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U.S. tops Jamaica, gains berth in Gold Cup semis

Jamaica goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts can't stop a goal

Jamaica goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts can't stop a goal by the United States' Clint Dempsey during the second half their Gold Cup quarterfinal mat at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. (June 19, 2011) Credit: AP

The United States men's soccer team put its previous Gold Cup woes behind it with a convincing 2-0 win over Jamaica Sunday in the Gold Cup quarterfinals at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C.

After an underwhelming group-stage performance, the U.S. entered the knockout stages with a sense of uncertainty and against an opponent which had yet to yield a goal. But goals by Jermaine Jones (assisted by a deflection) and Clint Dempsey and a shutout by Tim Howard have the Americans back in the Gold Cup semifinals for the sixth consecutive tournament.

And the team did it with the face of American soccer, Landon Donovan, starting on the bench. Head coach Bob Bradley's bold decision to bench the star player worked out. Midfielders Alejandro Bedoya and Sacha Kljestan, both carrying the burden left by the all-time leading scorer's absence, did well to pace the offense in the first half. Donovan eventually came in for Bedoya in the 65th minute.

Donovan only saw 25 minutes of action (albeit exciting ones), but that was twice as many as starting striker Jozy Altidore, who saw just nine minutes of action before he strained his left hamstring and was replaced by Juan Agudelo. Altidore, who has scored two of the Americans' four goals of the tournament, could miss more time, but there's been no official word on the extent of his injury.

Soon after the Jamaican defense put up a zero for the ninth straight half of the tournament, the Americans broke through. Jermaine Jones rifled a shot toward the lower right corner in the 49th minute as Ricketts dove to make the save. But, defender Jermaine Taylor deflected it to Ricketts' right and into the net.

Taylor did not stick around long enough to atone for his mistake. In the 67th minute, he picked up a red card while trying to tackle Jones, who seemingly had a 40-yard sprint to goal in front of him before hitting the ground. Replays showed Taylor never made contact with Jones, but perhaps the referee took note of his intent -- and Jones' acting ability -- in showing him the door.

Clint Dempsey essentially sealed the win for the U.S. with his 21st career goal in the 80th minute. Unlike the previous game against Guadeloupe, his patience paid off this time. Juan Agudelo's cross found Dempsey one-on-one with Ricketts. Dempsey hesitated to draw a dive from the Galaxy keeper, then calmly went left and tapped the ball in for a 2-0 lead. Dempsey was criticized the game before for holding onto the ball too long inside the box and blowing an easy scoring chance.

The U.S. will face the winner of Panama-El Salvador Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Panama already defeated the U.S., 2-1, in group stage play.

Sunday's starting lineup:

----------------------- Altidore (Agudelo, 12th) ------------------------

---- Dempsey ----- Klejstan ----- Bedoya (Donovan, 65th) -----

------------------- Bradley ----------- Jones (Edu, 75th) -------------

---- Lichaj ---- Bocanegra ----- Goodson ---- Cherundolo -----

------------------------------[  Howard  ]-----------------------------------

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