Dempsey's late heroics lift U.S. past Costa Rica 2-0 and to Gold Cup final.
By Robert Wagman
(Saturday, July 22, 2017) -- Clint Dempsey came off the bench midway through the second half and assisted the go-ahead goal and then added an insurance tally to propel the United States men to a 2-0 over Costa Rica in a CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal tonight in front of 45,516 at Dallas’ AT&T Stadium.
The Americans advanced to Wednesday’s Gold Cup championship match Wednesday at Levi Stadium in San Jose, Calif.
Costa Rica had been the best defensive team in the tournament, conceding only six shots on goal and one goal in its first four outings. Thus, the task of the U.S. was to break through -- or around -- that defense.
The breakthrough came in the 72nd minute. Dempsey picked up a ball from midfielder Darlington Nagbe and beat past two defenders before laying a perfect pass to striker Jose Altidore in the left side of the penalty area. Dempsey’s lead pass allowed Altidore to beat defender Jose Salvatierra before he slipped a shot into the net under advancing goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton.
Ten minutes later, Dempsey was at it again. Taking a free kick from about 25 yards about, he drilled a low shot under a jumping defensive wall and the ball found the low right corner of the net to make it 2-0.
Altidore, who had not found net in his last 10 international matches, raised his goal total to 57, tying Landon Donovan at the top of the list.
U. S. coach Bruce Arena started Jordan Morris at forward in order to take some of the pressure off Altidore. Morris slammed a shot off the post in the first 16 seconds, but that might have been the offensive high point for the U.S. in the opening half. Despite controlling the ball more than 60 percent of the time, the Americans were unable to penetrate the Costa Rica defense.
Costa Rica came out of its defensive shell to start the second half and put pressure on the Americans. The match turned, however, with the insertion of Clint Dempsey into the middle in the 64th minute. Almost immediately, he took control and the U.S. went on the attack.
U.S. Player Ratings:
Goalkeeper Tim Howard – 7: He stopped Marcos Urena twice, with a foot save in the first half and with a layout diving save in the second. Had he not, it would have been a much different contest. You can’t ask more of a keeper.
Defender Graham Zusi, - 5.5: He was not put under much pressure defensively, but made no major missteps. On offense, did not make much of an impression.
Defender Matt Besler - 6.5: He was the steadying influence on the back-line. Several times, he cleaned up after lapses made beside and in front of him. He might have distributed the ball better, but overall, he was quite good.
Defender Omar Gonzalez – 5: In an up-and-down performance, he was to blame, in whole or in part, for both of Marco Ureña’s shots. At times, he was strong defensively and on offense in set pieces. He seemed tired as second half progressed.
Defender Jorge Villafaña - 6: Quietly, he was the best of the back four, defending well all night. He was a major part of the U.S. offense going forward in the first half and into the second. This was the kind of performance that should almost guarantee a World Cup roster spot.
Midfielder Paul Arriola - 5: His best work was defensive. On offense, he was able to create chances, but his finish was consistently absent.
Midfielder Kellyn Acosta - 6: He had a good night. Twice, he forced saves by keeper Patrick Pemberton. His best work might have been defensive as he paired well with (Michael) Bradley.
Midfielder Darlington Nagbe - 6.5: He took the ball from Bradley and moved it into the U.S. attack, challenging the Tico defense the entire match. His best game for the U.S.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 7: He had a very good night, controlling the midfield in the first half and moved the U.S. onto the attack with good passes. He faded a bit after intermission, but his defensive effort was constant.
Forward Jordan Morris - 5.5: He slammed one off the post in the opening seconds. After that, he was rather quiet through the rest of the match, but rarely got any service.
Forward Jozy Altidore -7: He did what a striker is supposed to do; he scored the critical opening goal. He had only two shots on goal all night, scoring one goal and forcing a very good save. He passed up a shot he should have taken, but when the time came, he was deadly in his finish.
Forward Clint Dempsey (66th minute for Arriola) - 8: It’s not very often you see a player come in off the bench and in a matter of a few moments change the whole look and tenor of a match. He found openings immediately and made impact passes. Then came the ball slipped through to Altidore, leading to the first goal, followed by his own free-kick tally. No more could have been asked from him.
Midfielder Gyasi Zardes (83rd minute for Altidore) – 6: He added fresh legs to the defense and fulfilled that role with determination.
Midfielder Dax McCarty (85th minute for Acosta) – 5.5: His late run helped close out the match.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Clint Dempsey.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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