Dempsey leads the USMNT to a 2-0 win over Costa Rica

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 22: Clint Dempsey
ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 22: Clint Dempsey /

The Seattle Sounders forward scored a goal and gave an assist that helped the U.S. beat Costa Rica 2-0.

With a spot in the 2017 Gold Cup final on the line, the U.S. needed someone to step up against Costa Rica in order to win.

Early in the first half, the U.S. looked like the superior team. While Costa Rica struggled to get into a rhythm, the U.S got rolling right from the start.

In fact, it only took a few seconds for the U.S. national team to get a shot off. Sounders forward Jordan Morris found space and hit the left post after collecting a pass from a teammate.

As the first half went on, the U.S. had more and more trouble breaking through Costa Rica’s backline. The Central Americans were able to capitalize on this by creating more space in the midfield.

With this extra space, Los Ticos were able to get several decent shots off. They looked especially threatening toward the end of the first half. San Jose forward Marcos Ureña nearly scored in the 38th minute after finding enough space in the box to shoot.

Thanks to Tim Howard, the U.S. went into halftime without allowing a goal. He had a great 45 minutes, making several 1-on-1 stops.

Second Half

Still, in the second half, the same problems persisted for the Americans.

Los Ticos found plenty of space to create scoring opportunities. They looked especially dangerous on set pieces. It was obvious that the U.S. needed a playmaker up top.

Darlington Nagbe (Portland) and Jozy Altidore (Toronto) had difficulty finding enough space to shoot and pass in the box. Then in the 66th minute, Sounders forward Clint Dempsey entered the game as a substitute.

Almost immediately, the USMNT looked like a completely different team. Dempsey became the spark the team needed to break through Costa Rica’s backline.

After only a few minutes, Dempsey dribbled his way through the midfield and gave Altidore a perfect pass through the middle. Then the Toronto FC forward hit the ball past the Costa Rican keeper for the 1-0 lead.

For the rest of the half, the U.S. continued to threaten Costa Rica. Then in the 81st minute, the U.S. won a free kick near the outside of the penalty box.

Dempsey took the free kick and put it past the goalkeeper on the left post for the 2-0 lead and his 57th international goal. With that goal, Dempsey tied the U.S. men’s all-time scoring record, which is held by Landon Donovan.

Moving Forward

Although the U.S. went on to win, there are still a few issues head coach Bruce Arena will have to address before the Gold Cup final.

First, there needs to be more stability in the backline. Defenders Graham Zusi and Omar Gonzalez need to be a lot sharper. They both made mistakes in the air on on runs that gave Costa Rica space to create.

Also, Arena should consider placing Dempsey in the starting 11. His talent alone should earn him a starting spot. He is still arguably the most talented American player.

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Either Jordan Morris or Paul Arriola should come off the bench. They both had lackluster performances against Costa Rica. When the team needed someone to step up, they did not.

Next: One on one with USMNT and MLS legend Tony Meola

The U.S. will face off against the winner of the Jamaica/Mexico game in the final. The 2017 Gold Cup final will be played at Levi Stadium in San Francisco on Wednesday, July 26 at 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time.