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BRIAN SCIARETTA - Sunday, June 19, 2011
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Jamaica vs United States
CONCACAF Gold Cup - Sunday June 19, 2011
RFK Stadium
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Finishing was still suspect, but the United States put on their first solid showing at the 2011 Gold Cup in a convincing win over Jamaica on Sunday.

The US began the game with an interesting starting lineup that did not include Landon Donovan. Both Donovan and Dempsey missed recent training sessions to attend their sisters' weddings and did not arrive until the early this morning.

‘When you make decisions on a lineup you size up all sorts of things," US head coach Bob Bradley said. "It's been a busy stretch for Landon and I felt [with an] afternoon game it made sense to use him as a reserve today and that we could bring him on and that he could give us a lot. In Clint's case we thought he could go from the beginning."

Instead, Bob Bradley elected to go with a five man midfield consisting of Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Sacha Kljestan and Dempsey.

Jamaica should have struck first in the fifth minute when Bradley kept Jamaica's Luton Shelton onside and left him with a wide open net in front of him. Shelton instead inexplicably skied the ball over the net from 7 yards out.

In the 12th minute, things got worse for the Americans when Jozy Altidore had to be removed with a hamstring injury. He was replaced by 18-year old Juan Agudelo.

"I always want to be on the field, I was going to be prepared in the first half or in the second half," Agudelo discussed, later. "Unfortunately we lost a player that was key to our team in this tournament, but I feel like this stuff happens for a reason. This is my chance and I'm focused more than ever."

Shortly after Agduelo's entry, the US had a string of chances. Dempsey took a pass from Kljestan and hit a sliding shot that Jamaica keeper Donovan Ricketts punched over the bar. On the ensuing corner kick the US was not able to find the end to a low Agudelo cross that went across the goalmouth just a few feet out.

The US continued to dominate the rest of the half and they played their best soccer of the Gold Cup. But finishing once again proved elusive.

"As a team we just said at halftime that we had done a lot of good things," Bradley said of the team's mood at the half. "Keep playing, keep passing the ball. Make sure that when we come out in the second half we get therhythm going the same way. We were confident that that would take care of things."

The US finally broke through in the 49th minute when left back Eric Lichaj sent in a cross that was cleared. Jones however sent in an absolute laser that deflected off a Jamaican defender and past a helpless Ricketts.

"I thing that we've seen that in recent games the understanding in the center of the field with Jermaine and Michael has been good," Bradley pointed out. "And in different moments you see each one on the move. The other one thinking about covering. Certainly Jermaine has a good engine and has the ability in certain moments to get forward and be a threat. That was nice to see."

For Jones it was his first USMNT goal since first joining the team in October.

"The first goal you score with the national team is always special," Jones said with Stever Cherundolo interpreting. "Even more so that it was an important goal. Hopefully more will come."

Following the goal during the celebration, the German-born Jones made an emotional salute to his father who served in the United States military.

"It was [my] way of giving [my father] a nice little Father's Day gift. He was a soldier. It was a nice sign of respect for him."

In the 60th minute, Dempsey's rough luck in tournament continued as he took a cross from Cherundolo only to have Ricketts save it from just a few feet out.

Kljestan enjoyed a strong performance in his first start of the tournament. Frequently he combined with Dempsey in the attack to create opportunities.

"Clint and I have an understanding that we he gets the ball, I am trying to open space for him to give it to me and basically get it back to him for him to play and move," Kljestan said of his chemistry with Dempsey. "I think its visa versa. Especially with Michael and Jermaine as well, they play good balls into us. I think that between Clint and me, our movement of the ball tonight was really good."

In the 67th minute Jamaica was reduced to 10 men as Jones had broken free past the Jamaica defense. Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez sent Jermaine Taylor to the showers with a straight red, but television replays suggested that the American was untouched on the play.

In the 80th minute the US put the game out of reach when Dempsey finally scored as he took a pass from Agudelo on the right side and sent it past a helpless Ricketts for a 2-0 lead.

The US easily controlled the last 10 minutes and as the final whistle sounded the US walked off the field in a confident manner. Unlike the three previous games, they implemented their game plan and dominated their opponent. They will now move on to Houston for the semifinals.

"I thought we played a good game today," Bob Bradley said bluntly. "I thought we were able to, from the start, to a good job establishing control - passing the ball, keeping the ball moving."

"I think ultimately it took awhile to get the goal and the second goal but certainly as far as establishing our game today, I thought we did an excellent job."

For some on the team, they expected this performance.

"There wasn't overconfidence," Howard described. "There was just an assured confidence in the hotel yesterday that we were going to Houston - no two ways about it. We expected this performance from ourselves today. It's been coming. The mood in the locker room is upbeat."

Dempsey agreed as he noted that the team's confidence was improved and that they executed their game plan on both sides of the ball.

"We just played good [soccer]," Dempsey said bluntly. "We were patient, we were confident, we moved the ball around well. We made it difficult for them to play the ball out of the back. We were able to find players in-between their lines. We were able to create chances for ourselves. I think it's the mentality of keep going, keep pressing, keep taking the game to them. We eventually wore them down. I think we were the better team."

For Bob Bradley, the win was not surprising as he sees a team coming together and this has been evident in recent trainings.

