It was by far the USA’s best showing in this Gold Cup and they saved it for their best opponent. Costa Rica came in having only allowed 6 shots on frame and one goal scored against them through 4 matches. But the U.S. took it to the front foot and nearly scored in the opening seconds off a wonderful move that saw Jordan Morris clang a shot off the post. From there on the hosts dominated the half, giving the Ticos little time in possession and little space to run into. It was 0-0 at the break and it stayed that way through half of the 2nd half before Jozy Altidore slipped in behind the visitor’s defense to slot his effort past the sprawling keeper and into the bottom corner for his first goal in 10 international appearances dating back to last year. But it was Clint Dempsey’s introduction in the 66th minute that really sparked the team and the crowd cheering on their home-grown kid. Dempsey would reward the fans by cooly finishing a free kick that he bent around the wall and inside the near post to seal the 2-0 victory.
Gameplan and tactics finally right- There was still plenty of tinkering with the starting lineup just as there had been in previous games, but it seemed the team finally gelled with the 11 that were on the field. The communication was much better and the U.S understood exactly how to attack Costa Rica’s weaknesses and they did it with aplomb.
However, midfield play still having issues- individually there was plenty of things to like from each midfielder on the night. But overall, there still needs to be improvements made amongst the four midfielders. It’s hard to develop that relationship when the formation and players keep changing but I felt the midfield still got overrun at times.
Better defensively- While there were still lapses, I felt the defense gelled better than in previous matches in this tournament. There was better communication and Howard and Besler seemed to take control, even with Gonzalez having an off night.
Howard 6- The veteran goalkeeper was alert to toe poke an effort in the first half and later had another big save to preserve the shutout. Had a couple shots flash wide but wasn’t nearly as busy as he may have expected.
Zusi 5- Had a couple crosses float into the box but overall average night for Sporting KC mid converted defender. Tidy in defense but nothing stood out. Had one shot land in Row Z which was his offensive input for the night.
Gonzalez 3- Decent in the first half but fell apart in the second. Had a couple loose passes and committed a few fouls in the second half that saw the ref flash him a yellow. Got turned by Urena in the second and early was far too over eager on passes in his direction and either got beat or committed a foul. Has been very good in this tournament but it wasn’t his night tonight.
Besler 7- On the other hand, Besler had himself a very good night defensively. Saw out a number of dangerous opportunities for the visitors. Did get caught out of position once and also had his very lazy back pass to Howard that lead to a corner for the ticos but besides looked calm and collected with the ball at his feet.
Villafana 5- Saw plenty of the ball on the left side and hit a number of crosses in but they weren’t up to par and never found their targets. Otherwise did well enough defensively though wasn’t called into action too often.
Acosta 5- Had some loose passes through the midfield and looked a bit out of sync with the rest of the team at times. Agreed with Alexi Lalas that Acosta needed to have a big game and he kind of fell flat. Did force a good save out of the Tico keeper in the second half but was in the background for the most part when it came to the offense.
Nagbe 7- Positive game from the Timbers man. Made some darting runs forward and bothered the Costa Rican back line with his speed which won him a couple free kicks. Instinctive in the offense but needs to make his decisions faster as he got his pocket picked a few times. That being said, he’s definitely had a great tournament and deserves a place in the starting XI in the future.
Bradley 6- El Capitano had a tidy night in the midfield. Spread the ball around well and kept things ticking in the middle of the park. Put in a defensive shift with multiple solid tackles. Got turned easily by Ruiz once but besides that played well and didn’t put a foot wrong. Nothing flashy but gets the job done.
Arriola 6- Got plenty of touches on the night and while his final pass was a bit array, he put in a very strong defensive shift showing off his tenacity and strength to win a few balls back. Linked up well with Morris up top and was the first to be hauled off in the second half.
Morris 5- Nearly started off the game wonderfully as he smashed an effort off the right goal post and was very active early on making a number of great runs in and around the box. But he faded as the game went letting the ref and the pity-pat fouls get to him. off post, very active so far, commits foul though fairly soft, good play to start break, good strength but then giveaway, great run,
Altidore 7- The bulky striker finally had a good showing in a USMNT jersey which we haven’t seen much lately. Put in a good shift up front showing off his strength and linked up well with his fellow striker partner Morris. Forced a solid save early in the second half before finishing off a lovely pass to put the U.S in front.
Arena 7- Subs worked out, especially Dempsey who he brought on at the perfect time and I thought the 4-4-2 formation worked wonderfully. Had a game plan to attack Costa Rica and it worked wonderfully. Now it’s on to the final.
Dempsey 8- Despite being on the pitch less than half an hour he’s my MOTM. Immediately made an impact and slipped in Altidore after being on the pitch for only 6 minutes to get the U.S. goal-scoring going and had a lovely lay-off to Acosta just prior for the midfielder to unleash a shot. 10 minutes he would draw level with Landon Donovan as the USMNT’s all time leading goal-scorer with a lovely low free kick that was bent perfectly around the wall and into the near post corner.
Zardes 5- Came on for the gassed Arriola to close up shop.
McCarty NR- Also on to shore up defensively in the midfield with 5 minutes to go.
It’s on to the Gold Cup final on Wednesday where the USA will face the winner of Mexico vs Jamaica.