Final Focus: Philadelphia Union, Sporting Kansas City Put Everything on the Line for Open Cup Championship
In just his second year as a head coach in Major League Soccer, Philadelphia Union boss Jim Curtin has looked to others for an example of how to be successful in his newfound profession. Chief among them seems to be his opposite number in Wednesday’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes.
“As a young coach myself, I aspire to be like [Peter] and to build something like he’s done in Kansas City,” Curtin told reporters on Monday.
The reason for Curtin’s admiration of Vermes’ work with Sporting KC is clear to see. Wednesday’s Final is the Kansas club’s third championship match in four seasons under the former U.S. international and in the previous two – the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final and 2013 MLS Cup – SKC lifted two trophies. In that same span, only two MLS managers – Seattle Sounders FC’s Sigi Schmid (64) and LA Galaxy’s Bruce Arena (62) – have won more MLS Regular Season games than the man coming up on the end of his seventh season in charge in Kansas City.
And just as much as the last four seasons have brought loads of wins and good times to the City of Fountains, perhaps the thing Curtin can look most to Vermes for is the fact that it took him some time to get the club to this point. Originally the Technical Director for the Kansas City Wizards, Vermes moved downstairs to take over as interim head coach midway through 2009. The rest of that season and the following year were rough campaigns where little success was had, but it did allow Vermes time to build a system around a core of young talent like Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza and Chance Myers, which forms the base of his roster today.
Equipped with a young squad of his own since taking over last season on a similar interim basis, with two U.S. Open Cup Final appearances in two seasons, at least in some ways, Curtin might have the edge on Vermes when comparing their opening tenures at their respective clubs. Whatever the case, Vermes approves of Curtin’s job thus far.
“I know Jim from when we played against each other in the league and obviously he was a very smart player on the field and I think he’s taken the same way in his coaching,” Vermes said of his opposite number. “…those guys, him and Mike Sorber, I know their staff pretty well, they have done a very good job there. Like all our clubs, it takes time to build and they’ve put themselves in a good position.”
Balancing Competitions and Lineups
While Sporting is still in the midst of a down-to-the-wire MLS Cup playoff battle, the Union’s chance at a postseason berth took a significant blow after playing to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night at the New England Revolution. Despite the likely need to take maximum points from the team’s remaining matches, Curtin rested a number of regular players in the match, taking into account a number of factors, including the turf at Gillette Stadium, a shorter field and players in different form.
“There was a lot of discussion and thinking of being fresh for the final – we did have an eye on Wednesday obviously,” Curtin said.
Of course, even a win in New England would still have only brought the Union within six points of the last Eastern Conference playoff spot, so prioritizing the U.S. Open Cup Final – back at PPL Park for a second straight year – made sense. So despite the fact the Union will likely miss the postseason, if they win the Final, Curtin says he’ll consider the season a success.
“Yes. I can confidently say ‘Yes.’ No one in our technical staff or player side is happy with how the regular season went for us. At the same time, we’ve taken this competition seriously. If we do lift our first trophy and bring that to the organization and all that entails in terms of monetary confidence, the experience of playing big games in the Champions League, there’s no way you can’t deem it a success.”
With one day’s less rest, Vermes took a similar approach to Sunday’s home match against Seattle. While a win would have seen his side jump over Sounders FC into third in the Western Conference, Vermes rested Besler, Zusi, and a handful of others. He played U.S. Open Cup Golden Boot leader and team leading scorer Dom Dwyer for the final 16 minutes, of which he only needed five to find the equalizer.
“I think it was much needed,” Besler told reporters on Monday. “One of the things to think about is that it wasn’t necessarily about the rest, it was more about us getting into a rhythm of a normal week. We’ve approached [the Final] how we’ve been approaching it all season long. We’ve had a full week of training, we’ve been doing exactly what we typically do – how we approach training and getting a day off in the middle of the week. It’s basically just what the guys are used to and how we’ve been doing it all season long. The guys will definitely be comfortable in that and we’ll be ready to play.”
Philadelphia Union midfielder Danny Cruz evades a quartet of Sporting KC defenders what the clubs last met in the U.S. Open Cup during the 2012 Semifinals.
