New England Soccer Today

Dempsey leads U.S. to semifinals

Criticized in the media after wasting numerous chances in the United States’ 1-0 victory over Guadeloupe on Tuesday, Clint Dempsey responded with a fantastic performance Sunday to help send the U.S. to the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals with a 2-0 win over Jamaica at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Dempsey constantly tested Jamaican goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and scored the U.S.’ second goal to put the game out of reach in the 80th minute.

Clint Dempsey led the U.S. attack on Sunday. (Photo by CHRIS ADUAMA/

The U.S. were largely in control throughout the match as evidenced by their 17 to 7 edge in shots, but they were unable to find a goal until four minutes into the second half when a long Jermaine Jones shot took a fortuitous deflection to give the U.S. midfielder his first goal. Otherwise the offense was largely driven by Dempsey who finally found the back of the net with ten minutes remaining in the match.

With the team in the midst of a busy schedule, U.S. head coach Bob Bradley made a pair of changes to the line-up that defeated Guadeloupe on Tuesday. Landon Donovan was given a rest and started the match on the bench with Alejandro Bedoya in his place. Bradley opted to use a 4-5-1 formation instead of the 4-4-2 he had used throughout the tournament so striker Chris Wondolowski was left out of the squad, while midfielder Sacha Kljestan got his first start of the tournament.

Though it was the U.S. who would dictate the pace of the match for most of the night Jamaica caught the U.S. off guard just four minutes into the match and should have taken the lead when Demar Phillips beat the offside trap and was alone in the box. His shot from eight yards was well saved by goalkeeper Tim Howard, but the rebound fell to Luke Shelton who somehow sent his effort from ten yards high of the bar with an open net to shoot at.

Bradley was forced to make an early change when Jozy Altidore, the lone striker in the U.S. formation, went down with an apparent left hamstring strain within the first ten minutes of the match. Altidore was subbed out for 18-year-old Juan Agudelo.

Dempsey had the U.S.’ best early effort in the 13th minute when Kljestan found Bedoya with a cross. The Boston College product headed it back to Dempsey who volleyed a shot on frame that Ricketts kept out with a spectacular save.

Dempsey threatened again after earning a free kick from 30 yard out in the 36th minute. The Fulham FC midfielder stepped up to take the set piece, curling a shot over the wall that forced Ricketts to tip the ball over the box for a corner kick.

Both Agudelo and Jones had a chance to put the U.S. in front in the 42nd minute when the young New York Red Bulls striker got around a defender and powered a shot on frame that Ricketts couldn’t hold. Jones got to the rebound with Ricketts out of position, but his shot deflected off his other leg and went out for a goal kick.

The U.S. finally took the lead in the 49th minute when a cross from Eric Lichaj was cleared out of the box, but fell to Jones who blasted a shot on frame. His effort was deflected, causing Ricketts to dive the wrong way as the ball rolled into the back of the net for Jones’ first international goal.

Demspey nearly doubled the U.S. lead just after the hour mark when Steve Cherundolo found him inside the six yard box with a cross from the right flank. Dempsey powered a header on frame, but Ricketts managed to get his body in front of the ball and keep it out.

The already dominant U.S. gained a man advantage in the 67th minute when Dempsey played Jones behind the defense, but the Blackburn Rovers midfielder was tripped up from behind by Jermaine Taylor. As the last man back Taylor received an immediate red card from referee Marco Rodriguez.

Dempsey made it 2-0 for the U.S. in the 80th minute when Agudelo got down the right flank and found a wide open Dempsey ten yards from goal. The former New England Revolution star dribbled around Ricketts and slotted it into the empty net. The goal was Dempsey’s 21st for the U.S., putting him into a tie with Bruce Murray for fifth all-time on the U.S. scoring charts.

Omar Daley had one last chance to pull one back for Jamaica in the 90th minute after some sloppy defending ended with Daley intercepting a weak clearance from Carlos Bocanegra. Daley took a quick shot targeted for just inside the post, but the effort was too weak to beat Howard.

The U.S. will now face either El Salvador or Panama in the Gold Cup semifinals on Wednesday, June 22nd at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.

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