U.S. advances to Gold Cup quarterfinalsBy ANDREW DALTON, Associated Press Writer
The U.S. soccer team keep on winning, even though the Americans are not impressing. Despite a depleted defense and a tepid offense, the United States advanced to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 2-0 victory Saturday over Trinidad and Tobago.
Brian Ching scored in the first half and Landon Donovan became the U.S. career points leader when he fed Eddie Johnson for a second-half goal.
"I'm disappointed at the team," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "We had good chances, and I think we had opportunities to score two more goals."
Ching scored his fifth international goal in the 29th minute off a long pass from Justin Mapp, and Johnson doubled the lead in the 54th, scoring his 10th goal for the United States and his first since Feb. 19, 2006. Donovan got his 25th assist to go along with 30 international goals, and with 85 points he moved one ahead of Eric Wynalda for the career lead.
The United States improved to 6-0-1 since Bradley replaced Bruce Arena as coach and remained unbeaten in 21 group-play games in the Gold Cup, the championship of soccer's North and Central American and Caribbean region. The Americans are seeking their second straight Gold Cup title and a berth in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.
Kasey Keller played his 99th international game, one short of Tony Meola's record for U.S. goalkeepers, and got his 47th shutout.
Keller often barked at the defense, missing some of its mainstays. While the Americans never appeared in danger of losing, they appeared flustered and unorganized late in the first half, giving Trinidad and Tobago several scoring chances.
Trinidad, coming off its first World Cup appearance last year, lost to El Salvador in its Gold Cup opener and remained winless in the tournament since 2000. It plays Guatemala on Tuesday.
The Americans, who finish the opening round Tuesday against El Salvador at Foxborough, Mass., used 10 different starters from Thursday's opening 1-0 win over Guatemala. Midfielder Benny Feilhaber was the lone holdover.
Mapp was in the far left corner when he sent the ball under the feet of a charging Ching, who skipped it into the goal. The 29-year-old Hawaiian, who plays for the Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo, converted after missing on several tantalizing chances earlier, including a pair of one-on-ones against goalkeeper Jan Michael Williams.
"When I come to the national team I know and understand my role," Ching said. "I think I try to combine well with guys, set guys up and kind of be a big bruiser up front."
Donovan, who entered at the start of the second half, created the goal after taking a long pass from Ching that left him with Johnson in the center for a two-on-one. Donovan crossed the ball, and Johnson scored easily.
"Landon is a versatile player. And every game is different," Bradley said. "And the ability to use him in different ways to ensure that we find him in good spots is important. That is a great thing from such a talented player and that's why he has such respect from everyone inside the team."
Johnson, coming off a pair of three-goal games for MLS's Kansas City Wizards, came out in the 71st minute with a mild knee strain.
The United States has secured a quarterfinal spot, but has not yet clinched first place in its group, leaving that as a goal in Tuesday's game against El Salvador.
"We have to make sure we do it right as we move to the quarterfinals," Bradley said. "We have to get at least a point to get to the top of our group."
Saturday's reported sellout crowd of 27,000 was largely due to Guatemala's 1-0 victory over El Salvador earlier in the day, but the United States had a majority of the Southern California fans pulling for it, a rarity in a tournament that features mostly Latin American teams that are extremely popular in the region.