The one player on either team that needed the weekend rest the most was Union captain Maurice Edu. Diagnosed with a partially torn left groin in early August, Edu bravely returned to the lineup to play 90 minutes in the side’s 1-0 Semifinal victory against the Chicago Fire on Aug. 12.
“I thought there was no chance I was going to be able to play against Chicago in the semis,” Edu told ussoccer.com, “but it’s a credit to the staff we have here that I was able to get through it. After going through that whole rehab and strengthening process, when the day of the game came, there was no point in thinking about it too much. I was focusing on the fact that I was in the lineup, I was on the pitch, I have to try and get by with it as much as possible.”
The plan worked, but Edu was back on the shelf for the next month before seeing his first action since the Semifinal in the Union’s 2-0 win at Houston on Sept. 20.
“I’m still fighting through the injury,” he continued. “I still have pain and I’m still sore, but I’m doing what I can to try and manage it and make sure I’m in the best place possible for my body to be prepared for the game on Wednesday. This is the biggest game of the year for our club and I’m doing what I can to make sure I’m able to play in that game.”
While Curtin has a decision on whether or not to play his captain in Wednesday’s Final, he’ll also have to decide who to start in goal for the match. A replacement goalkeeper being cup-tied, freak injuries and a dismissal from the team have all played a part in second-year pro John McCarthy being the Union’s starter throughout the team’s four-match U.S. Open Cup run this year.
In that role, McCarthy has at times been stellar, most notably saving four penalties over two shootout wins against the Rochester Rhinos and New York Red Bulls in Fourth Round and Quarterfinals, respectively. The twist comes with the fact that both he and Jamaican international Andre Blake – now returned from a torn right meniscus – have evenly split the Union’s goalkeeping duties in league play since the Open Cup Semifinal.
“It’s a huge decision, it’s one I’ll have to make,” said Curtin. “We gave John and Andre, if you’ve noticed in the past, six games or so, they’ve gotten an equal share, with Andre if you add up his Jamaica games in there. We wanted to get a fair look at both of them. It’s a good situation because both of them have played well.
Hailing back to his own playing career, Curtin recalled his run with the Chicago Fire to the 2006 U.S. Open Cup Final. On the way, he played every minute of the team’s first three matches, before coming on as a stoppage time substitute in the club’s 3-1 win against the LA Galaxy.
“Coaches make decisions to win games and you have one opportunity to win a Final,” he said of his 2006 experience. “We’ll field our top team, we’ll field our best XI guys and the guys we believe can go out there and do a job. Everything during the buildup happens for a reason. Everybody plays a role in terms of getting you to the Final and from there you have to select the best team that will give you a chance to win.”
What it Would Mean?
While a Sporting Kansas City victory on Wednesday night would give the club a rare third trophy in four seasons, Vermes and said his side is approaching the Final the same as every other game this season.
“Obviously it would be an accomplishment, but I guess from our perspective, we’re not thinking of it that way,” the Sporting KC manager said. “We’re just thinking of it as the competition that’s in front of us and the opportunity that’s in front of us. Obviously being able to win another U.S. Open Cup would be fantastic for the team, the club and the fans. That’s the focus.”
And the Champions League berth that’s on the line? That’s not much on their minds either.
“Winning a championship is something that can never be taken away from you and will always bring a group together, no matter how many years have passed,” said Besler. “That’s really what’s at the front of our minds, trying to win a championship and bringing another trophy back to Kansas City. All the other stuff that goes along with it, with the Champions League berth, those are all added bonuses, but honestly right now there hasn’t been a whole lot of thought about that stuff.”
Sporting KC midfielder Graham Zusi prepares to bring the ball down in his teams' 2-0 U.S. Open Cup Semifinal win against Philadelphia in 2012.
On the flip side for the Union, the stakes on Wednesday are two-fold. First is getting redemption for last year’s Final defeat to Seattle.
“The hardest part for us was seeing another team lifting a trophy, parading around on your field in front of your fans,” said Edu. “You obviously have to learn from last year’s game. You have to take what comes from losing in a cup final and I think that’s helped us. Obviously it motivated us to get back to that stage again and hopefully this time we’ve learned something from that.”
“Any good team I’ve been on has gone through one of those difficult moments before they lift a trophy,” added Curtin. “The focus this year has been dialed in on getting back, and now that we’re back, the guys know what they need to do.”
