New England Soccer Today

Winning Ugly

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.com

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Two games into the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the U.S. Men’s National Team has yet to hit its stride. Yet, despite struggling at times, the U.S. clinched first place in Group A and a spot in the Gold Cup Quarterfinals after playing just two of its three group stage matches.

“Obviously happy to be already in the Quarterfinals,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “Being secured first place after two games is nice to have and I think every player knows how tricky and how difficult these games are.”

Klinsmann made seven changes to the line-up on Friday from the team that defeated Honduras 2-1 on Tuesday. On both occasions the U.S. were strong favorites on paper, but were outshot by 10 against Honduras and 15 against Haiti, hardly looking the dominant side expected.

“We play against teams in this tournament that are determined to make the game difficult,” said U.S. captain Michael Bradley. “They put a lot of guys behind the ball, they’re organized. They’re committed to slowing down and destructing and making every single play as difficult as possible.”

On Friday, Haiti caused the U.S. plenty of trouble on the counterattack, especially early in the match, making it look like it would be a long night for the Americans. After going into the break tied at 0-0, the U.S. pushed forward early in the second half and substitute Gyassi Zardes set up Clint Dempsey just two minutes after the break to give the U.S. the lead.

“They really kind of raided us on many occasions,” said Klinsmann. “They showed their qualities and we had to come back into that game. I would say after 25 or 30 minutes then we kind of started to have a bit of a rhythm and more tempo and created more chances and had more urgency in the game. That’s what I told them at halftime, ‘you know we’ve got to now keep on going here with more urgency, more drive towards the goal, more trying to create chances and find the forwards faster.’ It started well in the second half. The goal calmed things down and from there on it looked much, much better.”

“We knew it was not our best first half,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan. “At the same time we kept the ball, we kept the ball moving. You try to limit your mistakes and we want to put them under a bit more pressure and I thought we did that right from the start [of the second half].”

Still despite the improvement, the U.S. was outshot 12 to 2 in the second half. Some timely saves and subpar finishing from Haiti helped the lead stand up.

“There’s no easy gamed in this competition,” said U.S. defender Tim Ream. “So we had to come out [in the second half] the way we finished the half. The first 20, 25, 30 minutes weren’t the greatest for us and the last 15 we picked it up a little bit.”

But, the team recognizes the performances, despite the positive results, can improve. To advance further into the tournament the team will need to be closer to its best. On Monday, with first place already clinched, the team gets a low pressure match to continue to work on getting better.

“I don’t think we’ve hit our full stride yet,” said Ream. “We have a little bit of work to do, but we have another game to iron out the kinks and go into that quarterfinal game hopefully with another win and playing a little bit better and peaking at the right time.”

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