U.S. 1, Guadeloupe 0: Yanks Survive Shaky Start, Horrendous Finishing

A third-minute Guadeloupe corner kick squeaked past the U.S. near post, ricocheted around the goalmouth, and nearly ended up in the back of Tim Howard’s net last night, as Guadeloupe defender Stephane Zubar rocked a shot off the crossbar.

It would have been the 207th* time the U.S. had given up an early goal in an important competition during the past two years, but, fortunately for the Americans, the ball did not go in.

And just six minutes later the U.S. got the only goal they’d need, a sensational 25-yard scorcher by Jozy Altidore. The Yanks could have put the game away on many occasions, as they missed a small bushel of chances, including seven by Clint Dempsey, two of which were the kind of opportunities he usually buries without thinking.

Highlights here:

With the win, the U.S finishes second in Group C behind Panama (which tied Canada 1-1 last night) and moves on to the quarterfinals to face Group B winners Jamaica.

Hopefully the Americans can avoid a sleepy start against the speedy Jamaicans, who feature six MLS players and won all three of their group games while outscoring the opposition 7–0.

We’re looking for positives in the U.S.’s underwhelming group-stage showing, and … here’s one: Remember the 2009 Confederations Cup, when the U.S. looked out of their depth in early losses to Brazil and Italy, only to produce an extraordinary three-goal win over Egypt and make a storybook run to the final?

Maybe that’s the model we should look to here: Underperform, raise the ire of Big Soccer message-board posters, generate us-against-the-world mentality, and peak in the knockout stages.

(Yeah, that’s all we’ve got in the way of silver linings right now.)

Here are the quarterfinal pairings:

Saturday, New Meadowlands Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

Costa Rica vs. Honduras, 5 p.m.

Mexico vs. Guatemala, 8 p.m.

Sunday, RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

Jamaica vs. United States, 3 p.m.

Panama vs. El Salvador, 6 p.m.

The winners at each venue meet in the semifinals, so the U.S. could get a shot at redemption against Panama, as well as a meeting with with Mexico in the final on June 25 at the Rose Bowl.

*Slight exaggeration.

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