"Again, in group play - [they were] tough games," Bradley concluded. "Things just didn't come easily for us. I think that the training that comes in between games - I see it getting sharper. I think that we had our best training session so far on Friday. Very sharp, good energy, the ball was moving quick that day. Some of that came out today."

"So yes, we are making progress."
UtahGeoff
Wednesday June 22, 2011 1:13 am
Once again we started slowly. If Shelton hadn't missed, we would have been playing uphill again. Bob Bradley can't seem to get the team ready from the opening whistle. Chicarito would not have missed that shot. If we start slow against Panama or Mexico, we will be toast by halftime.
Goalscorer24
Tuesday June 21, 2011 3:18 pm
Bradley should continue to bench starters if he feels they are not ready to go. I would welcome more of that. Nobody's starting spot should be guaranteed.
Scott
Tuesday June 21, 2011 1:08 pm
@Mike

I hate diving, and Jones is German, he's grown up on the Eupropean stage, at Schalke and has watched the teams who've won in the Champions league dive so I'm sure that's where he picks it up. What's annoying about his dive was he would have had a gimme goal to give Dempsey who was making a great run up the left wing.

@ballplayer

Jozy was the best player on the pitch or one of the 3 best players on the pitch every match he played in the group stage. Not just scoring goals he set up several what should be goals that weren't converted (at the least one by Dempsey and one by Wondolowski if I'm getting the plays right in my head)

Agudelo is really young, using him if Jozy is severly hurt is a must but if Jozy is healthy he should be playing over Agudelo, though both of them should play over Wondolowski.
thatpageguy
Tuesday June 21, 2011 12:29 am
While it is easy to find fault with the result and downplay Jamaica, let's not forget that Mexico had trouble with Guatemala, which finished 2nd to Jamaica, and Panama was lucky to get past El Salvador. The US defense is starting to gel and Lichaj looks like the real deal and their passing is much sharper. At the least they should handle Panama and give Mexico a tough game, something that might not have been expected a week ago.
Mike E
Monday June 20, 2011 9:22 pm
One wonders if they didn't sandbag the group stage. What played out there Sunday was no relation to the group-stage stumble-bum effort.

Now to get some revenge on Panama, and hopefully Mexico's recent form against Honduras won't change much.
eurofan
Monday June 20, 2011 7:57 pm
This team still needs a lot of work to do! I admit the team had a good game, but they have to get it together because Panama will be a sturdy test against a tired, and unimpressive US side. Panama always gives US a test, this also shows how they will play against a strong Mexican side...Adu is not a answer to the US problem. One player cannot change the whole team! BB still needs to get fired to field other potential players and not stick with his lackluster team who cannot break down defense when they are bunkered down...by the way crosses are not the solution, maybe its time the players make runs in the area and create opertunities instead of staying the same spot when we attack at the other teams goal....
ballperson
Monday June 20, 2011 4:42 pm
A better effort, but not convinced. Mexico will be a tough out assuming everthing breaks right. Let's see the effort for round 2 against Panama.

I understand loyalty, but Aguedelo brings so much more energy and creativity than Altidore. Jozy scored two goals, but against what competition?

Kljestan had his best game, but Europe has not taught him to be selfish or strike the ball. A couple of shots, but hardly well hit. The jury is still out.

I have become a Steve Cherundolo fan, he is playing so well. Lichaj is learning the left side and is showing more poise and patience. He has shown some ability to make a run and be a threat offensively as well as playing better and better defensively.

Jones played his best game as a member of the US side. He brings that determination and gritty play vs say Kljestan who seems to get pushed off the ball.

On to the semis.
mmee
Monday June 20, 2011 3:33 pm
Jones' dive was shameful, he should have been booked, and Jamaica has every right to complain.
Scott
Monday June 20, 2011 3:31 pm
I like the result. I want to watch the game more. But it seems like Bedoya should be a starter on the team. Stick Dempsey up at striker of if you prefer a CF type of role where he can be a little more defensive. I like Bedoya a lot from the little I've seen.

I also am very pleased in the spaces that Dempsey has been getting into. It's annoying that he seems to not convert the chances but in time he will. I think Dempsey is going to be the key to beating Mexico. I'm not all that concerned about Panama. They beat Ream basically. As long as our defense plays smart we shouldn't let up any goals, and more importantly we beat a team that's ranked higher in the Fifa world rankings 2-0.

We need to approach the next game in a must win mentality and we will win pretty easy then we get Mexico who will be the tough game. I have no clue how we're gonna neutralize Javier Hernandez. But that will be the game where Dempsey is gonna have to convert all his chances.
Paulo D
Monday June 20, 2011 11:02 am
Well done Bob B., this was a nice change of formation. Let's be honest, our mid is our strongest point, so why not use 5 mid, to control the mid, stop the plays before it troubles the defenders and aid in the attack. Maybe a not in form/uninspired Donovan should sit out and come in has a sub to use his speed against a tired defense. Bedoya, Kljestan, Cherundolo, Lichaj and Jones are playing with some heart, those are the type of players that need to be on the field. Dempsey too is playing well, but I've seen him do better, maybe a litle tired, as are most, nonoe of these guys had a break. Freddy must have impressed enough to be on the bench, maybe next game. Donovan, where are you, come on man, you can do better, we need you, we need all of you to put in that extra effort. I believe in this team.
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