New England Soccer Today

Gold Cup: Late Goals Gives U.S. Win in Group C Finale

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – Brek Shea broke a scoreless game late to send the U.S. Men’s National Team to a 1-0 win over Costa Rica Tuesday at Rentschler Field in the Group C finale of the Gold Cup.

Shea scored in the 82nd minute after Landon Donovan played a ball head into space, where the Stoke City midfielder then beat goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton for the game-winner.

“He played it perfect,” Shea said of Donovan’s pass. “I almost didn’t even have to take a touch, it just died and it made it easy for me.”

With the win, the U.S., which claimed maximum points during the group stage, coasts into the quarterfinals where they’ll play El Salvador on Sunday in Baltimore.

The U.S. found sporadic chances in the first half, with Chris Wondolowski and Jose Torres heavily influencing the attack. Though they had the better of possession (63 percent) throughout the match, the Ticos defense dropped numbers and made life difficult for the U.S.

“We knew Costa Rica was going to be a tougher opponent than the ones we had faced,” U.S. midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said. “They sat back more than we thought (they were going to).”

Costa Rica nearly found the opening goal in grand when Junior Diaz biked it just over the bar and brought a collective gasp from both sides’ supporters in the 33rd minute.

The best chance the U.S. could muster in the first half came in the 36th minute when a corner kick from Donovan eventually fell to Wondolowski, who attempted to backheel through before it was scooped up by Pemberton.

A curious sequence unfolded in the 56th minute when Pemberton collided with Yelstin on a floating ball just outside the area. The ball then squired to Mix Diskerud, who fired away before Pemberton stopped it with his right mitt outside the 18. The goalkeeper was cautioned, but bailed himself out when he made a spectacular save on the subsequent free kick from Torres.

The breakthrough came in the 82nd minute after Sean Johnson acrobatically denied an Alvaro Saborio shot near the upper and the U.S. then sprang a counterattack. Joe Corona sent it up the right for Donovan, who coasted down the flank looking for a runner. He found one in Shea, who escaped his defender and quickly sent it through to give the U.S. the elusive goal in the 82nd minute.

“Sean made a great save,” Shea said. “It popped out and (Corona) played it to Landon, who knew I was coming up the field. I saw the space and thought I should just be there and Landon sees me and I had plenty of time to score.”

Costa Rica found an opportunity in stoppage time when Saborio crashed the box. But he couldn’t get a toe on it before it fell into the arms of Johnson.

“I think (the win) is a confidence builder,” Bedoya said. “You can say whatever you want about them wanting to get revenge for the snow game, but we knew it going to be a lot tougher.”

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