U.S. opens Gold Cup with convincing 2-0 win over Canada.
By Robert Wagman
(Wednesday, June 8, 2011) -- The United States men opened their 11th CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign the way it wanted, defeating an improved Canada 2-0 in front of 28,209 last night at Detroit's new domed Ford Field.
Canada wants to believe its national team is getting better because more of its players are competing in Europe or in Major League Soccer, but the U.S. dominated the midfield from the start and showed an impressive, short passing game. This forced Canada back on its heels and though it did defend well over the opening 45 minutes, it still gave up a well-taken goal to U.S. striker Jozy Altitdore.
Canada struggled to keep possession, chased the Americans and generated little offense.
Canada wanted to play an offensive minded 4-3-3 formation, but the U.S. midfield defeated that plan with a superior effort. Jermaine Jones directed play, Michael Bradley pushed forward, and Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey were active on the wings when not pinching in, Canada's two outside forwards were forced back into the midfield, leaving only a single striker and its offense generated little danger.
Canada had some good moments in the second half when it came out with renewed energy. Substitute Ali Gerba lashed two strong shots at the American goal, but goalkeeper Tim Howard was up to the task, making a point-blank stop and then a deflection of a close-in drive in a quick sequence, Canada's most dangerous moments of the match.
"I think it's a good start (in the Gold Cup)," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "From the moment the group was put together and the first game was Canada, we expected a tough match because this is a good Canadian team. When you get into a tournament, you need to keep growing. There are some good starting points and things for us to build on."
The big surprise in the U.S. lineup was the insertion of Tim Ream at center back instead of Oguchi Onyewu, who showed in Saturday's 4-0 friendly loss to Spain, that he is still not completely fit after a late-season injury with FC Twente in the Netherlands.
Ream did team well with Clarence Goodson in the middle with experienced defenders Steve Cherundolo on the right and Carlos Bocanegra on the left having very good matches on the outside. The American backs gave up only a single Canadian shot on goal the first half and four overall.
If there is a quibble tonight, it would be the lack of quality play by the Americans in the final third. Midfielder Clint Dempsey's second-half goal was the result of a wonderful build-up, capped by a great finish on Dempsey's part. Yet, too often a good build-up and fine midfield play did not result in quality chances. As this team plays together more through the tournament, this hopefully will improve.
As at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Saturday for the match against Spain, a grass field was laid down over the existing artificial playing surface. After training Friday, the U.S. players thought the Ford Field surface felt softer than the one in Foxborough, but last night, the new field did not hold up well after the opening match. The grass was long and dry and played very slowly. During the U.S. match, there was a lot of slipping by the players as sections of grass did not hold up and the ball, at times, did weird things which made long passing difficult.
The U.S. next plays Panama in Group C at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday (Fox Soccer Channel, 8 p.m.). In last night's other Group C match, Panama took a three-goal lead into the second half of game against Guadeloupe, then held on for a 3-2 victory over a team playing a man down for the final 57 minutes.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 7: Made two great second-half saves against Canada reserve midfielder Gerba and was in command of his box all night.
Defender Steve Cherundolo - 7: Constantly pushed up into the offense, teaming with Donovan to help create chance after chance. At the same time, he was a rock on defense.
Defender Clarence Goodson - 5.5: Used his height to great advantage and was steady the entire match.
Defender Tim Ream - 6: Was much calmer than Saturday against Spain and teamed well with Goodson, allowing Canada almost nothing up the middle.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 6.5: His experience showed as he took on Canada's best offensive players all night and was rarely beaten.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 6.5: Pushed forward offensively much of the night to great advantage. He showed a terrific work rate winning ball after ball in all parts of the field.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones - 6.5: Made perfect pass after perfect pass out of the middle, combined with terrific defense that allowed Bradley to go forward. This was perhaps his best showing on the national team.
Midfielder Landon Donovan - 6: Stayed on the right side, but helped create numerous chances for the other attacking players. A quiet game, but one of quality.
Midfielder Clint Dempsey - 7: Scored a magnificent goal to cap off a hard working night where he made run after run against the Canadian defense.
Forward Juan Agudelo - 5.5: Worked hard and created chances, but lacked finishing touch. Generally, it was a good performance.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 6.5: A good goal, albeit one that Canadian keeper Lars Hirschfeld should have stopped, and a quality assist is about all you can ask from a young striker. But he had numerous other chances he could not finish. Overall, he good performance.
Forward Chris Wondolowski (65th minute for Agudelo) - 5: Essentially came in as a defensive forward to hold the middle to allow others to push forward. Really made little impression on the match.
Midfielder Sacha Kljestan (74th minute for Altidore) - 5: Came on in a defensive role to win balls in the center, which he did. At times could have done more, but seemed retrained pushing forward.
Midfielder Maurice Edu (79th minute for Jones) - 6: His job was to help kill off the match, which he did very effectively.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Clint Dempsey.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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