Donovan Sits, U.S. Drops Jamaica 2-0

Apparently, the correct answer to our question last week regarding LD and Deuce was: Donovan, no; Dempsey, yes.

For the first time since 2007, Landon Donovan started a U.S. game on the bench, less than 24 hours after he arrived in D.C. from his twin sister’s wedding in California.

On the other hand, Clint Dempsey, who attended his sister’s wedding in Texas, and arrived in D.C. at 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning, did get the starting nod for Sunday’s quarterfinal against Jamaica, which kicked off at 3:00 p.m.

Dempsey not only started and played the full 90, but was also arguably the Man of the Match, putting his imprint on the midfield, presenting a constant threat going forward, and scoring the goal that put the game away in the 80th minute. Afterward he said he wanted to play well “… to pay back the U.S. team for letting me go and not let the travel be an excuse [but] rather be motivation.”

Donovan came on in the 66th minute and turned in a steady performance.

Highlights here:

There was much talk about this being the best performance of the tournament for the U.S., and about how they’d regained their “swagger,” and now look capable of winning the tournament.

A few counterpoints:

• While we agree it was the Yanks’ best performance of Gold Cup 2011, that’s not saying a whole lot.

• It’s hard to believe, and we are having a hard time just typing it, but the U.S. nearly gave up another early goal. In the fourth minute, San Jose Earthquakes attacker Ryan Johnson received the ball at the far post, no one within yards of him.

He was so wide open, he looked blatantly offside—yet he wasn’t: Michael Bradley, slowly jogging out from the near post, kept Johnson on. Tim Howard made a kick save on Johnson and the rebound was somehow skied over the bar.

If either one of those clear chances goes in, the game takes on an entirely different cast.

• The red card to Jermaine Taylor (Houston Dynamo), which helped seal the U.S. victory down the stretch, was completely unwarranted. Taylor hardly touched Jermaine Jones, as the replays clearly showed. The most amazing thing about the play was how Taylor accepted his fate without a single gesture of protest. Just walked right off. Strange—because he didn’t even commit a foul, much less a red-card offense.

The U.S. will play the first semifinal on Wednesday night (7:00 ET, Fox Soccer Channel), getting another shot at Panama, controversial winners over El Salvador (click here for you-are-there field-level highlights, sans TV commentators).

Mexico will meet Honduras in the second semi (10:00 ET, FSC).

For our recap of this past week’s MLS action, click here, and for a quick Father’s Day piece we did for MLS, see here.

Dempsey Bags Two, Spector One, Jones Is Man of the Match: Yanks-In-England Weekend Wrap

It was a big weekend for Americans in the Premier League as Clint Dempsey scored both goals in Fulham’s 2-0 win over Stoke City, Jonathan Spector buried one in West Ham’s 2-2 draw with Everton, and new U.S. national teamer Jermaine Jones went the distance and was named Man of the Match in his debut for Blackburn, which downed West Brom 2-0.

Jones is on loan from German side Schalke 04, and his first performance in England drew praise from Blackburn manager Steve Kean, who said of his new signee, “He’s not even fully fit, but he’s got everything.”

Dempsey’s goals were his team-leading eighth and ninth of the season. They pulled the Cottagers further out of the relegation zone, and got us wondering—as rumors of Deuce transferring to Liverpool resurfaced this week—how productive Dempsey might be if he played for a “big four” team. We may find out before he’s done over there.

Erstwhile defender Spector continued to shine in a midfield role, scoring his fourth goal in all competitions from that spot this season. He beat U.S. teammate Tim Howard with a side footed shot into the roof of the net to give the last-place Hammers a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute.

West Ham held a 2-1 lead into injury time and were on the verge of a desperately needed three points—until Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini found a late equalizer.

Click here to see Dempsey’s and Spector’s goals.

At Villa Park on Saturday, U.S. keeper Brad Friedel, who is facing bankruptcy after investing millions in a soccer academy in his native Ohio, put aside his personal woes to make several key saves and preserve Aston Villa’s huge 1-0 win over third-place Manchester City.

Friedel backstopped Villa to another win today—a 2-1 victory at Wigan that put more distance between the Villans and the drop zone.

Yesterday at the Reebok Stadium, U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden and Bolton fell to Chelsea 4-0. Holden started and played 87 minutes. Bolton has tumbled to 10th in the standings after their bright start, having claimed just eight points from their last 10 games.

