Team USA prevails in Gold Cup soccer match at Rentschler Field
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
East Hartford/Statewide - posted Thu., Jul. 18, 2013
A crowd of nearly 30,000 saw double-header soccer matches at Rentschler Field in East Hartford on July 16. The games were the last two of group play for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Gold Cup – a tournament that pits 12 of the confederation's member countries against each other throughout the month of July, and also serves as a qualifier for the World Cup.
Team USA clinched the number-one seed for its group with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Costa Rica.
The game was knotted at 0-0 for 81 minutes, until USA quickly converted a Costa Rica corner kick into an opportunity of its own. The ball was blocked by goalie Sean Johnson, and then careened off of several players in front of the goal, before bouncing out to midfield. Landon Donovan saw an opening and sliced the ball in front of fellow forward Brek Shea, who had Costa Rican goalie Patrick Pemberton one-on-one, and was able to put pace on the ball enough to ricochet off Pemberton's glove and find the net. It was Shea's first goal as a member of the national team.
“I remember Sean making the great save, and then someone playing it to Landon,” Shea said. “I saw all the green grass and thought I should be there, in case someone finds me.”
Shea said he had dreamt of playing on the national team and winning, regardless of whether he was able to provide a score or not, but it felt great that he was given another chance after what he termed a “not so great” performance in his last game.
"It felt good to be out there, and I'm glad we got the win,” Brek said, adding that he was glad the coaches had confidence in him. “I'm just happy to work.”
USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann, a German national, said the crowd saw an entertaining game, and his team pushed itself to win it, even though the USA had already clinched its group.
“We could have taken it easy. A tie is not fine with us,” he said. “The team pushed and grinded until the last minute and deserved the goal. [It was] a beautiful combination.”
He added that showing faith in Shea and Johnson, both of whom have had recent ups and downs, is part of his coaching philosophy regarding young players. “They deserve opportunities,” he said. “We need to carefully build them, help them and support them when things go wrong. Sooner or later, it will pay off. Giving them a taste of these types of battles is important.”
Klinsmann said Donovan's experience is invaluable, as evidenced on the scoring play. “The ball that he plays into Brek is just a perfect ball,” he said. “His leadership in that moment is very important to the team, and he understands that moment.”
Costa Rican coach Jorge Luis Pinto said his team played a “tactical, aggressive and hard game,” and could have won. “I felt like the only way the team failed was when they scored a goal against us,” he said. “We lost control at one point and they took the opportunity.”
In the earlier match, Cuba's Ariel Martinez Gonzales notched three goals, and Jeniear Marquez added another in stoppage time to beat Belize, 4-0. It was Belize's first time taking part in a Gold Cup competition, and a large contingent of fans (second only to that of the USA at Rentschler Field) came out to root for their squad.
The USA will go on to play El Salvador in a quarterfinal match on July 21. Costa Rica had also earned a playoff berth, and will face Honduras that same day. Cuba will also play a quarterfinal vs. Panama on July 20. The Gold Cup finals will take place July 28.
For more information, visit www.concacaf.com.