USA, Panama book a rematch
Putting their group stage struggles aside, a new-look USA side defeated Jamaica at RFK Stadium to secure their place in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-finals. In Sunday’s later match, El Salvador looked to have pulled off the upset of the quarter-finals, but a late Luis Tejada strike sent the match into extra time. The Panamanians, finally saw off their Central American rivals on penalties to book a rematch with the United States in the semi-finals.
Jamaica 0–2 USA
Panama 1–1 El Salvador (5-3 on penalties)
The day replayed - Jamaica and USA kicked-off Sunday’s quarter-finals action with United States coach Bob Bradley fielding a surprise starting line-up without Landon Donovan, who had just flown in the morning of the match. The United States’ scoring troubles seemed to plague them once more throughout the first half, as goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts parried away several fine chances from the likes of Clint Dempsey, including a difficult volley from the Fulham midfielder in the 13th minute. Each team went into the break empty-handed, but Jermaine Jones inspired a strong second-half display for the Americans. Shortly after the restart Jones’ long-range shot took a deflection, giving Ricketts no chance for the save. The Stars and Stripes began to break down the Reggae Boyz defence with leading through balls, one of which Jones got to the end of, but a Jermaine Taylor lunge was adjudged to have brought him down. Taylor was subsequently shown a red card, and capitalising on their one-man advantage Dempsey silenced his critics, showing tremendous composure to evade Ricketts and slot into an open net.
Central American rivals Panama and El Salvador capped off quarter-finals action at the Gold Cup in a hotly contested encounter. The Panamanians entered the match hoping to extend their unbeaten run at the tournament, but El Salvador had plans of an upset in mind. Both Jaime Penedo and Montes were called into action to defend their nets throughout the first half and Penedo notably kept El Salvador’s semi-finals hopes alive as he saved Rodolfo Zelaya’s first attempt from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute. Despite several chances for each side, the deadlock was not broken until the 78th minute when Zelaya showed enough equanimity to score from the spot. However, El Salvador’s celebrations were short lived as Luis Tejada again played last-minute heroine as he levelled the score in the 90th minute. Several defensive scrambles ensued throughout extra-time, and the match was finally settled on penalties. Penedo came up with a tremendous save, blocking Dennis Alas’s spot-kick attempt, and the Panamanians ran out 5-3 shootout victors.
18 - USA have extended their unbeaten run against Jamaica to an impressive 18 matches between 1996 and 2011. The Americans quarter-final win over the Reggae Boyz was their tenth victory over the Caribbean squad.
Player of the day
Jaime Penedo (Panama)
The Panamanian goalkeeper was called upon to make several vital saves for the Central Americans, but most notably saved two penalty attempts, one of which lead to victory. Panama, hoping for a replay of their 2005 campaign that saw them reach the finals, were happy to have Penedo defending their net as the keeper first denied Zelaya in the first half, and blocked El Salvador’s first attempt from the spot once the match went down to penalties.
Goal of the day
Jamaica-USA, Clint Dempsey (80')
After missing several chances in USA’s narrow 1-0 victory over Guadeloupe in the group stage, including a walk-in attempt, Dempsey came out with redemption in mind. The midfielder lead the Americans in spirited style, generating chances and getting on the end of several balls within the Jamaican area. With a few opportunities gone begging, Dempsey finally topped off a successful night for the United States, showing his comfort on the dribble as he received a cross from substitute Juan Agudelo and touched around Ricketts to tap home with ease.
Quote of the day
“They were confident - they didn’t have any set backs in the group stage when we were having to fight to get through. I think as it has gone on we have progressed as a team and we are getting better. I think we are going to peak at the right time.” Clint Dempsey, USA midfielder
The semi-final round of the CONCACAF Gold Cup will get underway on Wednesday 22 June in Houston, with Mexico taking on Honduras and USA meeting Panama with a place in the final the day’s prize.