PHILADELPHIA — The U.S. men’s national team is through to the Concacaf Gold Cup semifinals, but it did not look like a team that could conquer Mexico and win the tournament in a week.
The USMNT struggled to beat Curacao 1-0 on Sunday night during the Gold Cup quarterfinals in front of an announced crowd of 26.233 at Lincoln Financial Field.
“In the end, fourth straight shutout, going on to the semifinals,” USMNT forward Jordan Morris said. “It’s survive and advance at this point, right?”
Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie combined on the lone American goal in the 25th minute, but it was one of just two shots placed on target.
In the build-up to the goal, Pulisic, who captained the USMNT, made a nice run down the left wing, cut inside to the right and crossed the ball onto the head of McKennie.
The Schalke man, who recently signed an extension with the German club, created separation for himself at the back post and headed home his second-career international goal.
“I always know that whenever (Pulisic) gets out wide, he’s most of the times going to beat the player more than not,” McKennie said. “And then he normally cuts inside. We’ve talked about it in training, whenever he cuts in, I’m running into the box.
“I try to get myself in position to score. It’s one of my strengths, running into the box late. I always tell him to look for me and he always knows someone’s going to be in the box when he cuts back. I think it’s a little something we’ve worked on together.”
PULISIC ➡️ MCKENNIE = GOAL 🔥
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 1, 2019
After the goal, the USMNT attack fell asleep and did not produce enough quality chances to send a second goal past Curacao goalkeeper Eloy Room.
On the other hand, the Caribbean nation held its own for 90 minutes and looked like the better side in the final third for the majority of the contest.
Curacao came close to equalizing in the 85th minute, when Zack Steffen leaped and stopped a rocket of a shot off the boot of Leandro Bacuna.
“Zack Steffen, he’s a world-class keeper,” USMNT forward Gyasi Zardes said. “He made a couple huge saves tonight that kept us in the game. I’ve played with Zach for a year-and-a-half. I know that he’s always ready whenever that moment comes.”
Curacao had 13 shots compared to 10 from the USMNT and put one more on goal than the victorious side.
“I am proud of my players,” Curacao head coach Remko Biacentini said. “They played with real heart. We know for us it was not an easy game, but we created one or two chances. We fought for 90 minutes for the win. To my players, well done.”
Although the American defense did not put together a convincing performance, the USMNT is the only team left in the tournament that has not conceded a goal.
The Americans will head to Nashville on Wednesday to take on Jamaica, which is making its third straight Gold Cup semifinal appearance. The winner will face either Mexico or Haiti in next Sunday’s final.
“Curacao was a good opponent,” Zardes said. “A very good opponent today. It was a great challenge for us. At the end of the day, we still got another shutout. We won the game. We’re on to the next round.”