BY RIDGE MAHONEY
in Pasadena, Calif.
They've met 13 times in World Cup qualifying and 11 times in friendlies but never before have neighbors Canada and the United States faced each other in the Gold Cup.
The CONCACAF championship enters the semifinal stage Wednesday night at the Rose Bowl. After guest team South Korea plays Costa Rica to decide one finalist, the United States faces Canada. The Americans carry an eight-game unbeaten streak against their northern rivals into the match.
(USA-Canada kickoff: 11:30 pm ET; 8:30 pm PT; TV: live, CNN closed-circuit; tape, Fox Sports World, Friday, Feb. 1, 11 pm ET).
"I know how they play and what they're like," said U.S. head coach Bruce Arena. "They're very difficult to play against and they've been very successful here. No one has been able to eliminate them. They play everyone tough."
The U.S. has to make at least one change from the starting 11 that tore apart El Salvador, 4-0, behind a Brian McBride hat trick. Ante Razov, who scored the fourth goal, suffered a groin pull shortly after scoring and is out.
Josh Wolff, who didn't play in the quarterfinal, will likely start up front alongside McBride unless Arena pulls a surprise and turns to DaMarcus Beasley, who has been used at forward occasionally with Chicago. Wolff, Beasley, Cobi Jones and Landon Donovan all have the speed to exploit Canada's physical but ponderous back line.
Carlos Bocanegra has recovered from the ankle knock that forced him out of the El Salvador game at halftime and is expected to start at left back. When Bocanegra came out, left midfielder Eddie Lewis dropped back and Beasley took over in midfield. Both Lewis and Beasley set up goals against El Salvador.
Clint Mathis, who played 28 minutes in the quarterfinal after sitting out more than seven months with a knee injury, is likely to play again as a substitute.
As it did in winning the 2000 Gold Cup, Canada came out of the first round via a draw when it finished all square with Group D foes Haiti and Ecuador. Each group game finished 2-0. Canada and Haiti won in a double blind draw that determined which two teams would advance. Ecuador, a shocking loser to Haiti, was eliminated.
Converted defender Kevin McKenna has scored all three Canadian goals while playing up front. Canada beat Haiti, 2-0, and lost to Ecuador by the same score in the first round, then knocked off Caribbean upstart Martinique on penalties after a 1-1 tie.
Coach Holger Osieck has patched together a team lacking such standouts as 2000 Gold Cup top scorer Carlo Corazzin (double hernia) and MVP Craig Forrest (testicular cancer).
The German-born coach sees the semifinal as being decided by the wide players: "They definitely will try to close us down and outplay us on the flanks."
The Canadians normally play a 3-5-2 with zonal defending. Former Colorado Rapid Jason Bent anchored the midfield in front of captain and central defender Jason deVos against Martinique but may lose his spot to Nick Dasovic, who was suspended for that game after picking up yellow cards in the two group matches.
San Jose forward Dwayne DeRosario has come on as a sub in all three games, replacing former University of Portland attacker Davide Xausa.
Left-sided midfielder Jim Brennan, who served up a ball McKenna put away for the goal against Martinique, is regarded as the most competent crosser. Yet Canada often bypasses midfield by driving long balls to the frontrunners.
Of the U.S., deVos says, "They are the home team, they'll have their support behind them, they'll be expected to win. Again we'll find ourselves in the position of being the underdogs. In the past we've shown that we're quite comfortable with that."
Canada was certainly an underdog in 2000 and came out on top. But that team had more of its top dogs than does Osieck this time around.
USA -- Keller; Hejduk, Mastroeni, Agoos, Bocanegra; Jones, Armas, Lewis, Donovan; McBride, Wolff.
Canada -- Hirschfield; Menezes, deVos, Fletcher; Imhoff, Stalteri, Dasovic, Hastings, Brennan; McKenna, Xausa.
No comments yet.