U.S. Still Cannot Finish

Despite taking care of Jamaica 2-nil, I am still somewhat worried as the U.S. now prepares for a Wednesday night match up in Houston, TX against the winner of El Salvador – Panama.

At what point will the U.S. learn to finish? I was going to post this a few days ago after our Guadeloupe escape, but I was just too down on our play to bother posting another in a series of “negative” Team U.S.A. posts.

While Guadeloupe goalkeeper Franck Grandel delivered a string of impressive saves, the U.S. was also guilty of some shocking misses that bordered on the comical, none more so than Clint Dempsey’s blown chance in the 76th minute. Presented with a simple tap-in after being set up brilliantly by Alejandro Bedoya, Dempsey’s casual attitude allowed an opposition defender to recover and block his shot.

The U.S. will likely trot out the old, “Well, at least we’re creating chances” bromide, but that won’t fool anyone. Instead, it will only reinforce the perception that something is missing from the U.S. side in this Gold Cup. Granted, on the one hand, the U.S. can comfort itself by the fact that it has survived the group stage playing far short of its best. And by finishing second as opposed to third, it managed to avoid facing Mexico in the quarterfinals.

On the other hand, the Americans’ complete lack of a killer instinct is troubling, as is their tendency to play down to the level of their opposition. And that will simply not be good enough against a Jamaica side that looks to be well-organized and more than athletic enough to compete with the U.S.

I think it still stands, only this time Dempsey figured out how to reach the back of the net, and will have to do so again Wednesday night if Jozy Altidore’s injury (hamstring?) proves to be Gold Cup Tournament ending.

On the bright side (other than the win of course) was the switch to a 4-5-1 formation, which either kept Jamaica on the defensive most of the game or maybe caught them completely off guard. Either way, I loved that we came out attacking; just have to be able to finish!

Jamaica’s Donovan Ricketts (of MLS LA Galaxy fame – I thought it was cool that my soon to be nine-year old son called that out right away due to his MLS card collection) kept the U.S. at bay time and again with some quality saves, which really reminded me of how the U.S. has managed to do so well in International play over the last 10-15 years. A great keeper can really compensate of multiple problem areas on the pitch.

It will be interesting to see how the U.S. approaches Wednesday night’s game, regardless of the opponent.

Go U.S.A.!!!

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