The U.S. men’s national team is through to the semifinals of the 2019 Gold Cup, despite having looked even the slightest bit impressive for only 45 of the 360 minutes they’ve played in the tournament.
[ HIGHLIGHTS: USWNT holds off France in riveting quarterfinal ]
Gregg Berhalter’s side did just enough — ever so slightly — to dispatch a Curacao side which entered as heavy underdogs but grew in confidence as the game wore on, 1-0 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Penn., on Sunday.
Christian Pulisic came within inches of opening the scoring in the 4th minute, but Eloy Room made a spectacular save to tip the ball over the crossbar. Paul Arriola sent the cross in for Pulisic and, though it was a bit behind him, Pulisic got enough on the ball to redirect it on target, but Room was up to the acrobatic task of keeping it out.
Pulisic’s fingerprints were all over the rare moment the Yanks created chances, including the game’s only goal in the 25th minute. After getting the ball out wide, the 20-year-old ran at the defender and cut the ball onto his favored right foot before lifting a delicate, curling cross over the sea of bodies inside the box. Weston McKennie arrived at the back post and the ball had eyes for his forehead, making the finish as easy as Pulisic’s ball was spectacular.
Curacao dominated possession and the sparse number of scoring chances throughout the second half. While they created very little of consequence — outside of Leandro Bacuna‘s long-range strike in the 84th minute, forcing Zack Steffen into a desperate save over the bar — Curacao was the side that looked supremely comfortable in possession and in control of everything on the field.
The one time the Yanks actually threatened on the counter-attack resulted in Gyasi Zardes having the only decent chance he’d see all night. Arriola broke down the left wing and delivered a perfect cross toward the penalty spot, but Zardes skied his effort without ever looking convincing.
Up next for the USMNT is a semifinal clash with Jamaica — far and away the best team they’ve seen at this Gold Cup — on Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn.