Wednesday June 15th, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Three thoughts after the U.S.'s 1-0 victory over Guadeloupe on Tuesday gave the U.S. second place in Gold Cup Group C and put the Americans in Sunday's quarterfinals against Jamaica:

The U.S. got what it needed ... and not much more. From a pure survival perspective, the U.S. lived to see another day in the Gold Cup thanks to Jozy Altidore's thunderous ninth-minute strike from distance, one of the rare occasions that you'll see the Americans score on a shot from outside the penalty box. But that was the only good finish on a night when the U.S. wasted innumerable chances in the box, whether the culprit was Chris Wondolowski, Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey. Dempsey in particular had some stunning misses: two unmarked headers in the box in the first half and then a jaw-dropping flub in the 76th minute. A pass from Alejandro Bedoya left Dempsey standing alone on the ball two yards in front of the goal, only to stand on it so long that it was finally cleared from behind by defender Julien Ictoi. Worst miss in U.S. history? Can't be far from the top.

• The U.S.'s outside backs looked better in this game. While they weren't as influential in the second half, left back Eric Lichaj and right back Steve Cherundolo had a sizable first-half impact on the American attack -- an important thing considering the U.S. has very little width in the midfield as long as Donovan and Dempsey play on the outside cutting in. Lichaj showed promise as a potential left-back solution, getting forward more than Carlos Bocanegra had on the left in the past two games. Cherundolo was also effective moving up on the right side and delivering a couple of dangerous crosses. They'll have to keep that up if the U.S. is going to have any chance of winning this tournament.

• If we're going on form, the U.S. has been no better than the fourth-best team in the Gold Cup. What has happened to the giant of CONCACAF? In the group stage of this tournament no fewer than three teams -- Mexico, Panama and Jamaica -- have played better than the U.S. has. Tournaments aren't won on style points, obviously, but as of now it's hard to imagine this U.S. team being able to beat Mexico unless some major improvements take place. Those include far more precision in the final third and the aggression to move in for the kill, which we just haven't seen so far. It's hard to take too many big-picture lessons from a game against Guadeloupe, which is not a very good team, but nothing has come easy for the U.S., even tonight. Facing an impressive (and so far perfect) Jamaica team on Sunday will be a bigger test for the Americans than many might imagine.

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