US and Canada through after Gold Cup QFs in Arlington

An evening at AT&T Stadium saw the United States keep up a long run of final four appearances in the Concacaf Gold Cup after a tight affair against Jamaica. Canada may have stolen the show slightly, dominating Costa Rica to finally lay claim to the title of ‘best of the rest’ behind the US and Mexico in the region.

Costa Rica and Canada were the undercard as the neighbors to the north looked like finally becoming one of the leading players in the Concacaf region. Without Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, Canada played an aggressive game. Goals from Junior Hoilett and Stephen Eustaquio set up a semi-final in Houston with Mexico.

Former FC Dallas striker Tesho Akindele almost grabbed a goal with the last kick of the game, but Estaban Alvarado was able to scramble across his line to the deny Tesho’s sliding effort in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

The USMNT lineup at AT&T Stadium (Concacaf)

After Gregg Berhalter praised FC Dallas and Luchi Gonzalez in his pre-game press conference, two of the three former FC Dallas academy players at his disposal were picked for the start. Shaq Moore got the nod over Reggie Cannon at right back, while Kellyn Acosta took a familiar spot to FC Dallas fans, as the six in a single pivot double eight midfield with Gianluca Busio and Sebastian Lletget playing ahead.

The big surprise for Jamaica was Bayer Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey being named on the bench by Theodore Whitmore. No official reason was given for Bailey’s omission before the game, but head coach Whitmore did confirm that Bailey had a knock. The Reggae Boyz were pleased to welcome back Fulham’s Bobby Decordova-Reid, who recovered from COVID-19 in time for the quarterfinal.

Jamaica came out racing from the kick off – the USMNT’s kick off at that – giving the Yanks a scare in the opening 15 seconds after Blair Turgott deflected a clearance into the path of Reid with only Matt Turner to beat, but the American defense will have been relieved to see the linesman’s flag raised.

Jamaica recorded the first shot on target in the 14th minute in a real display of how delicate the US can be against the break. Liam Moore launched a ball out of the defensive third into a large hole on the left channel vacated by Shaq Moore. Cory Burke easily outpaced center back James Sands with Moore too far upfield to get back to the ball. The Philadelphia Union forward played the ball across the edge of the area catching Alvas Powell’s late run up the right side, but Powell didn’t get enough behind the shot as Turner easily gathered the ball.

“There were definitely some nervy moments. I think maybe we didn’t get ourselves used to the pitch enough in warmups. The ball was bouncing, it was spinning. The pitch was a bit uneven and I think they took advantage of that early but we were able to fend them off. Keep it at 0-0 get into halftime. Then over time our our tempo, our fitness just took over and we were able to grab the goal.”

USMNT Goalkeeper Matt Turner

The US were getting balls into the box but kept finding a Jamaican defender on the end of them. They did manage to squeeze in their first shot on goal in the 23rd minute after a ball intended for Daryl Dike was headed wide to the American left. Matthew Hoppe managed to react first to the loose ball, with Andre Blake parrying Hoppe’s half volley for a corner.

Jamaica’s bright start took a couple of knocks towards the half hour mark. Powell had gone down a couple of times, having to be replaced by LA Galaxy’s Oniel Fisher – not exactly a downgrade given how many times both players tormented FC Dallas in their respective Cascadia days. Burke may have been lucky to stay on the field during the stoppage for the substitution after being shown a yellow card for shoving Gianluca Busio. A case could be made for hands to the face and a red card on another night.

Matt Turner has been making a name for himself in New England this season and backed that up with a full-stretch save from a dipping effort by Junior Flemmings. Receiving a pass from Devon Williams, Flemmings was able to hold off a strong challenge from Kellyn Acosta before shooting from around 20 yards out.

The Revs stopper had a slightly easier grab a couple of minutes later in the 41st minute as Reid should have had a near-post tap in after finding space to receive the ball from Kemar Lawrence on the left after a bad giveaway by Busio.

Going into half time, the contest had a similar feel to the Mexico v Trinidad & Tobago game that started the tournament in Arlington. The US should have had a goal or two in them, but Jamaica held firm and created danger on the break. The American midfield simply lacked a playmaker with Kellyn Acosta the most adept to make defense splitting passes, but not from the six role. Gianluca Busio was having trouble putting his stamp on the game, as he lost the ball all too often, and both midfielders ahead of Acosta found their way too far wide to have a real influence in play.

“We definitely had to get the ball wide. We definitely had to drop a little bit deeper, maybe get get a hold of the ball a little bit more. The pitch didn’t help too much, but credit to those guys.”

USMNT Midfiedler Sebastian Lletget on the midfield three moving wider as the game progressed

The second half started on a stronger note for the USMNT. In the opening minute some iffy Jamaican play at the back ended with a Sebastian Lletget shot deflected for a corner. With the ball back in the box, Dike found Hoppe lurking around the back post with a good look on goal that Andre Blake was barely able to hold.

As the game favored the Americans more and more, route one posed the best outcome for Jamaica. Again a long ball out of the back, Burke beat Sands to the header and found the run of Junior Flemmings. The 25-year-old winger raced down the left and into the box but seemed to second guess his chance to shoot, cutting back on to his right foot and giving Miles Robinson time to prevent a shot.

As the hour passed, Berhalter went to two of his tried and trusted MLS vets to change the attack. Cristian Roldan replaced a largely anonymous Paul Arriola on the right wing. Daryl Dike was certainly one of the stronger performing Americans, but Gyasi Zardes is generally a better suited player to the Orlando striker in an almost false-nine role among the effective Jamaican mid block.

“The game plan was to play guys 60-plus minutes, and then bring in guys that we feel are going to help us win the game. We identified a Cristian [Roldan], knowing the position he plays that position for Seattle. He’s higher up in the field on the right hand side. Gyasi [Zardes] goes without saying, he knows what he’s doing as well. They gave us a boost.”

USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter

The two subs combined almost immediately to present Zardes with a shot from outside the area that Blake was able to push wide with some comfort.

Theodore Whitmore was not about to back down from Berhalter’s challenge, making offensive adjustments of his own. Blair Turgott made way for Shamar Nicholson, while Burke stepped aside for a forward making a Premier League return shortly in Andre Gray.

The Hoppe hype train has been making the rounds on social media, and it finally pulled up in Arlington in the 83rd minute, right before the Schalke forward would make his departure from the game. Shaq Moore found Roldan on the right side of the Jamaican box. Roldan floated a cross over, with all the attention paid to Gyasi Zardes only to see Matthew Hoppe slip in behind Oniel Fisher to head in.

Hoppe came out for Nicholas Gioacchini, while Reggie Cannon replaced Shaq Moore.

Jamaica immediately tried to respond with a shot deflected from substitute Shamar Nicholson. Luton Town left back Amari’i Bell, warming up on the sideline, tossed a ball for a quick throw in that led Nicholson to run down to the end line and shoot from a tight angle to force a corner.

Andre Blake tried to turn his goalkeeping heroics into goal scoring from another dead ball situation as the 90 minutes elapsed. A clash of heads left Robinson shaken and Blake bloodied. The Reggae Boyz kept the pressure up but the USMNT held on to maintain a run of 11 consecutive semi-final appearances, this time with Qatar in Austin on Thursday night.

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