The second is to bring home the club’s first trophy and do it in front of the home crowd that missed out on the celebration in 2014.
“We want to give our fans something to celebrate and be proud of,” said Edu. “We have unbelievable fans, through the ups and downs of the past couple years, they’ve stuck by us, made these long, crazy road trips for us and they’ve always been there in full support. To reward them and show them their support isn’t going unrecognized. To give them a trophy would be an unbelievable way to show them how much we appreciate them.”
Ahead of the 2015 U.S. Open Cup Final between the Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania, head coaches Jim Curtain (Philadelphia) and Peter Vermes (Sporting KC) as well as players Sebastian LeToux (Philadelphia) and Matt Besler (Sporting KC) spoke about the respective teams and Wednesday's championship match.
Philadelphia Union head coach JIM CURTIN
His thoughts on Wednesday’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final:
“First off, congratulations to Sporting Kansas City, a very good team in our league, a team that has a proud history of winning trophies, a head coach in Peter Vermes that, as a young coach myself, I aspire to be like and to build something like he’s done in Kansas City. We had some heartbreak in this competition last year after the game against Seattle where we came inches away from winning—a ball off the post in the 90th minute. We talked about getting back to the Final and it’s very easy to talk about things, it’s a whole other thing to actually do it. From that standpoint I’m very proud of my guys. We obviously have one more game that we need to win to achieve our goal. There’s only two trophies in this country that you can lift – the MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. It’s a competition I take very seriously from when I was a player in Chicago and have passed that on to the guys here in Philadelphia. We’re very focused, ready to go, excited for the match. It’ll be a great game at PPL Park. It looks like the weather will hopefully be agreeable. There may be some rain in the forecast, but as a team we will do everything we can to give our city, the Sons of Ben and our fans their first trophy.”
On the decision to rest players in Saturday’s MLS match at New England Revolution:
“It was a decision we weighed all the variables with: the turf in New England, the fact that this was on a shortened field due to a concert that was taking place in New England, and different guys in different modes of fitness and form coming off of injury. We played a lineup that I still believed could go out and get a result, and to their credit they did that. They got a point against what I consider the top team in the Eastern Conference in New England. The message to the group was that we’re a team. No matter who goes on the field, we believe we can get a result and our guys did that. There was a lot of discussion and thinking of being fresh for the final. We did have an eye on Wednesday obviously. A lot of the guys that were on the field against New England have played in 10-plus starts in MLS. They’re all guys that have been in big games in MLS and we were happy with the group we put out there. We were almost able to steal the game at the end, but again, we got a point and kept what are small playoff hopes alive and also got guys 45 minutes that’ll likely be starting on Wednesday. They got it out of it healthy, which was key. I learned a lot about our group. There will be decisions that will need to be made for next year, and a lot of them gave a very strong showing of themselves against New England. Like I said, we’re a team, we’re always constantly evaluating and testing ourselves. Now we’ve gotten through that game with a draw, which is good, and the full focus the second that game ended was to look towards Kansas City and Wednesday night. We even brought our entire group out to New England and had some fitness exercises after the game on New England’s turf. They were gracious enough to let us run a small training session afterwards. The focus literally after that final whistle blew was shifted towards Kansas City.”
On the difficulty of picking his starting goalkeeper for the Final:
“It’s a huge decision. It’s one I’ll have to make. We gave John and Andre, if you’ve noticed in the past, six games or so. They’ve gotten an equal share, with Andre if you add up his Jamaica games in there. We wanted to get a fair look at both of them. It’s a good situation because both of them have played well; John recently in Houston and gets a shutout, and Andre played what was a pretty darn impressive performance against New England. There’s a big decision to make there and I’m confident that both of them can get us a win, whichever one I decide. Like I said, we are a team. Everybody plays a role in getting us to the final. The team we put on the field will be our best XI that we have on our team for that day to win a game. The same thing goes for picking your seven reserves -- also a difficult task that Peter will have to do as well – weighing all the variables, the fact that only five internationals can play, those things come up. We’ll pick an 18 that can get a win on Wednesday night.”
