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U.S. gets the job done vs. Nicaragua to ease into Gold Cup quarterfinals

U.S. gets the job done vs. Nicaragua to ease into Gold Cup quarterfinals
From ESPN - July 15, 2017

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The U.S. men's national team defeated Nicaragua 3-0 on Saturday to end the Gold Cup group stage on a positive note and claim first place in Group B. Joe Corona opened the scoring in the 36th minute while Kelyn Rowe added another in the 56th minute. With the U.S. needing a goal to leapfrog Panama in Group B, it was left to Matt Miazga to get the vital tally in the 88th minute.

Here are three thoughts on the match.

1. U.S gets the job done

Following Panama's 3-0 win over Martinique earlier in the day, the U.S. knew what it needed to do to claim top spot in group. It needed to beat Nicaragua by three goals in order to finish first on the goals-scored tiebreaker. It got the job done, just barely.

In some respects, the U.S. put in its most complete performance of the group stage, but that has to be put in context. It came against a Nicaragua side that was already on its way out of the tournament, and by the end of the match, it was left playing with nine men thanks to Luis Copete's second yellow card in the 86th minute and an injury to Luis Galeano when Nicaragua was out of subs.

But credit the U.S. for persevering and doing what it needed to do. While the U.S. had a few shaky clearances, overall the defense looked more cohesive, with goalkeeper Bill Hamid forced into just one save that could be classified as difficult. Offensively, the high press created its share of possession for the hosts in the attacking half, including a steal and run by Graham Zusi that saw him nearly open the scoring in the 20th minute, though his shot was hit right at goalkeeper Justo Lorente.

The U.S. was having difficulty creating clear chances, however, with the final ball oftentimes lacking. But the home side broke on top thanks to a transition opportunity on the 36th minute. Dax McCarty's ball out of midfield was touched wide by Dom Dwyer to Alejandro Bedoya. After shaking off a challenge, Bedoya's cutback pass found Corona in the clear. Initially it looked like Corona took too long to get his shot off, but he eventually got his attempt off, and thanks to a fortuitous deflection off defender Bismarck Veliz, it sneaked inside the post.

Rowe extended the lead with a goal in the 56th minute off another Bedoya assist, but sandwiched around this goal was a pair of saved penalties by Lorente, the first from Dwyer and then Corona. The misses looked like they might prove costly, but with a quarterfinal matchup against Costa Rica looming, Miazga got on the end of Zusi's free kick and headed home past Lorente.

Now a much easier quarterfinal matchup in Philadelphia on Wednesday awaits against either Honduras, El Salvador or Jamaica.

2. Bedoya, Rowe, Miazga help their respective causes

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