CLEVELAND: A late goal from Matt Miazga helped the United States avoid an embarrassing second-place finish in their CONCACAF Gold Cup group.
After goals from Joe Corona and Kelyn Rowe, Miazga’s close-range header in the 88th minute from Graham Zusi’s free kick gave the US a 3-0 win over Nicaragua on Saturday night, just enough to leapfrog Panama for the Group ‘B’ lead.
Panama had beaten Martinique 3-0 in the earlier group game and the US needed to win by three clear goals to avoid a quarter-final match up against Costa Rica, one of the tournament favourites.
“Clearly a good result for us,” said US coach Bruce Arena. “It’s a game where we wasted some opportunities and made things hard on ourselves,” he added of his side missing two penalties when Dom Dwyer and Corona took poor spotkicks in the second half that easily were saved by Justo Lorente.
The hosts took the lead after 36 minutes when Corona’s deflected strike got him on the international scoresheet for the first time in four years.
The Americans’ second goal in the 56th also came thanks to a deflection when Rowe’s shot outfoxed Lorente at his near post.
The Americans gained a man advantage in the 85th after Luis Copete picked up a second yellow card, and Miazga’s goal soon followed.
The United States and Panama both finished group play on seven points, but the US took the group with seven goals-for to Panama’s six.
The Panamanians struck late in the first half and added two goals in the second in their victory over Martinique, who finished third in the group on three points.
Panama’s New York Red Bulls defender Michael Murillo opened the scoring in the 44th minute, nodding in a cross from New York City FC’s Miguel Camargo.
Goals in the 60th by Abdiel Arroyo and the 67th by Gabriel Torres sealed the points for Panama.
The top two teams from each of the three Gold Cup groups advance to the quarter-finals along with the two best third-place teams.
In the only quarter-final match up already decided, Panama will face Costa Rica, while the US must wait to find out who they face.
Canada and Honduras have also qualified. Mexico, Jamaica and El Salvador are battling to qualify from Group ‘C’.
Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2017