On comparing the 2014 Final to the 2015 Final:
“Last year I think we surprised people by getting there. I think there was a little bit of a ‘happy to be there’ mindset against Seattle, which was a pretty darn good team when you look back at the group they had. We gave an admirable performance on the day but came up a little bit short. Any good team I’ve been on has gone through one of those difficult moments before they lift a trophy. The focus this year has been dialed in on getting back, and now that we’re back the guys know what they need to do. We’ve had a ‘do your job’ approach in this competition. We’ve had some crazy games – the Rochester PKs, the short-handed for 60 minutes and down a goal against D.C., to down a man for about 80 minutes against New York and hanging on for penalty kicks – we’ve been through a heck of a lot this year and the next step is winning the Final.”
On his thoughts about Sporting KC’s team:
“Benny Feilhaber is an MVP candidate for a reason this year. He’s a guy I respect a great deal – he can make a final pass, can score a goal – he’s a difference maker. Right up the middle of the field – Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber, the underrated Paulo Nagamura, who’s just a winner, Mustivar has an element in there and then Besler at the back. Right up the spine they’re very strong. They’re a good team.You know how they’re going to line up. You know what a Kansas City team looks like. They’re going to fight and claw and scratch for everything. Peter Vermes won’t allow anything less than that. They’re very disciplined and it’ll be a very difficult challenge Wednesday, but one we’ll be up for.”
On if winning Wednesday’s Final would make the 2015 season a successful one for the Philadelphia Union:
“Yes. I can confidently say yes. No one in our technical staff or player side is happy with how the regular season went for us. At the same time, we’ve taken this competition seriously. If we do lift our first trophy and bring that to the organization and all that entails, there’s no way you can’t deem it a success. Yes there are still things we know we have to fix and work and improve on, but things are in motion. We are getting better. We’re a young group that’s improving. Things are happening off the field as well that are drastically improving the club, and we’re not as far off as it might look in the standings this year. I think we can make a few adjustments in the offseason and be right up there, but to win a trophy in a year, you can’t deem that year not successful. It’s not possible.”
On his memories of lifting the Dewar Cup with the Chicago Fire in 2003 and 2006:
“I remember the top was removable, so that spent a lot of time on top of people’s heads and a lot of adult beverages were being consumed. I have good memories from that. Again, there’s only two trophies in this country that truly matter: MLS Cup and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. It’s special anytime you can raise it, especially in front of your home fans is always a little more special and we have that opportunity here in Philly. In Chicago, those were some good teams. The 2006 Final was a good game, a 3-1 game where we held on and got that final goal late. There’s no better feeling than lifting a trophy with a bunch of guys. You can’t really explain it, you can’t describe it. I can’t put words to it, I just know that it’s forever. It’s permanent, and the bond you have between guys that do it, when you look across the room at them, you know you’ve accomplished something special and it lasts forever. That 2006 team was by far not even close to the best team I played on, but we won a trophy together, so you’re still tight with all those guys. I’d say the same thing about 2003. We had a very, very good team, but 2001 was easily the best team in Chicago I played with, but the bond isn’t as tight with that group as it is with 2003 and 2006. It sounds cliché, but winning a trophy together bonds guys for the rest of your life.”
On the last time a goalkeeper that won the Final played in all of a team’s U.S. Open Cup matches being Chicago Fire goalkeeper Matt Pickens in 2006:
“The competition as it moves on further and further, some teams use it for different reasons. Some use it for young players, some use it to experiment and tinker. I always use it for my best XI and that’s what we’ll do in this competition. Matt Pickens obviously had a great run for us in that tournament. I’d also comment that I started and played in the games that got us there and in then in the Final I came off the bench. Coaches make decisions to win games, and you have one opportunity to win a final. We’ll field our top team. We’ll field our best XI guys and the guys we believe can go out there and do a job. Everything during the buildup happens for a reason. Everybody plays a role in terms of getting you to the Final, and from there you have to select the best team that will give you a chance to win.”
Philadelphia Union forward SEBASTIEN LE TOUX
On what would it mean for the players to lift the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup:
“Last year we missed it in the final. We’re all very motivated to bring a trophy to this franchise. It’s a moment for us to mark the history for this team and it’s what we want to do. We’re going to do everything we can to make it happen. We now have Kansas City in front of us. We respect them, but we know we can win.”
