It would appear the US might have turned a corner. Although we notched a win over Canada to open the tournament, it wasn't exactly convincing. That was followed up with a shocking defeat to Panama making the Guadeloupe game a must win. The US was able to pull out a 1-0 victory to set up a showdown with Jamaica, but most US fans, including my self, were a bit worried. Considering how well Mexico is looking, even without their 5 suspended players, and how awful we have looked, confidence level was at a low heading into yesterday's game. The US men eased those fears a bit as they took control from the opening whistle for a convincing 2-0 win over Jamaica. Follow me after the break for a quick recap and some thoughts.
Gold Cup 2011 Quarter Final. USA 2-0 Jamaica Highlights 06/19/2011 (via aNhnguyennta9)
The US started in a 4-2-3-1 formation surprisingly without Landon Donovan in the starting lineup. Both he and Clint Dempsey had family weddings they were out of town attending this weekend. Clint arrived back the morning of the game around 2 AM. Landon was much later, coming in at 7 AM. Considering the game was at 2 PM, there's not much time for rest. The lineup and formation worked well, as the US took control from the start. Jamaica did have a promising chance early on, but Tim Howard made a save on a point blank shot and the rebound was put over the crossbar.
It was not perfectly smooth for the US. Jozy Altidore went down with what looked to be a hamstring injury in the 12th minute. He was carried off the pitch, but was shown sitting on the bench a few minutes later. Hopefully the injury is not too bad, an MRI scheduled for tomorrow will indicate how serious the injury is. Juan Agudelo subbed into the match and looked very good overall, with good movement off the ball and helping to set up the second goal which I will get to in a minute.
Despite good scoring opportunities from Sacha Kljestan and Clint Dempsey (who nearly had a mirror like goal of the sliding kick he scored on against Canada), LA Galaxy keeper Donovan Ricketts stood tall. Although the match was nil-nil at halftime, the run of play definitely favored the US. If they could keep it up, it was just a matter of time. And keep it up they did. Shortly after the half, Jermaine Jones ripped a shot from just outside the top of the 18 yard box. The ball was heading for the lower right corner of goal, but took a deflection off of Jermaine Taylor into the bottom left corner of the net for a nice goal. Ricketts couldn't have done anything on that goal.
Landon Donovan would enter the game in the 65th minute, and he played very well for his time in the match. He pushed the tempo, created plays, and looked much better than he has recently. The aforementioned Jermaine Taylor received a red card in the 67th minute for a tackle on Jermaine Jones when he seemed to be destined for a breakaway with the keeper. While there may have been a bit of contact, there wasn't much and I think Jones definitely embellished a bit. It wouldn't have mattered either way, as the US continued to be the superior team and put the game away in the 80th minute.
Agudelo and Donovan hooked up on a nifty give and go, and Agudelo found a wide open Dempsey in the middle of the box. Clint was 1 on 1 with Ricketts, made a deft fake, and put the ball in the net to ice the game. Clint pulled out the John Cena "you can't see me" celebration, and the US just had to wait to see who they would play in the semifinals.
Panama ended up edging El Salvador 5-3 in penalty kicks to set up a rematch with the US. The Americans will obviously be hungry to avenge their earlier loss to Panama, and I think they come out and play much better than in their first matchup. Here is a highlight video of the crazy Panama/El Salvador tilt:
Panama Vs El Salvador 1-1 Full Highlights Resumen 6-19-11 (via SoccerReplays)
The US- Panama match is set for this Wednesday in Houston at 6:00 PM CST. The game will take place at Reliant Stadium. I predict a 2-0 victory for the US to move on to the final, likely against Mexico. It's great to see the US looking better at the right time heading into the final rounds of the Gold Cup. Let's hope they keep it up.