DUSTIN BECK - Wednesday, June 15, 2011
After a ninth minute strike from Jozy Altidore, the United States held on for 81 minutes to defeat Guadeloupe and advance to the knockout stages of the 2011 Gold Cup.
The Yanks came out with only two lineup changes in what unexpectedly became an absolute must win for the team.
Chris Wondolowski started up top replacing the youngster Juan Agudelo. For Wondolowski, it was his first start in the tournament after appearing as a substitute in the loss to Panama over the weekend.
The second change to the lineup was moving team captain Carlos Bocanegra to centerback in place of the struggling Tim Ream. Bradley then inserted Eric Lichaj into the left back position which he played extensively at Leeds United.
The rest of the lineup remained the same with Jozy Altidore being the other striker, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey on the wings with Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones in the central midfield. The backline saw rock solid Steve Cherundolo at right back with Clarence Goodson making his third consecutive start in central defense.
The Stars and Stripes got the result they needed even though it was once again a less than impressive outing. The only goal of the match came in the ninth minute when Altidore took a pass from Bradley, made a couple of dribbles and ripped a bomb from 32 yards out into the top right corner.
While the Nats were seemingly always in control partially because of the inability of Guadeloupe to move forward, the Americans were never able to get the second goal they needed to seal things up.
The US produced plenty of chances with Clint Dempsey missing several key opportunities. The Fulham star missed chance after chance to finish things off and after his final shot was pushed wide right in the late stages of the game all he could do was give a half-hearted grin as he knew it just wasn't his night.
Tim Howard was rarely forced into action playing in goal and seemed to have his defense well-organized with the addition of Lichaj and team captain Bocanegra now in the middle. Both moves looked like positive changes from Bob Bradley.
There were no cards in the match and all players will begin the next stage on a clean slate as card accumulations will not carry over to the knockout stages.
The Stars and Stripes will face Jamaica on Sunday at 3:00 EST. The Reggae Boyz have been blistering through the tournament both winning their group and going undefeated. In the first three games, they have scored seven goals and have yet to concede one.