On the team’s mentality for this year’s Final after losing in the 2014 Final:
“Last year is extra motivation. I remember when I was in Seattle we lost twice in the Semifinal with the USL team and the next year with just a few of the guys from the USL we win the Final. It was extra motivation. We didn’t want to have this trophy going away from us for a third time. With this team we talk a lot between us that we have to do everything we can to get the trophy. Last year was a pretty hard moment for all of us because we wanted to have the trophy for our fans, and now we have a second chance at it. When life gives you a second chance, you need to give everything and I hope that’s what we do on Wednesday.”
Sporting Kansas City head coach PETER VERMES:
On his thoughts ahead of Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup Final:
“I think this is a competition we were obviously very interested in getting to the Final and hopefully, possibly winning at the end. The guys have obviously taken it very seriously like I think every team does in the league, and we’re looking for an exciting game. We understand that we’re going into the lion’s den in Philadelphia. It’s not going to be easy. Playing finals away from home are difficult, so that’s a tough one. We realize it’s going to be difficult, but at the same time we’re up for the challenge.”
On the potential for his team to win a third trophy in four years:
“Obviously it would be an accomplishment, but I guess from our perspective we’re nothing thinking of it that way. We’re just thinking of it as the competition that’s in front of us and the opportunity that’s in front of us. Obviously being able to win another U.S. Open Cup would be fantastic for the team, the club and the fans. That’s the focus.”
On how Sporting Kansas City prepares for road games in MLS will prepare them for the U.S. Open Cup Final in Philadelphia:
“We’re still trying to work on our game plan at the moment, so I don’t know what we’re going to do. I think in this league one of the things you have to be able to do is play away from home. Being the fact that the game is being played this late in the season, I think both teams have a pretty good understanding of how each team plays, so I don’t think there’s too many surprises that can be brought out by either team. We understand the environment we’re going into, we understand we’re away from home, we understand there’s a lot of things in their favor. We have to be smart around that, but at the same time you also know it’s not easy to win a Final at home because of the expectation you’re in front your own crowd and everything else. That’s a big part of this, and so you just understand it’s going to be a big game.”
On Jim Curtin saying he looks to what he’s done in Kansas City as a model for what he’s working towards in Philadelphia:
“I’ve had a chance to talk to Jim after a couple games and at the combine and stuff. I know Jim from when we played against each other in the league and obviously he was a very smart player on the field and I think he’s taken the same way in his coaching. That’s a very nice compliment. , and at the same time I know their staff pretty well and they’ve done a very good job there. Like all our clubs, it takes time to build and they’ve put themselves in a good position. They were in this position last year as well and here they are in the same position. They can look right at home and feel very comfortable that they’ve done a very good job thus far and that they’re building something special there. They can be very proud of that.”
On going up against former Sporting Kansas City forward C.J. Sapong:
“The first thing is that C.J. has been a big part of this club in the past. He’s a great guy and we all still have a great relationship with him, and there’s no doubt that all of us are happy for him and how this year has progressed. He’s gotten better as the year’s gone on. From that perspective I think all of us are very happy for him - we just don’t want him to be good in this game. Outside of that, everything else is great. He’s a great guy, he’s been a big part of our history and a tremendous person. There’s not a lot that all of us don’t know about each other. There really won’t be any surprises, even from him as well, even though he was here and a part of our club. At the same time, he’s there now and we’re here. It’s a different world. You’ve got to get ready for it on our side and I’m sure he does as well.”
Sporting Kansas City captain MATT BESLER
On what it would mean for Sporting Kansas City to lift the U.S. Open Cup trophy on Wednesday night:
“Like Peter said, we put a lot of emphasis on this tournament at the beginning of the season. We wanted to put ourselves in the position we’re in right now, with the opportunity to win a trophy. That’s what we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season and we have that opportunity in front of us on Wednesday night. I know the players are looking forward to it. We also understand it’s going to be a difficult task because Philly is playing very well right now. They’re playing at home, they’re going to drive the game at us and it’s something we’re going to have to be ready for.”
On the strong relationship between the club and supporters:
“That relationship is special and it means a lot to us as players because we feel like it doesn’t happen like that at every club. We’re all fortunate that it does at Sporting Kansas City. We all feel the effects of it. When we go on the road and see so many traveling supporters, it does have an effect on how we play and gives us an extra boost. We can feel the support of our fans no matter where we play. There’s been a buildup to this game and we hear there’s going to be traveling fans as well and we want to make sure that we do everything we can to win the Cup for us, for the club and the fans.”
