Dempsey's third Gold Cup goal helps U.S. clinch quarterfinal berth


Dempsey's third Gold Cup goal helps U.S. clinch quarterfinal berth

The United States eeked out another nervy and narrow victory in CONCACAF Gold Cup play, topping Haiti, 1-0, behind a Clint Dempsey goal in the 47th minute in front of 46,720 at Gillette Stadium Friday night.

The win guarantees the top spot in Group A for the Americans, who stand on six points ahead of both Panama and Honduras.

The U.S. were outplayed for large parts of the first half, having to cope with wholesale changes to the side that narrowly carved out a 2-1 win over Honduras three days earlier.

An unfamiliar back four comprised of - from left to right - Greg Garza, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez and Brad Evans looked like it’s never played together before. It hadn't, and Jurgen Klinsmann's side opened itself up to Haiti, squandering possession in the midfield, fortunate not to be behind in several instances.

[RELATED: USMNT in pursuit of second Gold Cup victory, quarterfinal berth]

Haiti's best chance came 10 minutes in, when Mix Diskerud was dispossessed by James Marcelin, with the New York City FC midfielder taking the Haitian midfielder down from behind. The ensuing free kick 25 yards from goal from Mechack Jerome skimmed off the crossbar, a close call for 'keeper Brad Guzan and a golden chance as it was just the beginning of the underdogs' positive start.

The game suddenly became stretched, as Michael Bradley strode through the middle of the pitch in the 34th minute, hoping to find a breakthrough for the U.S. His run eventually found Jozy Altidore down the left flank, whose shot ricocheted off a mob of defenders and fell to the foot of Aron Johansson, who finished past Johnny Placide, but was whistled back for a dubious offside decision.

The teams entered the halftime break with a noticeable disparity, as the U.S. struggled to manage a disorganized midfield and attack, while Haiti came out of the gates flying: running faster, tackling harder, passing better, unlucky not to have found a goal in the process.

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Two minutes into the second half, Gyasi Zardes - a halftime substitute for Altidore - suddenly got free in the box, picked out Dempsey, whose first-time finish gave the U.S. a relieved advantage.

Following the goal, Guerrier missed another opportunity just past the hour mark, climbing high above Evans to meet a delivery from open play, but he sent a header just wide of the frame to the relief of Guzan. Haiti continued to play to its strengths, using the counter attack to their advantage, but ultimately lacked the end product.

The U.S. travel to Kansas City, Kan. next for the third and final group stage match. Klinsmann's outfit will face 2013 Gold Cup runner-up Panama at Sporting Park at 7:30 p.m. CT.

United States Starting XI (subs):

Brad Guzan; Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, Greg Garza (Fabian Johnson, 67'); Graham Zusi, Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud; Clint Dempsey; Aron Johannsson (Kyle Beckerman, 82'), Jozy Altidore (Gyasi Zardes, 46').

Haiti Starting XI (subs): 

Johnny Placide; Mechack Jerome, Kim Jaggy, Frantz Bertin, Reginal Goreux (Sony Norde, 82'), Kevin Lafrance (Sebastian Thuriere, 70'); Wilde-Donald Guerrier, James Marcelin, Jean-Marc Alexandre, Jean Eudes Maurice (Jeff Louis, 67'); Duckens Nazon.

Chicago isn't hosting the 2026 World Cup, but fans should still be excited

Chicago isn't hosting the 2026 World Cup, but fans should still be excited

After failing to qualify to play in this summer’s World Cup, the United States’ pain was alleviated on Wednesday morning after earning a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup.

But why is this bittersweet for Chicagoans?

Even though the World Cup will be hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada in eight years, matches will not be played in Chicago.

The city chose not to be one of the potential hosts of the world’s largest sporting event, despite using Soldier Field as a venue for the 1994 World Cup.

One of the reasons could be the low seating capacity of Chicago’s historic stadium. Soldier Field would be the second smallest spot out of any World Cup host option, seating only 61,500. The massive competition also draws enormous crowds, possibly causing logistical concerns for a highly-populated place like Chicago.

Ten out of 17 different cities in the United States will be gifted the opportunity to host 2026 World Cup games. The list includes Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium), Kansas City (Arrowhead Stadium) and Nashville (Nissan Stadium), which are the closest domestic locations to Chicago.

The bright side is that fans from the Midwest won’t have to travel very far to see a match. For bigtime soccer fans in the Chicago area, having the chance to attend world-class matches in United States could be exciting enough.

Out of the 80 games taking place in 2026, 60 of them will be located in the United States.

Can this bid with Mexico and Canada at least help the relevancy of U.S. Soccer in the Chicago area?

The U.S. men’s national team missed this year’s World Cup at a very unideal time, just when it seemed like the sport of soccer was gaining more and more popularity in the United States.

Plus, the United States might not even get an automatic bid to play in their own World Cup as hosts.

But becoming a member of the first trio in FIFA history to host the World Cup, coupled with the expanded 48-team field in 2026, could help the United States retain the fans they have across the nation and around Chicago.

The World Cup might not be coming to the Windy City, but Chicagoans will still have something to be excited about in 2026 with games being played right around the corner. If the U.S. can qualify for the upcoming World Cups, having the tournament in North America will be much sweeter.

Until then, the 2018 World Cup kicks off this Thursday night in Russia.

Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?


Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?

Portillo's has become a staple in the Chicagoland area due to its popular hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and now, its soccer jerseys.

OK, maybe one of these does not belong with the others. Regardless, Twitter user @JTHazzard created mock-up soccer jerseys mashing MLS teams and restaurants based in that team's city, and the Portillo's jersey is sweet. 

From the Portillo's logo taking center-stage to the picnic blanket pattern to the discrete Chicago Fire logo, this jersey is absolutely brilliant. The only change this writer would make is including the logo below instead.

Valspar is the current sponsor featured on the Fire's uniforms. If the team ever needs a new sponsor, though, Portillo's would be an excellent replacement.