By FRANCO PANIZO
WASHINGTON D.C. – The U.S. men's national team started its quarterfinal match against Jamaica without Landon Donovan, but that didn't seem to matter as the Americans put forth their most complete performance of the Gold Cup with a 2-0 win.
Second half goals from Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey proved to be the difference in a game that the U.S. team controlled from the opening whistle. Jones scored his first goal for the United States four minutes after halftime, and Dempsey scored his second of the tournament in the 80th minute to eliminate Jamaica and give the Americans a place in the semifinals.
"I thought we were able from the start to do a good job of establishing control, passing the ball, keeping the ball moving," said head coach Bob Bradley. "Ultimately it took a while to get the goal and the second goal, but as far as establishing our game today I thought we did an excellent job."
Jamaica played part of the second half with 10 men after Jermaine Taylor received a red card for a foul on Jones, who appeared to be clear on goal in the 67th minute.
Taylor's expulsion, combined with Jamaica scrambling to find an equalizer, opened the game up for the Americans, who began the game well by applying pressure through the wings in a 4-2-3-1 formation and without Donovan.
"When you make decisions on a lineup you size up all sorts of things," said Bradley of Donovan, who entered the game in the 65th minute. "It's been a busy stretch for Landon and we felt with an afternoon game (it) made sense to use him as a reserve today and we could bring him on and he would give us a lot."
The match may have started out well for the U.S. team, but things took a turn for the worse when Jozy Altidore went down with an injury just 12 minutes into the match. That forced Bradley to make an early substitution, with Juan Agudelo replacing Altidore in the lone forward role.
The early change didn't seem to affect the Americans, who continued to threaten Jamaica's back-line. The U.S. team had multiple opportunities in the first half, but Donovan Ricketts denied Dempsey and Sacha Kljestan. Ricketts' saves were a big factor in keeping the Reggae Boyz in the game in the first half.
The United States was able to break the deadlock shortly after halftime when Jones pounced on a headed clearance and blasted it towards goal. The shot deflected off of Taylor and made its way into the back of the net to give the U.S. team a 1-0 lead.
"The first time you score with the national team is always special," said Jones through Steve Cherundolo, who translated from German to English. "Most of all it was a very important goal for us tonight."
The Americans added a second 31 minutes later as Agudelo received a ball on the flank and then played it across the penalty area to Dempsey, who rounded Ricketts before slotting his shot home.
"I was disappointed with my performance against Guadeloupe. I wasn't able to finish some chances that I got and I wanted to make sure that I came out today and do whatever I could to help the team win," said Dempsey. "I was able to get the goal that sealed it."
The United States will face either Panama or El Salvador in the semifinals in Houston, Texas on June 22. Panama and El Salvador square off on Sunday evening in the fourth and final quarterfinals match.
What do you think of the U.S. team's victory? Who was your man of the match? Starting to believe the Americans can win the Gold Cup again?
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