On Sporting Kansas City resting starters in Sunday’s game against Seattle Sounders FC:
“I think it was much needed. One of the things to think about is that it wasn’t necessarily about the rest, it was more about us getting into a rhythm of a normal week. We’ve approached it how we’ve been approaching it all season long. We’ve had a full week of training, we’ve been doing exactly what we typically do – how we approach training and getting a day off in the middle of the week. It’s basically just what the guys are used to and how we’ve been doing it all season long. The guys will definitely be comfortable in that and we’ll be ready to play.”
On what the prospect of a CONCACAF Champions League berth means:
“I think right now with where we’re at with our team, certainly everybody understands that a Champions League berth is at stake. However, right now we really just want to win a trophy. Winning a championship is something that can never be taken away from you and will always bring a group together, no matter how many years have passed. That’s really what’s at the front of our minds, trying to win a championship and bringing another trophy back to Kansas City. All the other stuff that goes along with it, with the Champions League berth, those are all added bonuses, but honestly right now there hasn’t been a whole lot of thought about that stuff.”
On going against former Sporting Kansas City forward C.J. Sapong:
“We have a lot of respect for C.J. and we really enjoyed having him on our team the last couple seasons. Like Peter said, we were happy to see how successful his season has gone. We understand he’s playing with a lot of confidence and he’s definitely a handful up top. We’re going to have to really be locked in to get a result against him. There definitely will be some focus around him, but at the same time there will be focus around all their other players. It’s not just C.J. – it is Sebastien Le Toux and Tranquillo Barnetta on the other side. They have a lot of weapons that can hurt you so we’re going to have to be ready for everything.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 4, 2015) – Led by a pair of goals from the night’s captain Jozy Altidore, the U.S. Men’s National Team defeated Peru 2-1 in front of a crowd of 28,896 at RFK Stadium.
Trailing 1-0 after the first half, the U.S. came out strong on the attack in the second. After a series of chances Altidore earned a terrific equalizing opportunity when he was tripped up in the box. The captain stepped up to take the PK, and while his shot was blocked, Altidore collected and buried the rebound. Nine minutes later, and after a brilliant series of saves by goalkeeper Brad Guzan that kept the game level, Altidore broke the tie with another goal that proved to be the game-winner.
As the clock ticked away, the MNT defense stood stout against the Peru attack to preserve the 2-1 score line through to the final whistle. With the victory the USA improved to 3-2-1 all-time against Peru.
The match was the first of two tune-up games for the MNT ahead of the CONCACAF Cup against Mexico on Oct. 10. The USA will be back on the field in four days when it takes on five-time World Cup champion Brazil at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Goal Scoring Rundown:
PER– Daniel Chavez (Andre Carrillo) 20th minute: Andre Carrillo pushed towards the USA box, before he suddenly turned on the jets and cut inside, centering the ball in to Daniel Chavez. Chavez was able to turn and from just outside the box took a shot that glanced off MNT defender Omar Gonzalez. The deflection spun wickedly and dipped just over U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan’s outstretched arm and into the goal. USA 0, PER 1
USA– Jozy Altidore (penalty kick) 59th minute: Geoff Cameron made a long throw-in to the box where Jozy Altidore backed down his defender and flicked the ball over the top. As he muscled past his defender, Altidore’s trailing leg was clipped, setting up the penalty. Altidore took the PK and blasted it to the right, where the Peru ‘keeper made a diving block. Altidore followed his shot and jumped to kick in the rebound to level the game. USA 1, PER 1
USA– Jozy Altidore (Gyasi Zardes) 68th minute: DeAndre Yedlin rocketed down the right hand side to catch up with a long through ball. The fleetfooted attacker evaded his marker and squared the ball in the Peru box for an arriving Altidore, who was beaten to it by a defender. However, the ball ended up at the feet of Gyasi Zardes on the opposite side of the pitch. Zardes cut in and powered a low cross through the six yard box. A deflection through the legs of a Peru defenseman saw the ball find an unmarked Altidore, who volleyed home the game winner. USA 2, PER 1 FINAL (SEE GOAL)
Key Saves and Defensive Stops:
PER– Diego Penny (save) 39th minute: Jermaine Jones broke for the USA’s first big chance of the game. He dribbled from midfield aggressively to the left, shielding off his defender with his right arm. From 25 yards out, he blasted a left-footed shot that brought back memories of his goal against Portugal in the 2014 World Cup. Unfortunately, for Jones and the U.S., Peru’s ‘keeper Diego Penny reached it, coming out to cut down the angle and narrowly tip the strike over the bar.
