PST USMNT Man of the Match: Clint Dempsey

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Michael Bradley continues to prove himself indispensable, but when one of his teammates has two goals and an assist, Man of the Match is hard to wrestle away. That the goals were the 29th and 30th in Clint Dempsey’s national team career adds a sentimental note to a big performance on a very big night.

History will likely forget the very big night part. In time, people will United States-Guatemala with ‘well of course they won.’ They won’t remember that, after Carlos Ruiz put Guatemala up early, the stakes were painfully clear. With a loss, the U.S. would put their future in the Jamaica’s hands, a treacherous road considering the Reggae Boyz, hosting Antigua and Barbuda, were bound to put up a lopsided result. Big gap in Kingston plus a U.S. loss in Kansas City meant the States were done.

Dempsey was having none of it. Five minutes after Ruiz’s goal, Dempsey set up Carlos Bocanegra’s equalizer, heading Graham Zusi’s corner down for the captain’s 14th career goal (a record for U.S. defenders). Seven minutes later, Dempsey got his right foot onto an Eddie Johnson cross, putting the States in front for good. Then, nine minutes before half, Dempsey guided home a ball chipped over the goalkeeper by Michael Bradley, completing a U.S. run of three goals in 26 minutes.

And within that 26 minutes, fans got their first glimpse of what a U.S. team firing on all cylinders might look like. With Herculez Gomez running right and Eddie Johnson often prowling at the back post, Dempsey was given the entire face of goal to do what he does best – read the game, attack a spot, and score goals. His second was a perfect example: Dempsey hovering around goal, ready to come back for a ball Johnson put just above the six. With the defense was collapsing toward goal, Dempsey came back for what was ultimately the game-winning goal.

It was exactly the kind of performance the U.S. needed. Throughout qualifying, scoring goals has been the team’s biggest problem. The team’s often looked stoic in the final third, as if missing one final part that would link their ambitions and talents. Perhaps Dempsey, unabashedly aggressive leading the attack, was that final part, creating the attack Jurgen Klinsmann’s been cultivating.

The movement, speed, intensity, and (most importantly) the end result. For the first time, it was all there.

And in the final third, Dempsey was key to it all. Be it in the air or attacking space within the defense, Dempsey stayed dangerous. As a result, the U.S. gave their most convincing performance of the round.

STREAM LIVE: USMNT looks for 3 more points in Panama

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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The United States looks to finish the international break in an automatic qualifier spot in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table when it faces Panama in Panama City at 10:05 p.m. EDT Tuesday.

A lot of the faces are the same from the 6-0 demolition of Honduras in California on Friday, though John Brooks and Sebastian Lletget are out with injury.

Jermaine Jones replaces Lletget while Tim Ream moves into the fray for Brooks. Geoff Cameron played Friday’s match with a minor injury, and moves out of the XI for Graham Zusi.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Ream, Zusi; Bradley, Jones, Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore

Subs: Bingham, Rimando; Beasley, Besler, Camron, Zimmerman; Acosta, Arriola, Bedoya, Kljestan, McCarty, Pulisic; Wondolowski

Reyes header gives Mexico three points in T&T (video)

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Diego Reyes’ 58th minute header off a corner kick gave Mexico a lead it wouldn’t give up in a 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago at Hasely Crawford Stadium in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

The win gives Mexico a table-topping 10 points, seven ahead of last-place T&T.

[ MORE: Honduras 1-1 Costa Rica ]

The Soca Warriors were in fine, stingy form early, and looked to have gone ahead on the counterattack when Joevin Jones belted a left-footer into the Mexico goal.

The linesman, however, ruled that Jones was offside. He almost certainly was not, as Mexico’s supreme luck in CONCACAF play continued for at least one night.

Hector Herrera hammered a shot off the far goal post early in the second half as Mexico attempted to grab control.

T&T goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams jammed Miguel Layun’s shot over the bar moments before the breakthrough from Reyes.

Williams then saved Javier Hernandez’s 64th minute offering as Mexico looked to put three points to bed.

Joevin Jones won a free kick in the 76th minute that gave a brief moment of light to T&T’s hopes, but Jones hit the wall and Mexico cleared the ball.

Honduras holds Costa Rica 1-1

AP Photo/Moises Castillo
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Honduras did the United States a favor by taking a point from visiting Costa Rica in Tuesday’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifier in San Pedro Sula.

Anthony Lozano pushed a 35th minute chance past an indecisive Keylor Navas, as Los Catrachos set the stage for a hopeful three points.

[ STREAM: T&T-Mexico, Panama-USMNT ]

Vancouver Whitecaps center back Kendall Waston’s haphazard defending helped allow the goal, but he scored off a late Costa Rica corner kick to ensure Costa Rica will finish the international break in second place.

With four points, Honduras moves ahead of Trinidad and Tobago and the United States before both sides play Tuesday.

Costa Rica beat the U.S. 4-0 in 2016, while the Yanks battered Honduras 6-0 on Friday.

WATCH: Video Assistant calls back Griezmann goal

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France and Spain used the Video Assistant Referee program on Tuesday in a friendly, and the French likely rue that decision.

Antoine Griezmann had an incorrectly allowed goal reverse for offside, while Gerard Deulofeu saw an initially ruled offside goal allowed upon review in Spain’s 2-0 win over France.

[ MORE: Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina ]

Here’s an example, as Griezmann’s barely offside goal was overturned in less than a minute (Both calls took less than a minute to decide):

At the risk of sounding like a caveman, I really don’t like these razor thin offside calls being subject to review.

When you consider the improbability of timing the moment of contact with the ball — how many times have you seen a freeze frame conveniently used to make a case? — it just seems to mess with the spirit of sport.

What do you think?