Altidore’s early goal enough as United States holds off Guadeloupe in Gold Cup
Kansas City, Kan. The United States had everything going in its favor against Gaudeloupe, but the Americans made their final match of group play more difficult than necessary before winning 1-0 and advancing to the Gold Cup quarterfinals.
The United States held a 21-5 shots advantage and had a partisan crowd roaring in support from start to finish, but frustratingly inefficient shooting kept the 20,109 in attendance on edge until the final whistle Tuesday night at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.
It was a performance good enough for the American to advance to Sunday’s quarterfinal match against Jamaica at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., but it wasn’t the all-around dominant effort that continues to elude United States.
“Overall, good,” USA coach Bob Bradley said of the way his team responded after an upset loss to Panama last week. “Certainly a game at the end, we felt like we should have finished earlier and we had good chances to get the second goal and to see what would have happened after that. Still, a lot of positives, and now we get ready to move forward.”
The United States played with intensity of the offensive end for much of the match, despite its inability to capitalize on numerous opportunities, and the Americans appeared to feed off of the raucous crowd.
Still, weaknesses were evident, from the lack of scoring touch to continued weakness in the defensive third.
Guadeloupe nearly drew first blood in the fourth minute when United States goalkeeper Tim Howard misplayed a ball near the goal line. A scramble ensued in the box, and Guadeloupe’s Stephane Zubar had an open look that struck the crossbar.
Soon thereafter, the United States took the lead on a 25-yard blast by forward Jozy Altidore. His rocket from the right side slammed into the upper right corner of the net.
The Americans continued to bombard the Guadeloupe goal with shots, but they were unable to convert again thanks to a combination of stellar defensive play and at times baffling misfires.
Altidore indicated that the United States’ troubles might stem at least in part from not taking smaller opponents as seriously.
“Even though we’re playing smaller teams, we’ve got to come out with the mentality that they’re a big team,” Altidore said. “We’ve got to come out and press all over the field and play some exciting soccer. I think we’re not doing that right now. We’ve addressed it.”
The United States’ scoring woes continued in the second half. Landon Donovan, who was mostly silent during the first half, sparked a handful of attacks on the Guadeloupe goal. Chris Wondolowski, Donovan and Clint Dempsey all had prime looks at the net without converting, but none struggled more than Dempsey. In addition to missing the target on a pair of first-half headers, he struck the crossbar with a direct kick in the 59th minute and then, in the 76th, received a through ball from Alejandro Bedoya barely two feet off the goal line. He waited too long for the tap-in, however, and a Guadeloupe defender raced over for the block.
“We got the win; that’s the most important thing,” Dempsey said. “But I should have done better with my chances so I’m upset with myself, but all I can do is keep pushing and make sure I do better next time.”
For Dempsey and the United States, “next time” comes Sunday in the quarterfinals. The Americans last won the Gold Cup in 2007, and Donovan noted the team has work to do if it wants to contend for another championship.
“I think the idea of a tournament is that you get better as you go,” he said. “We’re not a club team so we’re not together all the time to develop. Personally, I only had three or four training sessions with the team. I know a lot of the other guys had only four training sessions as well. It takes a while. We played a little better tonight; we were cleaner. It was a little easier of a game for us.”