North Texas Daily

Column: U.S. Soccer Grabs Gold at Regional Cup

Column: U.S. Soccer Grabs Gold at Regional Cup

Column: U.S. Soccer Grabs Gold at Regional Cup
July 30
15:11 2013

William A. Darnell / Senior Staff Writer

The Anticipation

Wednesday:

Hours before the games begin, Cowboys stadium is eerily quiet. The 105,000 seats resonate only the sounds of shuffling feet, photographers fiddling with equipment and stadium staff making final preparations. In less than two hours, the desolate blue ocean of seats will be full, bouncing and brilliant. There will be fanatics belting national anthems at their highest registers. Hondurans and Americans and Panamians and Mexicans screaming their utmost disapproval of refereeing decisions and for the fortunate few whose teams are performing, there will be explosions of ecstasy at the sight of a goal or near-miss.

In less than a week, more than 81,000 tickets were sold for the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals. The Gold Cup is an international soccer tournament held every two years involving teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean, which make up the FIFA soccer body, CONCACAF. The U.S. hosted this year’s edition of the tournament.

The Action

It took the USMNT 11 minutes to strike down the narrative that had built up around the team this week. (Article after article pointed to the easy road the USMNT had up to the semifinal, the strength of Honduras and the potential for collapse). After a few smooth passing exchanges, striker Eddie Johnson launched into a full gallop, chasing after midfielder Landon Donovan’s through ball. He effortlessly beat two Honduran defenders before curling the ball past the statuesque goalkeeper. 1-0 USMNT.

The men in red, white and blue dominated the next 15 minutes with laser-point passing exchanges, overlapping runs and suffocating defense, finally culminating in their second goal of the match.

American right midfielder Alejandro Bedoya launched a pass over a Honduran defender that Landon Donovan deftly chested down before finishing the ball past goalkeeper Donis Escober. 2-0 USMNT.

Shortly after halftime Honduran coach Luis Suarez substituted Marvin Chavez into the game, a move that would lead to Honduras scoring minutes later. After a foul on midfielder Andy Najar, Chavez delivered an accurate free kick, which was stunningly headed into the net by defender Nery Medina. 2-1 USMNT.

Honduran hopes were soon put to bed for good however, when one minute later Bedoya found Donovan in the penalty box to tap-in easily and finish the game as a contest. 3-1 USMNT.

The game turned ugly in the final few minutes as Honduran frustrations began to boil over into hard, late fouls and less than professional play. The referee seemed to lose control of the proceedings, which caused USMNT manager Jürgen Klinnsman to lose his temper. The U.S. coach was tossed from the game for berating the referee and was suspended after a disciplinary committee was convened.

Post Match

“It seemed like they flipped a switch after that 3-1 and they started coming after us,” said Landon Donovan, post match. “You don’t want to see that and your hope in that moment is that the refs protect you.”

Donovan said he was surprised at the relative ease of competition faced so far by the U.S.

“We know Sunday’s going to look different than any of these games have,” Donovan said. “It’s a testament to this group and how we’ve done.”

In the final moments of the match, Klinnsman substituted Donovan and a couple of other key players, a move that Donovan thinks will be key to the final on Sunday.

“Even having a rest for 20 minutes I think will help a lot,” Donovan said.

Klinnsman was upbeat about his team’s performance in the post match press conference, a stark contrast to Honduran coach Luis Suarez.

“We are just really happy with how things are going,” Klinsmann said “The first 30 minutes was brilliant football. Brilliant.”

Klinnsman addressed speculation involving his suspension, which was decided Friday, and the refereeing of the match as whole.

“It was not meant against the referee, against nobody.” Klinsmann said. “It was just frustration because you fear for the health of your player in that moment, so I apologize for that.”

Suarez said, through a translator, that the U.S. would be the favorite in the final regardless of whether or not Mexico or Panama won the evening’s other semifinal.

“We were able to even up things a little bit in the second half of the game to a certain point,” Suarez said. “But even then, the U.S. was really superior.”

The Final

Sunday:

With the much-ballyhooed Mexican national team’s hopes dashed in the semi-finals, the final at Soldier Field in Chicago was expected to draw a less than passionate crowd. The match was technically a sellout—Mexican fans had snapped up the tickets weeks in advance on the strength of back-to-back Gold Cup victories–but the crowd struggled to fill the 60,000 plus seats.

Sunday’s match played out like most finals—slow, plodding and nervy. The United States National Team dominated the proceedings without seriously threatening Panamanian goalkeeper Jaime Pinedo’s goal, and the Panamanian National Team tried, somewhat consistently, to assert itself on quick counter-attacks.

The USMNT eventually found a goal through the contribution of tall, Texan substitute Brek Shea, who found himself on the end of a missed shot by midfielder and team landmark, Landon Donovan. Shea tapped in the wayward ball, and the USMNT closed out the game without surrendering a serious Panamanian threat on goal.

Photos by James Coreas

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