Going into their final Gold Cup group stage game, the United States men’s national team knew that they needed a three-goal win to finish on top of Group B and avoid a quarterfinal date with Costa Rica. They got exactly that — a 3-0 victory over Nicaragua, despite two missed penalties.
Joe Corona got the USMNT on the board in the 36th minute in somewhat fortunate circumstances. Alejandro Bedoya found him in the box with a good pass, but Corona stalled, waiting too long to shoot. Fortunately for him, his blocked effort deflected into the back of the net.
The Americans thought they’d taken full control of the match in the 49th minute when Dom Dwyer drew a penalty for a shove in the back by Marlon López. Dwyer’s penalty, unfortunately for the USMNT, was saved.
But the second goal came just seven minutes later, with Bedoya providing the assist once again. His through ball to the feet of Kelyn Rowe set up the New England Revolution man with a great chance from six yards, and he finished at the near post.
Rowe, surprisingly, was subbed off in the 62nd minute. Without him in midfield, the USMNT struggled with their ball retention and build-up play, as Paul Arriola struggled to provide the same qualities as the man he replaced.
Dany Cadena gave away the second USMNT penalty with a handball shortly afterwards, but Nicaragua got another gift. Corona stepped up to take the second penalty, and he hit a soft effort that Justo Lorente had no problem saving.
The eventual equalizer came by way of a free kick, following a sending off. Luis Copete picked up his second yellow card in the 85th minute for an elbow to substitute Juan Agudelo, and the Americans scored on the ensuing set piece. Graham Zusi provided the delivery and Matt Miazga got to be his team’s hero with a perfectly placed header.
This win means the USMNT gets a favorable quarterfinal matchup, though they’ll have to wait to see who that is. Group C concludes on Sunday, at which point the quarterfinal bracket will be set.