Bradley Calls 20 for October Friendlies

FC Dallas’s 20-year-old winger Brek Shea and Aston Villa’ 18-year-old defender Eric Lichaj received their first call-ups to the U.S. national team as Bob Bradley tapped 20 Yanks yesterday for upcoming friendlies against Poland (Oct 9) and Colombia (Oct 12).

Schalke 04 midfielder Jermaine Jones, 28—who withdrew from the August friendly against Brazil to remain in preseason with his Bundesliga club—was also called, and has a chance to make his first appearance in a U.S. shirt.

Bradley noted that this is a critical stretch for MLS teams as they push toward the playoffs, so the roster is almost entirely composed of European-based players, the only exceptions being Shea and his Dallas teammate, Heath Pearce, both of whom are only on board for the Colombia game at PPL Park in Chester, PA.

An all-European group will face Poland at Soldier Field in Chicago (where there is a significant Polish population, led by Bob and Bill Swerski, and Carl Wollarski).

Here’s the entire roster:

GOALKEEPERS (2): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton)

DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (St. Etienne), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjaelland), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Jonathan Spector (West Ham)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Alejandro Bedoya (Orebro), Michael Bradley (Borussia M’Gladbach), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers), Jermaine Jones (FC Schalke), Brek Shea (FC Dallas)

FORWARDS (3): Jozy Altidore (Villarreal), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Eddie Johnson (Fulham)

Three quick hits:

Any Surprises? Lichaj getting the nod, at 18, is a slight surprise, and a pleasant one. But why no other young defenders? The backline veterans—Cherundolo, Boca, etc—are not going to be around for Brazil 2014. The inclusion of the 6-3 Shea is also a nice surprise, and should give him a boost after his straight red against New York two weeks ago and subsequent two-game suspension.

Players to watch: Tops on the list is the much-ballyhooed Jones, the hard-nosed Bundesliga vet who couldn’t quite get healthy in time for SA 2010. Let’s see if the hype was true. Next up, for us, is Holden, who’s off to a terrific start with Bolton in the Premier League. Then there’s Bedoya, who scored, and got ejected, for his club team this week.

Where are all the U.S. strikers? With the absence of Bobby Zamora from Fulham’s lineup, Dempsey has been playing up top this season, but he’s not a pure forward. That leaves Altidore and Johnson, (who’s also been affected by the Zamora injury: he’s getting PT as a result).

Is that really all there is? As Jamie Carragher would say, “Shaw-keh.”

U.S. Swaps Out Jones, Marshall, for Altidore, Gonzalez

German-born midfielder Jermaine Jones respectfully declined (after initially accepting) the United States’ offer to suit up for Tuesday’s friendly against Brazil, citing a lack of 100% fitness for his first national-team appearance.

Jones, who has not played competitive soccer in more than a year, is preparing for the upcoming Bundesliga season with Schalke 04, and said that he hopes to be called into a future U.S. camp.

He will be replaced by striker Jozy Altidore.

Columbus Crew defender Chad Marshall withdrew from the roster due to a lingering knee injury. LA Galaxy centerback and 2009 MLS Rookie of the Year Omar Gonzalez will take Marshall’s place.

Here is the Brazilian roster the Americans will face:

Goalkeepers: Jefferson (Botafogo), Renan (Avai), Victor (Gremio)

Defenders: Andre Santos (Fenerbahce, Turkey), Daniel Alves (Barcelona, Spain), David Luiz (Benfica, Portugal), Henrique (Racing Santander, Spain), Marcelo (Real Madrid, Spain), Rafael da Silva (Manchester United, England), Rever (Atletico Mineiro), Thiago Silva (AC Milan, Italy)

Midfielders: Carlos Eduardo (Hoffenheim, Germany), Ederson (Lyon, France), Hernanes (Sao Paulo), Jucilei (Corinthians), Lucas Leiva (Liverpool, England), Paulo Henrique Ganso (Santos), Ramires (Benfica, Portugal), Sandro (Internacional)

Forwards: Andre (Santos), Neymar (Santos), Alexandre Pato (AC Milan, Italy), Robinho (Santos), Diego Tardelli (Atletico Mineiro).

No Kaka, and no Luis Fabiano, but Robinho, Pato and rising young Santos star Neymar should be able to provide plenty of offensive firepower.

The game is on ESPN2 at 8:00 p.m. EST.