USMNT Report: Staying Perfect

US stays undefeated in group play as it advances to the Gold Cup quarterfinals
by Herb Scribner   |   Wednesday, July 17, 2013

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – Though its offense was cut short and dangerous chances were found in bunches for its opponent, the United States Men’s National Team made history yesterday at Rentschler Field.

After defeating Costa Rica 1-0 in its final group play game of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Team USA broke its all-time winning streak record, originally set at 7 games in 2007. Now, with 8 wins in a row, the Americans move through to the quarterfinals to face El Salvador.

It wasn’t an easy contest, nor was it a pretty showing by any means. But it was enough for the USMNT to carry its momentum forward.

POST-GAME REACTIONS: USMNT goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who had his 1st start and Gold Cup appearance for the US, spoke very highly of his team following the 1-0 win.

“The guys battled hard and we went out there, got a goal and got a result tonight,” he said.

Landon Donovan said as the tournament progresses, the USA will need more players to raise their games.

"In all my experiences in these tournaments you need a bunch of guys,” Donovan said. “I know Brek felt bad about his performance the other night, but full credit to Jurgen for giving him a chance again. … I thought Sean was great in goal and as the tournament goes on we're going to need more guys to step up."

MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Sean Johnson – The young Chicago Fire goalkeeper saw a lot of action on Tuesday night, especially at the death when Costa Rica put the United States in a precarious positions. His pair of saves close to the game's conclusion saved this one for the United States. He was consistent on the few plays he had to make and for that he deserves the top honor.

ANALYSIS: The United States barely survived a Costa Rican scare yesterday in Hartford.

For most of the game, the Ticos closed down the space and tightened things up, not offering players like Stuart Holden any opportunity to play a long ball inside. Team USA had to resort to playing on the wings, but few of the crosses sent in found anything worthwhile. Chris Wondolowski, who had been living in the net with his 6 goals in 3 matches, was put to bed and smothered by the Costa Rica defense.

But the Costa Ricans didn’t just pack the field and sit back and defend. Rather, the Ticos kept pace with the Americans all night. They moved well to cover the open slots, and surely frustrated a USA offense that, prior to this game, had been prone to finding chances.

The play leading to the USA’s winning goal was one of the few sparks of sensation that Rentschler Field got to see last night. Joe Corona, who was hounded by the Ticos, built enough space to send a perfectly-placed long service to Donovan. Though Donovan’s pass will be remembered for assisting Brek Shea’s goal (from a shot that deflected off Costa Rica goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton), Corona’s pass was equally, if not more, impressive and important.

But the goal came off a counter attack, and didn’t stem from a series of passes or plays. Costa Rica failed to execute completely on its corner kick, offering a chance that Johnson had to make a leaping stop for, which allowed the USA to trudge forward and get the 1-0 lead Ticos, who hadn’t let up a goal 785 minutes (its last goal given up to Clint Dempsey back in March during Snowmageddon).

USMNT vs. Costa Rica, Herb Scribner Photography, Soccer Newsday

A 0-0 stalemate wouldn’t have been too farfetched given how well Costa Rica defended, but the loss gives credibility to this USA side, mostly eliminating the B team moniker the team started the tournament with.

With the 1-0 win, which was played in more manageable conditions than the last Costa Rica contest out in Colorado back in March, the USA showed that it can still grind out victories over formidable opponents. Even under high-pressure and without much room to move, the Americans broke the deadlock. Costa Rica was the 1st real test for this Gold Cup squad, and the Yanks did enough for a passing grade.

Now the USA moves on to face El Salvador, which qualified for the quarterfinals with a 1-0 win over Haiti. El Salvador isn’t usually in the conversation for the top spot in CONCACAF, but can prove dangerous if Rodolfo Zelaya can get going in the attacking third.

Staying perfect and moving through the group phase without a loss was just what the United States wanted in order to bill itself as the team to beat. Now, with the quarterfinals upcoming and an almost-assured date with Mexico on the horizon, the Americans will have to keep their momentum going in order to continue this historic run.

NEXT UP: July 21 – Gold Cup: United States vs. El Salvador, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore. 4 p.m. EST, FOX, Univision.


UMass Amherst
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SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.