a narrow 1-0 victory last night over Guadeloupe at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park 2011 in Kansas City, Mo.
The victory allowed the U.S. to finish second in the group at 2-1-0 with six points to Panama's seven at 2-0-1, setting up a quarterfinal match against a strong Jamaica Sunday afternoon at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., at 3 p.m. (ET), televised by Fox Soccer Channel.
In last year's World Cup in South Africa, the U.S. at times showed a woeful lack of finishing with its chances. The story of this match was the Americans setting up chance after chance, but not being able to convert more than one. Striker Jozy Altidore put the U.S. ahead with a long-range blast past surprised goalkeeper Franck Grandel as it whizzed into the top of the net.
After that, the rest of the night was a study in frustration. The Americans outshot Guadeloupe 21-5, but many of the their efforts were almost comical in their ineffectiveness. Midfielder Clint Dempsey missed what possibly would have been the easiest goal of his career when he muffed a ball in the goal-mouth with a wide open net. In addition, Grandel made four good saves to keep his team in the match.
"Overall, it was a good performance," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "It's certainly a game at the end where we still feel we should have finished the game earlier. We had good chances to get the second goal. There were a lot of positives and now we get ready to move forward.
"Our goal has always been to get to the final. We understand from experience what it means in group play. You have to deal with each game and find a way to advance. I think there are things there that bring the group together, and now we get ready for the knockout phase and approach it one game at a time."
Bradley made two changes in the lineup from the first two group games. Defender Eric Lichaj replaced central defender Tim Ream, playing on the left side with Carlos Bocanegra moving inside alongside Clarence Goodson. Up front, the more physical Chris Wondolowski replaced young Juan Agudelo.
Guadeloupe tried to take a page from Panama (which defeated the U.S. 2-1) by bunkering in on defense and playing very physically, always looking to use pace to burst out in numbers on counter-attacks down the wings, hoping to get in behind Americans who had moved forward.
It only worked in the first few minutes when Guadeloupe had its best chance of the night. Once the Americans settled in, they dominated the midfield, pretty much bottled up their opponent and created chance after chance that were simply not put away.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 5.5: He was not credited with a save, but covered several crosses well and commanded his box well.
Defender Steve Cherundolo - 7: He was not just the best U.S. defender, but the best player on the field. Won most of the defensive duels on his side of the field, plus was able to roam far forward to contribute to the offense. Was still sprinting in 60-yards burst at the end of the match.
Defender Clarence Goodson - 6: In this match, he could concentrate on his own job and not worry about having to cover for others. Was able to step forward high into the box to make plays, knowing he was covered behind. He did not have a good night as a target on set plays.
Defender Eric Lichaj - 5.5: He was certainly up to the task. Showed both speed and ability, especially in the first 45 minutes, but seemed to slow as the second half progressed. He was good on defense and the occasional move forward.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 6.5: Moved into the center of defense and calmed things down. He constantly positioned the defenders next to him and he made all the plays he had to.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 5.5: Seemed content to stay home and combine with Jones to control the midfield. Made some very intelligent passes, including the one leading to the American goal.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones - 6.5: He had a terrific match, ranging all over the midfield to make defensive stop after defensive stop and sending pinpoint passes up the field. An impressive outing.
Midfielder Landon Donovan - 4.5: He was much more active than against Panama and he often moved into the middle of the field effectively, but his game looked a bit off and he seemed to tire noticeably in the late going.
Midfielder Clint Dempsey - 5: Dempsey's nonchalance cost him what should have been one of the easiest goals of his career. Credit him for creating many chances, but a big-time goal scorer would have had at least a hat trick.
Forward Chris Wondolowski- 4.5: Put himself in good positions, but could not finish. He showed a good work rate and cannot be faulted for lack of effort, but he should have produced better results.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 6.5: His long-range goal showed once again what he is capable of, but he too wasted chance after chance. In this match, he was more effective away from the goal and not in the goal-mouth where he needs to improve and to get more physical.
Forward Alejandro Bodoya (64th minute for Wondolowski) - 5.5: His fresh legs gave the U.S. a lift as he was very active. Played a more withdrawn role on the left side and was effective in creating chances for himself and others, especially Dempsey. He has to finish better.
Midfielder Sacha Kljestan (78th minute for Altidore) - 6: Used pace to advantage in his short appearance. He was able to hold the ball away from the opposition and to interrupt its attempts in the midfield.
Midfielder Maurice Edu (85th minute for Bradley) - 5: Sent out to help kill off the match, which he did effectively while making a couple of nice runs himself.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Steve Cherundolo.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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