Needing to win by three goals against Nicaragua to win Group B of the Gold Cup, the US Men’s national team left it late, with Matt Miazga’s 88th minute goal capping off a 3-0 win for the US. Joe Corona and Kelyn Rowe scored on either side of the half for the US, but two penalty saves kept the US’ final positioning in question down to the wire. As it is, the US will play their quarterfinal game on Wednesday in Philadelphia, against the third place finisher in either Group A or C.
Bruce Arena made 11 changes to the team that beat Martinique 3-2 on Wednesday night. That included a start for D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who won his third cap. The last time Hamid played for the US was back in November 2014, with injuries robbing him from participating in the last three January camps.
The US hadn’t done much to impress in an opening game draw against Panama, or the win against Martinique, and that continued against Nicaragua. Playing after the conclusion of the Panama and Martinque game allowed the US to know exactly what they needed in terms of a result, but there didn’t seem to be much urgency early on.
Nine minutes in, Rowe did well to keep a half volley shot low, but it was right at keeper Justo Lorente, who comfortably made the save. A poor turnover in the 14th minute allowed Nicaragua their first look at goal, but Luis Galeano’s speculative shot didn’t threaten Hamid’s goal.
A minute later, Chris Pontius won a header in the box, setting up a chance for Alejandro Bedoya, who had a shot blocked. Dom Dwyer had a second crack at a chance, but his shot was blocked as well. Graham Zusi’s surging run in the 20th minute saw him work a shooting lane in the box, but his left footed effort was saved by Lorente.
Finally, in the 37th minute, the US had their breakthrough. Bedoya was played down the right hand flank, getting past a defender, and sending a cross into the box. Corona collected, and instead of immediately shooting, juked past several defenders, before firing a shot that took a deflection to get by Lorente for the 1-0 lead.
Moments later, Hamid was called into action, as Nicaragua quickly moved the ball from right to left in the attacking third. Bismarck Veliz was the recipient, and his shot from outside of the box was ushered over the goal by Hamid, who played the situation safely by palming the ball out for a corner.
The US looked like they might grab their second goal of the game in the 51st minute, after Dom Dwyer was knocked over in the box by Marlon Lopez. Dwyer, who scored in his first two caps, took the honors, but saw a hard hit penalty saved by Lorente.
Dwyer helped gloss over the miss five minutes later, when he and Bedoya pressured the ball in Nicaragua’s half, creating a turnover. Dwyer got the ball to Bedoya at the top of the box, with Bedoya quickly playing over to Rowe. Rowe shot with the outside of his right foot, but a big deflection took it past Lorente at the near post, who might have otherwise saved the shot.
Bryan Garcia took aim in the 62nd minute after Pontius headed out a corner right to the top of the box. Garcia’s shot looked to be headed towards goal, but an intervention from Matt Besler deflected the ball out for a corner kick.
Then, in the 62nd minute, Bedoya won another penalty for the US. The midfielder’s surging run into the box caused a handball on a tackle attempt. With Dwyer still on the field, Corona took the ball to signal his intention of taking the spot kick. But Corona’s effort was poor, and Lorente was able to save once again, and then denied Pontius on the rebound.
Hamid then had to make a big save in the 74th minute, with the US still needing one goal to top their group. A shot from range by Juan Barrera was saved by Hamid, but there was a big rebound from the save. Hamid was quick to get up, and scrambled over in time to nab the ball from Jorge Garcia, who was bearing down on the loose ball.
A missed opportunity from Galeano and Barrera late on, when both whiffed on a header, eventually led to the US’ group winning goal in the 88th minute. The two Nicaraguan players ran into each other going up for a header, and the US quickly broke the other way. Substitute Juan Agudelo won a free kick at the other end by drawing a foul against Luis Copete, who picked up his second yellow card.
With Copete sent off, and Barrera off the field receiving treatment, the US took advantage of the 11 versus 9 scenario on the resulting free kick. In the 88th minute, Zusi lofted the ball towards the back post, and Miazga worked himself free, and bounced a header underneath Lorente. The goal gave the US the Group B win, helping them avoid Costa Rica in the quarterfinals.