USA- Brad Guzan (save) 67th minute: A well bent free kick found a jumping Carlos Zambrono, who sent a sharp header at goal that was saved by a diving Guzan. The ball bounced off the ‘keepers hands and to the crashing Renato Tapia, who’s shot was saved again by Guzan as he trapped it tightly between his outstretched legs. (SEE SAVE)
Coming up Next: #USAvBRA
Location: Gillette Stadium – Foxborough, Mass.
Date: September 8, 2015
- Jozy Altidore scored the 28th and 29th goals of his career. It was Altidore’s first multi-goal game since he tallied a double in the MNT’s match against Nigeria in the USA’s 2014 Send-Off Series. Altidore is now one goal behind Brain McBride (30), who ranks fourth on the MNT’s all-time goal-scoring list.
- Jermaine Jones returned to the USA starting lineup for the first time since Feb. 8 when he played as a center back in a 2-0 win against Panama at StubHub Center.
- Jozy Altidore made the start as the team’s captain. It was his first time wearing the armband since he captained the squad on Nov. 18, 2014, when the team dropped a 4-1 result to Ireland in Dublin. The MNT is now 3-1-0 when Altidore wears the captain’s arm band.
- Geoff Cameron came on at the start of the second half, earning his first cap of 2015 with his first appearance since the USA’s match against Ireland on Nov. 14, 2014.
- Matt Besler, who came on as a sub in the second half , made his first USMNT appearance since Feb. 8 when he helped the team to a 2-0 win against Panama at StubHub Center.
- Omar Gonzalez and John Brooks paired in central defense for the third time in 2015. In the three matches the duo has started in the center of the defense together, the MNT has allowed only two goals while scoring seven.
- Bobby Wood made just his second international start of his career in tonight’s game. His first came against Chile in the MNT’s opening match of 2015.
- Gyasi Zardes and DeAndre Yedlin each made their 14th appearances of the year in tonight’s match. That total ties the young attacking pair with Michael Bradley for the most MNT caps so far in 2015.
- The U.S. now holds a 3-2-1 record all-time against Peru.
- This matchup was the first between the teams in more than 15 years. The U.S. defeated Peru 1-0 in Miami in the group stage of the 2000 Gold Cup, with Cobi Jones scoring the game-winner in the previous matchup.
- U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report –
Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Peru
Date: Sept. 4, 2015
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: RFK Stadium; Washington, D.C.
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Weather: 83 degrees; Mostly cloudy, humid
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 2 2
PER 1 0 1
PER – Daniel Chávez (Andre Carrillo) 20th minute
USA – Jozy Altidore 59
USA – Jozy Altidore (Gyasi Zardes) 68
USA: 1-Brad Guzan; 15-Michael Orozco (20-Geoff Cameron, 46), 3-Omar Gonzalez (19-Ventura Alvarado, 46), 6-John Brooks (5-Matt Besler, 63), 23-Tim Ream; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 13-Jermaine Jones (14-Danny Williams, 72), 11-Alejandro Bedoya (10-Mix Diskerud, 46), 21-Gyasi Zardes; 17-Jozy Altidore (capt.), 18-Bobby Wood (9-Aron Johannsson, 71)
Subs Not Used: 7-Alfredo Morales, 12-Tim Howard, 24-Joe Corona, 26-Andrew Wooten
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
PER: 1-Pedro Gallese; 5-Carlos Zambrano, 6-Juan Manuel Vargas, 8-Christian Cueva (13-Edison Flores, 82), 10-Jefferson Farfan, 16-Carlos Lobaton (capt.) (19-Victor Yotun, 72), 17-Luis Advincula, 18-Andre Carrillo (7-Paolo Hurtado, 64), 21-Josepmir Ballon (24-Renato Tapia, 64), 22-Carlos Ascues, 23-Daniel Chavez (14-Ivan Bulos Guerrero, 82)
Subs Not Used: 2-Jair Cespedes, 3-Hansell Riojas, 4-Pedro Requena, 9-Jose Paolo Guerrero, 12-Diego Penny, 15-Christian Ramos, 20-Joel Sanchez
Head coach: Ricardo Gareca
Stats Summary: USA / PER
Shots: 16 / 15
Shots on Goal: 7 / 4
Saves: 3 / 3
Corner Kicks: 6 / 6
Fouls: 11 / 13
Offside: 1 / 1
USA – John Brooks (caution) 48th minute
USA – Jozy Altidore (caution) 86
Referee: Francisco Chacon (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Miguel Angel Hernandez (MEX)
Assistant Referee 2: Juan Rangel (MEX)
4th Official: Fernando Guerrero (MEX)
Budweiser Man of the Match: TBD
As the U.S. Men’s National Team ramps up its final preparations for next month’s CONCACAF Cup playoff with Mexico, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has brought several veteran faces back into the fold to compete for spots in October’s playoff.
