The U.S. Men’s National Team bounced back from a poor performance Saturday in friendly action against Spain by defeating the Canadian Men’s National Team 2-0 on Tuesday evening in Detroit in both nations’ 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup opener.
The more experienced American side dominated the early goings, and were rewarded when Jozy Altidore struck in the 14th minute for his 11th international goal, eight more than he’s tallied since 2008 with clubs in Spain, England and Turkey. USMNT Coach Bob Bradley, after resting several starters in the Spain friendly, had his first team on the field and they responded with a good effort at both ends of the pitch. Canada’s defense came to play, however, and they held the U.S. to a single goal in the first half.
The Canadian attack looked more effective as the game wore on, but Fulham star Clint Dempsey gave the Americans all the insurance they would need just past the hour mark when he slid for a low cross from Altidore and beat two defenders from a tough angle to double the Americans lead. Despite a flurry of attacking that led to U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard earning his clean sheet with a remarkable reactive sequence, Canada became the sixth of the twelve Gold Cup squads to be held scoreless in their first round 2011 Gold Cup match.
The game had a decided German flavor. Hannover 96 captain Steve Cherundolo started for the U.S. at his customary right back, and was effective in attack from the right flank, assisting on a near-goal by Juan Agudelo. Bundesliga veterans Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones were formidable in the central midfield.
All five Canadian players who earn their paycheck in Germany played in the match. Nik Ledgerwood of SV Wehen Wiesbaden, FC Koln’s Kevin McKenna and Marcel de Jong of FC Augsburg made up three-quarters of Canada’s backline and each acquited themselves well with solid, professional performances. Hertha Berlin’s Rob Friend and Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault of SC Preußen Münster entered the match with ten minutes remaining. Friend was particularily effective upfront playing with his back to the goal, collecting passes and distributing. The tall striker may get more playing time based on his performance, as should the NASL’s Ali Gerba of the Montreal Impact, who racheted up the heat on Howard and showed the kind of ability that’s earned him 15 goals in 29 international appearances.
The American team were definetely the better side this night, as Canada currently doesn’t have the talent to match such international veterans as Howard, Dempsey, Cherundolo, Bradley and Carlos Bocanegra. Clarence Goodson and young St. Louisan Tim Ream were strong in central defense, and teenaged forward Juan Agudelo had some bright moments. But the Canadian team looks to be on the rise based on their performance tonight and in international friendlies over the last months. Midfielders Atiba Hutchison of PSV Eindhoven, Real Salt Lake’s Will Johnson and Josh Simpson, who earns his paycheck in Turkey, showed some good play as did Norwich City’s Simeon Jackson upfront, and MLS veteran Dwayne De Rosario is always a force. It will be interesting to see how Stephen Hart’s Canadian side fairs as the Gold Cup tournament continues, with the winner advancing to the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil.
Gold Cup Action
In the first round of group stage games, the results have been very predictable. Mexico shutdown El Salvador 5-0 on Monday on a hat trick by Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez, while Ricardo La Volpe’s Costa Rican side dealt Cuba a similar 5-0 spanking. On Tuesday night, the Gold Cup teams with World Cup pedigree continued to beat up on the minnows, as the Reggae Boyz of Jamaica shut out Grenada 4-0. The only surprise of the first two days action was the scoreless draw between Honduras and nine-man Guatemala, although the Hondurans missed two golden scoring chances when Carlos Costly’s drive went just wide of goal and another Honduras’ attempt hit the Guatemalans crossbar.
Wednesday’s earlier Group C match featured Panama against Guadaloupe. The Panamanians built a 3-0 lead before a brace by Guadaloupe’s Brice Jovial of Ligue 2’s Le Havre AC side provided a close contest.