Moment that mattered: Clint Dempsey starts, finishes the U.S.'s only goal
The conditions in Commerce City meant moments of execution were going to be rare. The U.S. didn’t even have a good spell of possession until around the 14th minute, but it didn’t take long after that for the team to create the night’s only goal.
For Clint Dempsey, it is his the seventh goal of the 2014 qualifying cycle and the 32nd of his senior national team career. Only two back of Eric Wynalda for second on the U.S.'s scoring list, Dempsey goal rate is now the highest among the program’s top 10 all-time scorers.
The highlight picks up after Dempsey has received the ball from Graham Zusi, turned toward the middle of the field, and drawn two Costa Rican defenders. He plays the ball toward the left channel for Jozy Altidore as Michael Bradley surges from midfield. Between Herculez Gomez at the far left of the shot and Clint Dempsey now trailing the player, the U.S. has Costa Rica four-on-four and disorganized at they approach goal.
Altidore takes the ball with his left foot, moves it back onto his right, and looks to put his shot on goal. Four Costa Rican defenders have lined up to play the shot, and while right wing back Cristian Gamboa has gotten back into the play, three U.S. attackers are going to have free runs on goal. If Altidore elected to pass, he’d be able to set up any of his teammates for a clear shot, but electing to get it on goal, the U.S. is set to claim any rebound Keylor Navas might give up.
A hard driven shot by Altidore never makes it on Navas. Roy Miller blocks the shot, but between Michael Bradley on the left and Clint Dempsey on the right, the U.S. is going to be able to convert any loose ball that doesn’t fly out of the box. Costa Rica’s defenders are left watching as the U.S. players who have continued their runs are in prime position of convert the chance.
Navas is on his back side as the ball falls right to Dempsey. In stride, Dempsey’s right footed one-timer meets an unprotected net, converting the game’s only goal.
Though Dempsey deserves full credit for both starting and finishing the play, Jozy Altidore’s part shouldn’t be ignored. While he did have options to pass to his right and left, Altidore did what teammates expect their strikers to do. He turned and drove the ball toward goal, his decisive act allowed Dempsey and Bradley to be equally decisive in their movement.
As a result, the U.S. was able to convert their only shot on goal, the team’s 1-0 victory vaulting them to second place in CONCACAF’s young final round.