Los Angeles Soccer: Franck Grandel
The follies in front of the net got worse for the U.S. national team Tuesday night, but they couldn't derail the Yanks from the business at hand: nailing down a CONCACAF Gold Cup knockout-stage berth that should have come far more easily.
Jozy Altidore's stirring strike to the upper-right corner in the ninth minute was enough for a 1-0 victory in Kansas City, Kan., that gave the Americans second place in Group C and a quarterfinal date Sunday with Jamaica in Washington.
El Salvador also got through to the quarters, qualifying when Panama rallied in stoppage time to tie Canada, 1-1, in the first game of the doubleheader. The Canucks were eliminated as all five Central American teams advanced from the group stage.
Panama's surprising victory Saturday over the U.S. had minimal impact on the bracket, merely giving the U.S. a tougher quarterfinal foe (Jamaica rather than El Salvador) but one it will be expected to defeat. Anything other than a U.S.-Mexico final on June 25 at the Rose Bowl would be a surprise, although the Jamaicans were more impressive than the Americans in group play -- and Mexico looks, frankly, unbeatable by anyone else here.
That includes the U.S., which looked far sharper while dominating Guadeloupe than it did against Panama, especially at the back, but was incomprehensibly sloppy in front of the net.
Big news off the field, too, with word that doping tests Friday at UCLA on the five suspended Mexican players all turned out negative for clenbuterol, a drug for treating respiratory diseases in horses that can build muscle. The players are requesting analysis of their “B” samples from the May 21 tests in Mexico.
A quick look at the 10th day of group play in the region's nations championship:
U.S. DOES JUST ENOUGH: Altidore offered a goal-of-the-tournament candidate (actually, a runner-up candidate; nothing will beat Mexican winger Andres Guardado's volley Sunday), but the Yanks could do little else right when they had a chance. They blew at least three sure-thing opportunities -- and those by Landon Donovan and, twice, Clint Dempsey, their surest finishers -- and were thwarted by Guadeloupe's fine goalkeeper Franck Grandel.