Jozy Altidore punctuated a confidence-building performance with a goal and an assist, Tim Howard came up big at the end, and the U.S. national team put last weekend's fiasco against Spain behind them with an impressive start to the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Altidore scored from a Landon Donovan pass in the first half and set up Clint Dempsey in the second of a 2-0 Group C triumph over Canada in Detroit.
Coupled with an at-times scintillating doubleheader opener, in which Panama held off 10-man Guadeloupe, 3-2, it made for the best day yet in the region's nations championship.
A quick look at the third day of group play:
BACK IN STRIDE: The U.S., so out of sorts against the masterful Spaniards (in everything from lineup to tactics to inability to compete), looked like a title-game shoo-in against a game Canadian side, dominating throughout to take charge in Group C.
Altidore, whose effectiveness with the national team has been in question, gave a superb performance -- especially holding the ball in deep positions -- marked by expert work on both goals. The first, after collecting a 30-yard Donovan pass that split three defenders, should have been handled by Canadian goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld, but Dempsey's sliding finish from a tight angle on the second was impeccable.
Howard made two big saves off a long throw-in in the 85th minute to preserve the shutout. After knocking the ball from Simeon Jackson's feet, he knocked aside Ali Gerba's rebound. Seconds later, he made a stunning stop on a close-range volley by Gerba.
High marks also to midfielder Michael Bradley, who was active and dangerous, and to Donovan, who did well linking teammates and creating opportunities.
Next up: a showdown Saturday in Tampa against Panama for the group title.
PANAMA'S TIME: The biggest in the first go-round of group games might also have been the best, with Panama using a vital 10-minute stretch of the first half to claim a significant victory en route to the knockout stage.
Luis Tejada fed MLS target Blas Perez in the 29th minute and doubled the advantage in the 32nd, and the Caribbean side appeared finished when Mickael Tacalfred stamped on Luis Henriquez and was sent off in the 38th.
A penalty kick early in the second half made it 3-0, but Guadeloupe, looking to at least match its semifinal run four years ago, charged back behind Brice Jovial, who came off the bench to tally in the 65th and 79th.
C is the most balanced of the Gold Cup groups, after the U.S. -- Panama, Guadeloupe and Canada are all capable of being No. 2 (and two of the three third-place teams also move on) -- and every result is magnified as a result.
DAY 4 HIGHLIGHT: No games. DAY 5: Mexico and Costa Rica look to build on blowout wins en route to their showdown Sunday at Soldier Field.
Group C (at Ford Field, Detroit)
Panama 3 (Perez 29, Tejada 32, Gomez pen. 57), Guadeloupe 2 (Jovial 65, 79)
United States 2 (Altidore 15, Dempsey 62), Canada 0
Group A (at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.)
Costa Rica vs. El Salvador, 4 p.m. TV: TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46)
Mexico vs. Cuba, 6 p.m. TV: Univision (KMEX/Channel 34)
Costa Rica 1-0-0 (5-0) 3
Mexico 1-0-0 (5-0) 3
Cuba 0-1-0 (0-5) 0
El Salvador 0-1-0 (0-5) 0
Jamaica 1-0-0 (4-0) 3
Guatemala 0-0-1 (0-0) 1
Honduras 0-0-1 (0-0) 1
Grenada 0-1-0 (0-4) 0
United States 1-0-0 (2-0) 3
Panama 1-0-0 (3-2) 3
Guadeloupe 0-1-0 (2-3) 0
Canada 0-1-0 (0-2) 0
Key: W-L-T (Goals for-against) Points