The Stars and Stripes of the United States of America advanced to the final of this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup competition after beating Costa Rica by two-goals-to-nothing in an exciting match played at the AT& T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, USA.
Coach Bruce Arena made a slight tweak to his tactical formation, which saw Clint Dempsey, Eric Lichaj and Gyasi Zardes dropping to the bench while Jordan Morrison made the starting eleven and was paired with Jerzy Altidore in the striker’s role; Darlington Nagbe was shifted to the leg flank where Gyasi Zardes normally played.
The match started with a swift attacking play from the US which ended with Jordan Morrison hitting the goal post with his shot inside the opponent’s penalty box.
The first goal of the match was scored by Jerzy Altidore. He latched onto a Clint Dempsey’s pass inside the opponent’s eighteen yard box and beat the onrushing Patrick Pemberton with a curling shot that flew into the far corner to the goal post.
Dempsey scored the second and final goal for the USA from a free kick outside Costa Rica’s eighteen yard box. As the former Fulham’s player ran forward to take the free kick, he saw the four man-wall jump into the air in their anticipation of defending a high-flying ball : Dempsey then shot the ball underneath their feet into the net.
USA dominated the first half game with their tidy passing and attacking play, but they were unable to penetrate the middle of the pitch which their deep-lying opponents congested with their players.
Darlington Nagbe was very active at the left flank, where he continually troubled the Costa Rican right full back with his pace and dribbling movements.
The scoring chances created by both teams in the opening half were few and far between.
USA had a chance to score the first goal of the match in the fifteenth minute of the game. Altidore received the final ball that came from a combination play amongst two of his team mates in the final third of the opponent’s half of the pitch , but instead of shooting directly at the goal : he unselfishly sent a backward pass to an onrushing Kellyn Acosta, whose final shot flew outside the pitch.
Marcos Urena squandered a chance to put his team ahead in the closing minutes of the first half.After receiving a well-laid pass from Bryan Ruiz inside the opponent’s eighteen yard box,Urena failed to beat Tim Howard with final his shot, which the former Everton goalkeeper deflected out of danger with his outstretched foot.
The game became more opened as the second half resumed. Costa Rica abandoned their defensive approach and started to attack USA with increasing regularity.
Although Costa Rica now had more ball possession in the second half, USA were still dangerous going forward. The combination play between Nagbe and Jorge Villafana became a source of attacking outlet for the Americans.
In the heat of their side attacking play, Altidore and Acousta rattled goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton with shots taken outside the eighteen yard box, but the keeper managed to prevent the ball from entering the net on both occasions.
Costa Rica had their own scoring chances in the second half. Giancarlos Gonzalez’s header inside USA’s eighteen yard box went over the crossbar, and Tim Howard made a brilliant save of Urena’s effort from his penalty box.
The introduction of Clint Dempsey by Arena turned out to be a good decision that eventually won the match for the USA. The attacking mid-fielder was able to breach the seemingly impregnable Costa Rica’s defense line with his incisive passes and inter-switching movements with his team mates.
With today’s victory the Stars and Stripes will now meet the winner of the second semi-final match between Mexico and Jamaica coming up tomorrow.