Three of the players that return to the mix are midfielder Jermaine Jones, defender Matt Besler and goalkeeper Tim Howard – a trio that played nearly every minute of every match at last summer’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil. All recently absent from the team for different reasons, the three returned to MNT camp this week with joy at seeing teammates again and anticipation for the task ahead.
“It’s always nice to be back with the boys,” Jones told ussoccer.com Monday. “I think every player is happy to represent his country and I always want to play.”
Set to join the National Team for June’s friendlies against the Netherlands and Germany, Jones suffered a groin injury in his last match with the New England Revolution prior to leaving for the games. The injury required surgery, which subsequently kept him from last month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
While he got to see his teammates when they came to Boston for their second group match against Haiti, all he could do was watch. In the end, he felt the same disappointment as his teammates on the field when the U.S. fell 2-1 to Jamaica in the tournament semifinals, setting up October’s showdown with Mexico.
“It’s always bad if you have to fix an injury and be out because of it,” he said. “I was sad to sit upstairs and not play and watch on TV. I think the whole team isn’t happy with the result at the Gold Cup, but we have a chance on October 10 where we can fix it. This is the goal, and now we have two games with Brazil and Peru. I think we see them differently than other friendlies.”
Having first returned with New England a month ago, Jones has gradually built up his fitness, playing the first hour of the Revolution’s 1-0 win against the Philadelphia Union over the weekend.
“I try to get my fitness back,” he added. “I got 60 minutes with my club team now. It’s good to get a little bit harder training and get some good balance. I want to get my body to 100 percent as quick as possible.”
A commanding, intelligent center back, Besler broke into the U.S. MNT in 2013 after four impressive seasons in MLS with his hometown club Sporting Kansas City. After a good showing at the team’s January Camp in Houston, U.S. MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann handed Besler his first cap in a friendly against Canada. The 2012 MLS Defender of the Year then distinguished himself in the USA’s 0-0 draw against Mexico at Estadio Azteca, helping the team earn its first ever point in World Cup qualifying at the formidable venue. In total, Besler made 12 appearances for the U.S. in his first year with the team, starting 11 matches and his 996 minutes played were second on the team among defenders only to center back partner Omar Gonzalez.
- Has played and started in 10 matches in 2014, including all four games of the FIFA World Cup
- In total, Besler made 11 starts for the U.S. in central defense in 2013, and 12 appearances in all, including six of the ten World Cup qualifiers, and the quarterfinals, semifinals and final of this summer’s Gold Cup, which the USMNT won at the end of July
- Helped the team showcase it regional dominance by anchoring a defense that did not allow a goal on home soil as it finished atop the group in the final round of World Cup Qalifying for the 2013 tournament in Brazil
- Prior to 2013, he had zero caps with the U.S. Men’s National Team
- Called into January 2013 camp, he debuted in a 0-0 friendly against Canada on January 29
- He did receive a call-up for a friendly in Mexico in August 2012, but didn’t play that game
- His World Cup qualifying debut came on March 26 at the Azteca, where he picked up just his second cap
- Besler is only the second player to receive a WCQ start with less than two prior Caps
Date of Birth
Feb 11, 1987
Overland Park, Kan.
Sporting Kansas City