Clint Dempsey leads US past Costa Rica into Gold Cup Final

Published Sunday, July 23, 2017 12:31 AM by Shane Barrow
Clint Dempsey leads US past Costa Rica into Gold Cup Final

Saturday night the massive AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas welcomed the United States and Costa Rica for the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal.  Both teams arrived in solid, yet unspectacular form. Costa Rica needed an own goal to win their quarterfinal over Panama while the US were quite sloppy in a victory against El Salvador. Despite not being at their best both teams clearly had sites on a finals appearance.

It only took seconds for the Americans to signal their intentions. Despite leaving Clint Dempsey on the bench, it was a very attacking lineup from coach Bruce Arena with Jozy Altidore flanked by Darlington Nagbe and Jordan Morris. In fact it was only seconds after the opening kickoff that Jordan Morris blasted off the Costa Rica woodwork. Aside from an off target CR volley it was all one way traffic in the early going.

The US narrowly missed going ahead in the 15th minute when Joey Altidore got deep into the Costa Rica penalty area. He drew the keeper out before sliding the ball back towards the spot where young Kelly Acosta was running in.  Acosta couldn't quite reach the ball and scuffed his shot high and wide.

Meanwhile, the pro-USA crowd and the American players were becoming increasingly frustrated with the referee from El Salvador who bailed out Costa Rica defenders on several occasions with very soft whistles. The questionable calls slowed the American attack multiple times.

Costa Rica finally threatened in the 37th as Bryan Ruiz worked a bit of magic. He pulled a nice turn on Michael Bradley at midfield and raced away. Ruiz sprinted thirty yards to the US box where he passed to Marco Urena. US keeper Tim Howard darted out and denied the Urena shot keeping the match scoreless.

It was a cagey start to the second half as neither side asserted themselves much over the first ten minutes.  In the 57th Paul Arriola raced into the Costa Rica box getting to the end line where he fired a dangerous low ball across goal. It took a deflection narrowly missing goal and out for a corner.

Thirty minutes to go and everything to play for.  Clint Dempsey was introduced to the match to the delight of the 45,500 strong Texas crowd. Would he be the one to break the stalemate? In the 70th minute a Dempsey pass nearly did as Kelly Acosta forced a nice save from Pemberton in the CR net.  The US were clearly pushing for the win.

Soon after Clint Dempsey made his mark on the match with a perfectly weighted ball that sprung Altidore in behind.  Pemberton sprinted out but Jozy expertly slotted home for the lead. Costa Rica were rattled with only 15 minutes to get the goal back they were in a bad place. A tall order for sure. Clint Dempsey made sure that was that when he bounced home a curling free kick around a poorly placed Costa Rica wall. Game. Set. Match.

And with the Dempsey heroics the US book their place in the Wednesday Gold Cup final to face the winner of Mexico and Jamaica. Clearly the best performance of the Gold Cup from the Americans and so far. Now can they win one more and claim the trophy?