CARSON, Calif. (June 7, 2007) — The U.S. Men’s National Team battled to take the full three points in a 1-0 victory against a physical Guatemalan team in the Group B opener of the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The triumph for the USA came courtesy of first half goal from Clint Dempsey, his second of the year, and despite the USA playing the final 17 minutes with 10 men after a red card was issued to defender Oguchi Onyewu.
Dempsey’s eighth career goal came in the 26th minute with the USA finally breaking through the tightly packed Guatemalan defense on a fine series of passes that started with a long ball down the flank from Jonathan Bornstein to DaMarcus Beasley. With a quick header, Beasley expertly slotted Twellman into the penalty area, where the New England Revolution forward patiently picked out Dempsey charging toward the goal. Dempsey made no mistake, slotting a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Ricardo Trigueno for his third career Gold Cup goal.
"I thought the sequence that led to the goal was very well done," said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley after the game. "The ball from Taylor and the run and finish from Clint was excellent. We had some chances right at the end of the first half to get a second goal and that would have obviously been imporant. We ended up playing with 10 guys, and I thought we adjusted quite well and managed during that period of the game to keep the ball and also to defend intelligently."
The U.S. goal forced Guatemala out of their defensive shell, and the wider space gave the U.S. a golden chance to double their lead in the 32nd minute. Landon Donovan beat his mark down the right flank and deftly floated a cross into the six yard box – with two runners charging, it was Twellman who took the try, but his slightly mistimed jump resulted in a powerful header that just missed the upper right corner.
The U.S. had yet another great chance in stoppage time, with Donovan again serving as the impetus in an attack that began down the right flank. The crazy sequence just before the stroke of halftime would see Donovan and Twellman each have shots stifled, and then a loose ball fall into the middle of the penalty area with the net wide open. A crashing Dempsey couldn’t quite reach that loose ball, though, as it was cleared out for a corner kick with the last touch of the half.
With a 12-6 shot advantage at the half, the USA came out of the locker room looking to put the game away in the second half. But, as they did in a 0-0 draw against the USA back on March 28 in Frisco, Texas, Guatemala continued to tightly pack it in on defense, deploying a 4-1-4-1 formation designed to stymie the U.S. attack with physical play.
However, the chances for the USA in the final 45 minutes were few and far between, as the choppy half saw the referee reach for his book six times, which included three yellows and a red for the United States. For the match, the USA was whistled for 21 fouls and Guatemala another 16.
"Anytime you start a tournament like the Gold Cup the expectation is that the first game is difficult," said Bradley. "Teams know how important it is to play the first game very tight. Guatemela is a very well organized team and we saw that when we played them in Dallas. They played in a similar fashion today. We felt good about the fact that we improved in some areas from the last time we played them. I think we did a better job attacking wide. We definitely did a better job in finding some spaces that we didn't find the last time."
In a telling moment in the 50th minute, Guatemala had their best chance of the match when defender Lionel Noriega tried his luck from 35-yards out with a dipping shot that excited the crowd, but did not trouble goalkeeper Tim Howard, who calmly jumped to push the shot over the bar. In the 55th minute, Guatemala had another look at goal, this time FC Dallas forward Carlos Ruiz hitting a well struck free kick from 22 yards on the ground down toward the middle of the goal. The shot was deceptive and hit with power, but Howard easily smothered it. Those two efforts would be the best Guatemala could muster offensively.
Less than two minutes after Bradley had used his second substitute, bringing on winger Steve Ralston for forward Taylor Twellman, the USA was forced to shuffle their defensive shape when Onyewu was issued his second yellow card and sent to the showers with 17 minutes remaining in the game. The foul came as Onyewu and Mario Rodriguez were chasing down a long through ball into the USA half.
The final USA sub came a few minutes later, with defender Jay DeMerit coming in for Benny Feilhaber to shore up the U.S. defense. A final corner kick from Guatemala in the game’s final seconds went for naught and the USA was happy to have three points to open the ninth CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The victory improved the USA’s incredible all-time record in opening round Gold Cup action to 19-0-1. Howard’s clean sheet earned him his 13th win in 20 career games, and was his ninth shutout.
The USA will now square off against Trinidad and Tobago, losers to El Salvador in their opening game, on Saturday at 2 p.m. PT (live on FSC and Telefutura), before closing out group play on Tuesday, June 12 in Foxborough, Mass., against El Salvador. The 12-team Gold Cup tournament runs through June 24 where the final is slated for Soldier Field in Chicago. Immediately following the Gold Cup, the USA will participate in the 2007 Copa America, the regional championship of South America. The 12-team tournament will run from June 26 to July 15 in nine cities across Venezuela. The U.S. will open Group C play against Argentina on June 28, before facing Paraguay on July 2 and Colombia on July 5.
-- U.S. Men’s National Team Game Report --
Match-up: USA vs. Guatemala
Date: June 7, 2007
Competition: CONCACAF Gold Cup
Venue: The Home Depot Center – Carson, Calif.
Kickoff: 6 p.m. PT
Weather: 70, sunny, clear
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 0 1
Guatemala 0 0 0
USA – Clint Dempsey (Taylor Twellman) 26th minute.
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2- Frankie Hejduk, 22-Oguchi Onyewu, 3-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), 13-Jonathan Bornstein; 6-Michael Bradley, 5-Benny Feilhaber (12-Jay DeMerit, 81), 10-Landon Donovan, 7-DaMarcus Beasley; 20-Taylor Twellman (14-Steve Ralston, 71), 8-Clint Dempsey (9-Eddie Johnson, 61)
Subs not used: 4-Jonathan Spector, 11-Brian Ching, 18-Kasey Keller, 19-Ricardo Clark
Head Coach: Bob Bradley
GUA: 1-Ricardo Tregueno, 2-Leonel Noriega (15-Luis Swisher, 89), 3-Pablo Melgar, 5-Henry Medina, 6-Gustavo Cabrera (capt.), 7-Claudio Albizuris; 8-Jose Contreras, 11-Marvin Avila (12-Carlos Figueroa, 81), 14-Rigoberto Gomez (19-Mario Rodriguez, 71), 18-Carlos Quinones, 20-Carlos Ruiz
Subs not used: 4-Yony Flores, 13-Nestor Martinez, 17-Dwight Pezzarossi, 25-Paulo Cesar Motta
Head Coach: Hernan Dario Gomez
Stats Summary: USA GUA
Shots 17 11
Saves 3 5
Corner Kicks 4 3
Fouls 21 16
Offside 1 4
USA – Frankie Hejduk (caution) 42nd minute
USA – Oguchi Onyewu (caution) 56.
GUA – Rigoberto Gomez (caution) 67.
USA – Oguchi Onyewu (caution) 73.
USA – Oguchi Onyewu (ejection) 73.
USA – Carlos Bocanegra (caution) 77.
GUA – Leonel Noriega (caution) 86.
Referee: Jose Pineda (HON)
1st Asst.: Alejandro Azofeifa (CRC)
2nd Asst.: Roberto Giron (HON)
Fourth Official: Roberto Moreno (PAN)
Sierra Mist Man of the Match: Clint Dempsey