Gold Cup: US does enough to get the job done, win group despite duffing two penalties

BY Vince LaRosa • July 15, 2017

Had you told Bruce Arena before the US men's national team's final Gold Cup group game with Nicaragua, a game in which his team needed to win by three goals to top their Gold Cup group, his team would be spotted two penalties in the course of play, he'd probably have counted it as money in the bank. Well, the US got those two penalties. Missed them. And still somehow banked Group B.

Matt Miazga played the hero for the US on the night. His 88th minute header from a Graham Zusi free kick gave the US the requisite 3-0 lead and sealed the group, but only after Dom Dwyer and Joe Corona both botched opportunities from the spot.

It was a nervy and disjointed start for the US after Arena made 11 changes to the team that put in a less than convincing 3-2 performance against Martinique on Wednesday.

With tensions rising as each scoreless minute ticked by, captain Alejandro Bedoya powered his way down the right side of the Nicaragua defense before pulling back a pass to Corona at the edge of the area. For his part, Corona kept his nerve feigning two defenders before slotting nicely inside the near post to give the US a 35th minute lead.

Awoken by the goal, Nicaragua made their presence felt in the final minutes of the half leaving the US with a precarious one-goal lead at the break.

Knowing a 1-0 victory did them know favors, Arena's men started the second half on the front foot and looked certain to double their advantage when Dwyer was pulled down in the center of the box. Stepping up to finish what he started, Dwyer's powerful shot was met well by Nicaraguan keeper Justo Lorente's right hand. It was back to the drawing board for the US.

Dwyer's teammates would pick him up just moments later. Kelyn Rowe found the back of the net with the outside of his right foot in the 56th minute. The goal was the midfielder's first on the international stage. Again it was Bedoya playing the catalyst with a well slotted pass to Rowe through the right side of Nicaragua's defense.

It was nearly three less than 10 minutes later when the US were awarded another penalty. Once again, it was Bedoya powering the US as he forced a sliding defender into handling the ball just inside the box. This time, Corona stepped to the spot but despite a different kick taker it was the same result as Lorente saved to his right.

Needing a change, Arena sent on forwards Jordan Morris and Juan Aguadelo in search of the elusive third goal. But as luck would have it, the defender, Miazga, got the job done and secured the US's 13th Gold Cup group win in its last 14 tries.

"Clearly a good result for us," Arena told reporters after the game. "It's a game where we wasted some opportunities and made things hard on ourselves."

As a result of winning the group, the US steered clear of group winners Costa Rica and will face the third place team from Group C, likely Jamaica or El Salvador.





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