US downs Costa Rica to reach Gold Cup final

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LOS ANGELES: Clint Dempsey’s milestone goal sealed the United States’ 2-0 victory over Costa Rica on Satur­day (Sunday in Manila) in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in Dallas, Texas.

In Wednesday’s final, the United States will face either defending champ­ions Mexico or Jamaica — who face off on Sunday in Pasadena, California.

Tenacious Costa Rica sty­mied the five-time champion United States until Jozy Altidore broke through in the 72nd minute, capitalizing on good work from Dempsey.

Dempsey came on for Paul Arriola in the 66th minute and soon made his presence felt, working his way through the defense and threading a pass to Altidore, who beat Costa Rican keeper Patrick Pemberton with a left-footed shot.


Ten minutes later, 34-year-old Dempsey curled a perfectly struck free kick under the wall and past Pemberton inside the near post for his 57th interna­tional goal, tying Landon Donovan’s mark for most in the history of the US men’s team.

Dempsey matched the record in his 136th ap­pearance for the senior team—17 games faster than it took Donovan to score his 57 international goals.

His first goal for the United States came in 2005 when the former Fulham player scored in a friendly defeat to England. He has scored in three World Cups and five Gold Cups.

After overcoming a batt­ling display from El Sal­vador in the quarter­finals, the US team pro­duced their best game of the tourna­ment against Costa Rica.

Veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard, Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Darlington Nagbe were all brought in for the knockout stage by coach Bruce Arena, who had expe­rimented with an untried squad in the group stage.

Howard made a key save on Marco Urena’s attempt against the run of play in the 37th minute, and produced another big save on Urena in the 71st to keep the contest scoreless.

The tension was rising, however, with the match set to go straight to a penalty shoot-out without extra time if the sides were drawn after 90 minutes.

But Dempsey—who re­turned to international duty in March after a heart problem saw him side­lined for six months—provided the needed spark off the bench.

“We were pretty close to getting it right in the first half,” said US coach Bruce Arena. “I think as the game wore on and our opponent got tired, the goals came.”

The US avenged their hum­bling 4-0 loss to Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier in November — the final match before Jurgen Klinsmann was sacked as coach.

With Arena back at the helm, the USA are un­beaten in 12 matches and now have a shot at a sixth Gold Cup title and their first since 2013.

They failed to make the final in 2015, when Mexico won their seventh crown.

AFP

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