It wasn't the prettiest of matches for the United States, but one match into their 2011 Gold Cup campaign and they have three points so they won't complain too much. Goals by Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey were enough to lead the U.S. past Canada in Group C action, much to the delight of the pro-U.S. crowd of 28,209 at Ford Field in Detroit, MI. The victory keeps the U.S. a perfect 11-0-0 in Gold Cup openers and undefeated since 1985 against their neighbors from the north.
The U.S. came flying out of the gates and almost scored just two minutes in. Altidore drew a dangerous free kick, which went off the wall and out for a corner kick, but the U.S. got three shots off of the corner kicks, all of which were blocked. U.S. corner kicks were common in the early going with four of them in the first 10 minutes. None led to goals though, just many blocked shots so despite their early dominance, the U.S. didn't see that edge on the scoreboard.
In the 14th minute the Americans finally put the scoreboard to work. Canada continued to drop off of of the U.S. midfielders and Landon Donovan made them pay for it. With plenty of time to survey the field, he spotted Altidore making a run and put the ball in a great place for him to run onto. Altidore got to it inside the box and turned to shoot on his second shot with a defender closing him down. It was a hard, low shot, but one that should have been saved. Lars Herschfeld didn't make the save though and Altidore wasn't about to complain. He has himself a goal to put the U.S. on top, 1-0.
From there, the match turned boring for the rest of the half. Sideways passes was all there was and neither team looked intent on attacking so the teams went to halftime with the Americans up by a goal.
In the second half, both teams looked much more intent on finding goals. The match opened up and for every time the U.S. flew forward in space, Canada did too. Neither side could turn it into a great shot on goal for the first 15 minutes of the second stanza though.
That is when Dempsey almost scored an incredible goal. Herschfeld for a hand on a cross from the left that was directed at Dempsey, who was making a run at the far post. The deflection by Herschfeld put the ball behind Dempsey, but it didn't put him off. The American jumped and lifted a leg to try a chest high, backheel volley that he actually pulled off. He put the shot on goal, but it was blocked and an amazing goal was not to be.
While Dempsey may have missed an incredible goal, he did get onto the scoresheet and put the U.S. up, 2-0. Altidore made an overlapping run on the right and Donovan laid the ball into his path, which Altidore crossed with his first touch from near the endline. It was a hard, low cross that Juan Agudelo barely got a touch to. The ball wasn't affected by Agudelo's touch and went all the way to Dempsey on the far post, who finished into the open goal.
With the U.S. up 2-0, they took their foot off the gas pedal and Tim Howard had to rescue them. First he went full stretch to stop a rocket of a shot from Ali Gerba, then he pulled off a tremendous double save. He started by coming off his line to deny Simeon Jackson. The ball was quickly played back in and Howard recovered. He went from five yards off his line and on the ground to back up on his line at the other side of the goal to deny a five-yard bullet of a volley by Gerba with a fantastic save. The U.S. may have gone to sleep, but Howard didn't and he kept the Americans up 2-0.
With their win, the U.S. moves even with Panama atop Group C with three points. The Panamanians defeated Guadeloupe earlier in the day, 3-2, putting Guadeloupe even with Canada at the bottom of the group with zero points. Group C action resumes on Saturday in Tampa Bay, FL with the U.S. playing Panama and Canada playing Guadeloupe.