The U.S. advanced to the final of the 2011 Gold Cup last night, edging Panama 1-0 in a scrappy semifinal in Houston’s Reliant Stadium. The Yanks will take on Mexico—2-0 extra-time winners over Honduras in the other semifinal—in the final in the Rose Bowl on Saturday night (9:00 ET, Fox Soccer Channel).
The big pregame talking point was the benching of the team’s alltime leader in goals and assists, Landon Donovan. The postgame talking points also involved Donovan—who came on after halftime—and amazingly, Freddy Adu, the onetime prodigy who signed a pro contract with D.C. United at the age of 14 and hadn’t played for the Nats since 2009.
Adu entered the game in the 66th minute and 10 minutes later, he sprung Donovan on the right wing with a perfectly lofted (and weighted) pass from the center of the pitch. Donovan then found Clint Dempsey at the far post with a pinpoint diagonal ball for the matchwinner.
Highlights at bottom, but first, a clip of Dempsey channeling how great U.S. fans and players felt to see Adu back contributing to the USMNT after years of wandering in the wilderness of hype and too-much-too-soon.
Deuce videobombed Adu’s postgame interview with Fox Soccer:
The only thing missing was the pie to the face.
Match highlights here:
Apparently, the benching did not hurt LD’s game, and, given his substandard Gold Cup performances so far, may have helped.
And Adu played well overall, beyond his role in the decisive goal. A few minutes after Dempsey’s strike, Adu made a great run away from three defenders on the right flank, beat a fourth with a stepover move, and cut the ball back for Michael Bradley in the box.
Bradley chose to pass instead of shoot (and his pass went awry) but that could have been a second goal for the U.S.
Finally, coach Bob Bradley is headed down the road to vindication—yet again. He’s got his team to the Gold Cup final, where they were expected to be, and he made some gutsy calls along the way: benching Donovan and starting Kljestan and Bedoya versus Jamaica; holding LD out again last night, and rolling the dice on Adu.
Imagine if Adu had underperformed and the U.S. had lost—there would have been a tsunami of backlash, maybe enough to sweep Bradley out of his job.
As it happened, though, Adu did just the opposite, the U.S. won, and Bradley looked like a coach well in tune with his players’ form—and psyches.
Now, if he can get them to beat the in-form Chicharito and Mexico, in what will essentially be an away game at the Rose Bowl, his critics will have to clam up—once again.