By FRANCO PANIZO
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The U.S. men's national team entered its Group C finale against Guadeloupe needing a result in order to qualify for the knockout stage of the tournament.
The Americans got just that, beating Guadeloupe, 1-0, in front of a sold-out crowd at Livestrong Sporting Park. The win gave the Americans a second-place finish in the group due to Panama tying Canada 1-1 in the first game of the night, and it also set up a quarterfinals match against Jamaica in Washington D.C. on June 19.
Jozy Altidore was the author of the game's lone goal, receiving a pass from Michael Bradley and blasting it from distance into the back of the net in the ninth minute.
The Americans could've added to their lead on a bevy of chances throughout the game, but poor finishing, specifically from Clint Dempsey, kept it close.
"Overall good," said head coach Bob Bradley of his team's performance. "It's certainly a game that at the end we still feel like we should've finished the game earlier. We had good chances to get the second goal."
As it has so often in recent games, the United States almost fell behind early. Following a free kick, a clearance from Landon Donovan bounced off of Clint Dempsey and fell to Stephane Zubar. The Guadeloupe defender shot the ball and saw it smack off the crossbar.
The U.S. team responded through Altidore's strong finish and never looked back. Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo and new left back Eric Lichaj helped stimy the Guadeloupe attack, which was without its leading goal scorer, Brice Jovial.
"Mentally we were better," said Donovan of the difference between the Guadeloupe and Panama game, which the Americans lost 2-1. "We didn't the start the game well against Panama and that was a major error. Tonight we played better and I expect us to continue to get better."
The Americans nearly doubled their lead in the 24th minute, as Dempsey received a cross from Cherundolo unmarked. Dempsey's headed effort went wide, however.
The misses piled on in the first half, with Dempsey continuing to miss and Chris Wondolowski having a good look saved by Franck Grandel.
Things didn't change for the better in the second half. Donovan skied a would-be goal over the crossbar early on, Altidore had a shot from close range blocked and Dempsey continued to mis-fire.
Dempsey's biggest miss came in the 76th minute when substitute Alejandro Bedoya played a ball across the six-yard box that Dempsey attempted to take two touches on rather than knocking it in with one. As a result, Guadeloupe was able to make a last-gasp tackle to clear the ball away.
"Tonight I wasn't good enough with my chances. I couldn't buy a goal," said Dempsey. "The ball played across (from) Bedoya I should've hit it first time. I thought no one was on me. I thought could take two touches. Wrong decision on my part."
The Americans didn't find a second goal, but it managed to claim three points by closing out Guadeloupe with a strong defensive effort.
The U.S. team also avoided any suspensions in the quarterfinals, as the six players that entered the match with yellow cards did not get booked.
"It wasn't a perfect by any means. We still have a lot of work to do before our next game," said Cherundolo. "But we created chances, didn't give up too many and they're a tough team to beat so it was a good performance."
What do you think of the United States' win? Who impressed you? Do you see the Americans defeating Jamaica in the quarterfinals?
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