Ford Field, the home of the Detroit Lions was a cesspool of lumpy divots which caused the ball to slow down considerably or take an awkward bounce. The stadium’s surface is an artificial turf over which was carpeted over by bales of natural grass for the Gold Cup. The field was partly responsible for a match that was never free flowing.
The USA beat a game Canada through goals scored by Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey. But the player who caught the eye was Michael Bradley, who quietly put together one of his most effective games as midfield lynchpin.
We do not really have state of the art heat maps but Bradley must have traversed the field a hundred times or more – initiating moves and getting onto the end of them. He’s as box to box as one can get and the effort was even more creditable when his steep drop off in appearances is taken into consideration.
Bob Bradley gambled a bit when he put Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson as the centre back pair but it was in most part solid and disciplined. Ream in particular was impressive making some timely stops and keeping Dwayne De Rosario, Canada’s main threat in check.
Steve Cherundolo was tasked with neutralizing the switching twin threats of Simeon Jackson (already a Norwich City legend) and Josh Simpson. Kudos to the veteran right back who did a nice job and also put together some great service into the box.
There was much improvement up front with Altidore looking sharp although the first goal was somewhat fortunate as goalie Lars Hirschfeld should have stopped it. But Altidore’s snapshot had an element of surprise. Juan Aguadelo invented some good looks at goal but this time Hirschfeld was upto the task. The USA went into halftime holding that one goal lead but not before De Rosario gave them a scare with his wickedly bending drive missing narrowly away from Howard’s outstretched hands.
Canada redoubled their efforts in the second half and dominated in spells as Atiba Hutchinson and Will Johnson controlled the ball. The USA missed a golden opportunity to go two up when Altidore narrowly missed a header after Bradley seeing him open lofted the ball intelligently into the box. But it all changed when Dempsey who had shown some nice schoolyard tricks in a previous possession got onto the end of an Altidore cross across the box to finish emphatically at the far corner. Another reminder why he’s been Fulham’s player of the season.
20 minutes to go and Canada looking at a two goal hole brought in the controversial but talented Ali Gerba who showed no hesitating lashing in a powerful shot which Howard tipped over. It was more Howard as Gerba got onto the end of a lofted ball following a goalmouth melee and volleyed for what appeared to be a sure goal but for the Everton goalie making a spectacular save. Canada knocking at the door was frustrated by a vintage Howard taking over the custodian’s role in a kinetic frenzy.
It was a much improved display after the dispiriting loss to Spain. The USA stepped up their defensive efforts and got some good minutes from their forwards.