US Mens Soccer Breeze Past Reggae Boyz

With their most inspired effort of the Gold Cup, by far, the United States Mens National Soccer team knocked off the best opponent they have played so far, and did so in the easiest fashion.  Much was made about Jamaica’s extreme speed and athleticism vs. a US team that often lacks those characteristics.  Jamaica breezed through group stage winning all three matches very easily and not allowing a goal.  The US on the otherhand struggled through group play, getting out as the second team in the group.  But the roles were reversed Sunday at RFK Stadium in Washington DC.

Clint Dempsey's emotions poured over after finally scoring vs. Jamaica

The US dominated possession during the game, allowing very few good looks for the Raggae Boyz.  However, as per the usual, the US gave up a great look early, when time Howard made a great save with no defender even close to a wide open Jamaican.  The ball bounced right to his teammate Shelton, who promptly sent it over the bar.  That would be Jamaica’s last real chance.  The midfield dominated a game which saw Jozy Altidore go down to injury, he’s questionable for Wednesday’s match vs. Panama.  Landon Donovan also didn’t sub in until late as his flight in was delayed, and arrived in DC at 7am.

Jermaine Jones started off the scoring in the 49th minute for the US when his wicked shot from just outside the box was deflected off a Jamaican leg and into the net.  Jones gave a salute to his dad, who is in the military.  Then, in the 80th minute Dempsey found a great cross from Agudelo, and unlike the seemingly hundreds of missed opportunities by Dempsey in the tournament so far, he made this one count. The US would go on to win 2-0 after a dominating performace.
Lets take a look how our other elimination games went:

Mexico vs. Guatemala: Prediction 3-0 Mexico , ACTUAL 2-1 Mexico

What a difference a few days makes.  Saturday it was can the US even make it to the round of four, and how much is Mexico going to blow by everyone in this tournament.  Guatemala got the first goal and went up 1-0 at half.  They sat back and hoped to play enough D.  However, it wasn’t as Mexico got two late goals, and  Guatemala was never able to find an equalizer.
Honduras vs. Costa Rica: Prediction 2-1 Costa Rica (ET), ACTUAL 1-1 Honduras (PK)
These two sides are as evenly matched as it gets, and they played that way.  Honduras scored early, Costa Rica later.  Extra time was not enough to decide it, and ultimately PKs would kill Costa Rica, who missed one to go ahead in regulation, then missed 2 of their first 3 in the shootout.
Panama vs. El Salvador: Prediction 2-0 Panama, ACTUAL 1-1 Panama (PK)
Panama is the better squad, but El Salvador had so many fans it was a virtual home game.  El Salvador got the early lead, and it looked like it was going to stick.  Until an 89th minute goal from the cardiac kids, their second straight game with a tying goal past the 88th minute.  Panama would go on to win in the shootout.
USA vs. Jamaica: Prediction 2-1 USA, ACTUAL 2-0 USA
The US had a dominating effort which could have very easily been 3-0 or 4-0, which restored some faith that the US  can continue to be a top dog in CONCACAF.  And they’re lined up for exactly what they wanted, a rematch with Panama.
Panama Preview
These squads will play for a second time in a week in a half, after Panama stunned the US earlier.  But here’s the kicker.  Had the US beaten Panama in the first place, the two teams could very likely still be meeting here under the same circumstances.
You would like to think the US wouldn’t surrender another PK, especialy so far away from the goal in this match, especially since Tim Ream likely won’t see the field.  Panama is still dangerous, but will be without starting forward Blaz Perez who got in a ridiculous unneeded skirmish vs. El Salvador to draw a red card.  The US also has seemed to figure the backline out, with Lichaj playing very well at LB and Bocanegra looking better at CB.  The US also should have a rested Landon Donovan, who has played just 20 minutes of soccer in 8 days.  Here are the projected lineups, Panama courtesy of http://theshinguardian.com

For the US, my guess is as good as any.  I’m going to assume Altidore is either a no go, or atleast a no-start after what appeared to be a pulled hamstring vs. Jamaica.  I can’t see Bob wanting to go with Agudelo and Wondolowski both up top given their inexperience.  Bedoya has played nicely, so put him in Dempsey’s spot and move Dempsey to forward.  If this formation is used though, it’s likely Dempsey will be a Forward/Midfield hybrid, looking to get more touches, something that worked so well vs. Jamaica.  For Panama, it looks like an all star short stop duo from 2004 up front, but I can assure you their MLB counterparts are better.  Tejada is dangerous, but the US will be ready for him this time.  Boca won’t make the silly mistakes Ream did defensively either.  Baloy is a solid defender for Panama who caused some havoc in the US’s first game.  The US is ready for this one though, and playing much better.  Panama barely beat an El Salvador team which is average at best.  The United States comes out guns a blazing, and wins 2-0.
Mexico vs. Honduras
Honduras has a very real chance of being dangerous here.  They’re good at bunkering down, and playing for low scores and defense.  Their best chance at winning is likely to play for a 0-0 or 1-1 draw and win in PKs.  If they try to run up and down the field with the Mexican’s Mexico could put up a 5 spot.  They’re that dangerous if your gameplan is bad.  I’ll take Mexico 1-0 over Honduras, meeting the US in the finals.
We’ll report back after Wednesday’s games.  You can catch the US at 7pm on Fox Soccer Channel or click here where the announcers, despite being Hispanic are actually better.

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