KANSAS CITY, Kan. – With their backs against the wall, the United States national team delivered once again.
It certainly wasn’t clinical – the Americans squandered chance after chance to widen their lead – but Bob Bradley’s side did just enough, knocking off Guadeloupe 1-0 in front of 20,109 fans at Livestrong Sporting Park by virtue of an early Jozy Altidore goal to move on to the Gold Cup quarterfinals.
The Americans finished group play second in Group C with six points, behind Panama side who drew with Canada earlier in the evening to finish undefeated on seven points. They will play Jamaica in Washington, D.C. in the quarterfinals.
It was the first time in 11 opportunities that the US failed to top their group in the regional competition.
Bradley made two changes to the lineup that lost 2-1 to Panama on Saturday, inserting Chris Wondolowski for Juan Agudelo up top, and sliding over Carlos Bocanegra into central defense in favor of Tim Ream while Eric Lichaj made his first Gold Cup appearance on the left.
After all the talk surrounding the US teams propensity for slow starts, Guadeloupe very nearly took advantage of a shaky defensive moment by the Americans just three minutes into the match. A corner kick was whipped into Tim Howard’s six-yard box and bounced around before falling to Stephane Zubar, who put his driven effort on frame but struck the crossbar.
That close call turned out to be the jolt the Americans needed. Bradley’s team pinned Guadeloupe in their own half before delivering the game’s opening salvo in the ninth minute, when Altidore put the US up for good.
Michael Bradley found Altidore in a pocket of open space just outside the penalty area and the young striker displayed a moment of class, sending a swerving, right-footed drive into the top corner past a helpless Franck Grandel. It was Altidore’s second goal of the tournament.
Proceedings evened out from there, however, as the Gwada Boys used their speed to hit on the break and the Americans found their opponents vulnerable but resolute.
Landon Donovan had a goal-bound shot blocked, Clint Dempsey uncharacteristically flubbed two wide-open headers past either post and the US found themselves on the end of more than a few half chances, but the 1-0 score line held through halftime.
Bradley made no changes at halftime, and the Americans immediately turned the screws on an overmatched Guadeloupe side.
Altidore nearly scored his second of the match nine minutes after halftime, fighting off multiple challenges in the box but failing to beat Grandel with a low shot.
Donovan followed that up by squandering a gilt-edged chance in the 57th minute, when Jermaine Jones found him unmarked with a low cross, but the US’ all-time leading scorer sent his shot 20 rows into the stands behind the goal.
Seconds later, Dempsey sent a curling free kick crashing off the crossbar, leaving the US wondering what it was going to take to find the all-important second goal.
With a lead to protect, Bradley replaced Wondolowski with Alejandro Bedoya in the 65th minute, moving Clint Dempsey up top and providing a pair of fresh legs to chase Guadeloupe on the left flank. That move seemed a masterstroke when Bedoya squared a ball to Dempsey alone in front of net in the 76th minute, but the striker dawdled and had the ball taken off his foot with the goalmouth gaping in front of him.
Bradley made two more changes to secure the victory, replacing Altidore and Michael Bradley with Sacha Kljestan and Maurice Edu, and the Americans killed off the game to secure their spot in the knockout rounds.
USA – Jozy Altidore 2 (Michael Bradley 1) 9
GLP – Eddy Viator (caution; Reckless Tackle) 66
GLP – Stephane Zubar (caution; Dissent) 66
GLP – Stephane Auvray (caution; Reckless Tackle) 89
Guadeloupe – Franck Grandel, Stephane Zubar, Eddy Viator, Loic Loval (Cedric Collet 26), Thery Racon (Ludovic Gotin 73), Livio Nabab (Dimitri Fautrai 60), Thomas Gamiette, Julien Ictoi, Stephane Auvray, Richard Socrier, Mickael Tacalfred
Substitutes Not Used: Miguel Comminges, David Fleurival, Gregory Gendrey, Fabrice Mercury
United States – Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson, Eric Lichaj, Michael Bradley (Maurice Edu 85), Jermaine Jones, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore (Sacha Kljestan 78), Chris Wondolowski (Alejandro Bedoya 65)
Substitutes Not Used: Oguchi Onyewu, Juan Agudelo, Jonathan Bornstein, Marcus Hahnemann
Referee: Jeffrey Solis
Referee's Assistants: Alberto Morin, Jose Luis Carmago
4th Official: Marlon Mejia