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Semifinals produce some of USA's greatest moments
by Paul Kennedy, July 23rd, 2013 12:56AM

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TAGS:  brazil, canada, gold cup, men's national team, mexico

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[GOLD CUP] The USA has owned the Gold Cup semifinals, or close to it. It's played in 12 Gold Cup and reached the semifinals 11 times. And in the 10 previous final four appearances, it has won eight times. The victories include two of the great wins in the history of the national team program -- a 2-0 win over Mexico in the 1991 Gold Cup that kick-started the border rivalry and a 1-0 win over Brazil in 1998 -- the one win in a series record that stands at 1-16-0 -- that featured arguably the greatest game an American keeper has ever had.

U.S. Gold Cup Semifinals:
YEAR RESULT
1991 USA-Mexico 2-0
1993 USA-Costa Rica 1-0 (OT)
1996 Brazil-USA 1-0
1998 USA-Brazil 1-0
2000 DNQ
2002 USA-Canada 0-0 (4-2)
2003 Brazil-USA 2-1 (OT)
2005 USA-Honduras 2-1
2007 USA-Canada 2-1
2009 USA-Honduras 2-0
2011 USA-Panama 1-0

THE RIVALRY IS BORN. Few knew what to expect from the Gold Cup, which debuted with eight teams in 1991. As always, the USA and Mexico were separated on either side the bracket but for the only time in 12 tournaments they met in the semifinals when Mexico finished second in its group behind Honduras.

The legend of Bora Milutinovic -- at least in the United States -- was born on a July evening at the Rose Bowl as he led the USA to a 2-0 win over Mexico on goals by Peter Vermes (now the Sporting Kansas City head coach) and John Doyle (the San Jose Earthquakes general manager).

The U.S. performance stunned the pro-Mexico crowd, which cheered the Americans on with chants of "Olé," and the Mexican press, which dubbed Vermes "El Supersonico."

The loss was a shock to Mexico, which was coming off its suspension from the 1990 World Cup, and Coach Manuel Lapuente quit after the game.

'GREATEST PERFORMANCE I'VE EVER SEEN.' Forget that Brazil brought something else than its "A" team to the 1998 Gold Cup.

It still was reigning World Cup champion with 46-1-0 record since the 1994 World Cup and it had the likes of Romario in the team. But the USA won, 1-0, on a goal by substitute Preki from distance in the 65th minute.

The star of the evening at the Los Angeles Coliseum, though, was Kasey Keller.

Some might argue that Brad Friedel's performance in the 2-0 win over Mexico at the 2002 World Cup was better, but Keller made 10 saves in a display of shot-blocking that Romario would call “the greatest performance I have ever seen by a goalkeeper.”

Keller, who is working at this year's Gold Cup as the U.S. goalkeeping coach, would start six straight U.S. semifinals in goal (1996, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007).

TICKETS TO SOUTH KOREA. The greatest performance in a losing effort at the Gold Cup came in the 2002 semifinals as Canadian keeper Lars Hirschfeld held off a U.S. onslaught of 36 shots to keep the score at 0-0 before the USA won in a shootout to advance to the final, where it beat Costa Rica, 2-0.

In one four-shot sequence, Hirschfeld made two saves on Brian McBride, Josh Wolff hit the post, Canadian defender Jason de Vos cleared a ball off the line, and the USA somehow failed to score.

Coach Bruce Arena was missing many of his European-based stars, so players like Pablo Mastroeni, Eddie Lewis, DaMarcus Beasley and Wolff, who all started against Canada, played themselves on the 2002 World Cup team that reached the quarterfinals in South Korea with their performances at the Gold Cup.

DONOVAN OFF THE BENCH. Landon Donovan will be playing in his sixth Gold Cup semifinal when the USA faces Honduras on Wednesday. His first Gold Cup was the 2002 tournament, and he's played every year since then except in 2009 when Bob Bradley took a "B" team following the USA's second-place finished at the Confederations Cup.

Many will forget that Donovan's recent selection issues with Jurgen Klinsmann weren't the first of his national team career. Donovan missed training before the 2011 quarterfinal match against Jamaica to attend to attend his twin sister Tristan's wedding -- Clint Dempsey also was absent to attend his sister's wedding -- and didn't rejoin the team until 7 a.m. of the day of the game.

For the first time in four years, Donovan didn't start, and he didn't start in the semifinal, a 2-1 overtime win over Panama that was revenge for the only defeat the USA has ever suffered in group play.


1 comment
  1. Bruce Moorhead
    commented on: July 23, 2013 at 3:21 p.m.
    Paul, the 2011 semi was 1-0 in regulation on Dempsey's goal assisted by Donovan and Adu. I think the 2-1 in OT vs Panama was the 2009 quarterfinal.


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