The United States Men’s National team has struggled at times, and they have looked excellent at times. Fortunately for USA soccer fans, it looks like they may have turned a corner. After going 2-1 in the group stage of the Gold Cup (in a very unconvincing way I might add), they moved to the quarterfinals to take on a Jamaican team with one of the best goalies in the world on it, in Donovan Ricketts. Jamaica had not allowed a goal for the entire Gold Cup, and kept the United States out for the entire first half, although the US had plenty of chances. It took until early in the second half for the USMNT to break through and catch a break, as Jermaine Jones’ shot from about 23 yards out hit off a Jamaican defender and landed in the back of the net. This set off a wild celebration for a team that had struggled to put the ball in the net against teams with weaker defenses.
After that point though, it was all the United States. The US worked through the midfield and transitioned up the wings or into the box almost whenever they pleased throughout the second half. This led to an incredibly impressive goal from the United States late in the game, as second half sub Landon Donovan fed a through ball to Juan Agudelo, who had a beautiful pass across the middle to Dempsey who put an excellent move on Ricketts; leaving him with a wide open goal to make it 2-0 United States. Tim Howard made one of about 3 impressive saves late in the second half to hold on to the shutout.
This sets up a big match-up with Panama, who are playing some of the best soccer they’ve ever played right now. Panama was the only loss for the United States in the group play of the 2011 Gold Cup, which was their first loss in group play in over 5 years at this tournament. Panama knocked off El Salvador in penalty kicks in their quarterfinal match-up in order to force this crucial rematch in the semi-finals. The game will be played on Wednesday, June 22nd at 7:00pm ET on Fox Soccer Channel.
Early in the quarterfinals match-up against Jamaica, Jozy Altidore pulled up quickly after running after a through ball, and soon after ended up on the ground clutching his hamstring. He was carted off, and it’s yet to see if the United States will have him available for Wednesday nights game against Panama. Altidore is one of the United States’ key strikers and will be tough to replace for any extended period of time, but Juan Agudelo did well in his place throughout the remainder of the game against Jamaica, and would be expected to start if Altidore can’t go.
Although Panama is playing excellent soccer right now, the United States was at the top of their game against Jamaica, and will come out for revenge against a Panama team who already beat them once. While the odds on the United States aren’t excellent, it’s a strong bet as the USMNT looks motivated right now. I’m taking the United States in a shutout.
Prediction: United States- 2 Panama- 0
Since the prediction gives you the pick, I’m going to throw in an extra pick here as well. I like the UNDER 2.5 here in this game at -117. Both teams are going to come out with a ton of energy, and it’ll be tough to break down either defense for at least one full half. I see the United States breaking through in the end, but it still going under 2.5. I’m also picking the United States here.
Pick: United States -263
Bonus Pick: UNDER 2.5 at -117
What’s your opinion of the semi-finals match-up between the United States and Panama? Let us know!