The United States kicked off their 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign in nice fashion with a convincing 2-0 win over Canada. Jozy Altidore scored in the first half and Clint Dempsey netted in the second as the USA rebounded from its drubbing at the hands of Spain in a big way. It was the 11th straight time that the US has won its opener in the Gold Cup.
The difference between the undermanned team sent out for the Spain friendly and the full strength US squad was apparent from the start. While the defense was certainly more organized and wasn’t as guilty of the ball watching that killed them against Spain, it was the US advantage in the midfield that really dictated this game. Michael Bradley, along with Jermaine Jones really dominated the center of the pitch and Canada struggled to keep any possession for long stretches of the game. Bradley was deployed in a more forward role and regularly stepped up to intercept passes and press the US attack. Jones took a more defensive position, and cleaned up whatever got past Bradley.
Bob Bradley deployed a 4-5-1 with Altidore up top as the lone striker, but Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan had free reign to bomb down the wings to support the attack.
The first US goal was probably as much due to poor defense from Canada as good play from Altidore. The Canadian defender had a chance to step up and play Altidore offsides when Landon Donovan played him in, but didn’t, which allowed Jozy to use him as a screen to the right of the goal and put a solid shot on net from a tough angle. Canadian goaltender Lars Hirschfeld arguably should have made the save, but he beaten at the near post for the opening goal in the 15th minute.
Dempsey’s goal came in the 62nd minute when Landon Donovan again found Altidore in the box, who crossed it in front of goal with his first touch to Juan Agueldo, who whiffed on the shot, but had it glance off him to a waiting Dempsey, who slotted him for the final goal of the evening.
Canada would threaten late, but Tim Howard made a string of fantastic saves to preserve the clean sheet.
Getting the full points against Canada all but ensures that the US will win their group as the Canadians were easily the second best squad. The US will play again this Saturday versus Panama, then conclude group play next Tuesday with a match against tiny Guadeloupe.