U.S. is solid from the start in 2-0 victory over Jamaica

The U.S. national team rid itself of the jitters and miscommunication that had plagued it in the group stage games and produced a commanding performance to sweep aside Jamaica on Sunday and advance to the semifinals of the Gold Cup.

Midfielder Jermaine Jones notched a goal early in the second half, and Clint Dempsey scored in the 80th minute to give the Americans a 2-0 win over the Reggae Boyz before a sellout crowd at the doubleheader in RFK Stadium. The U.S. team never has lost in Gold Cup quarterfinals.

It was Jones‘ first goal in a U.S. jersey and Dempsey’s second in the tournament.

“Your first goal for the national team is always special and even so because it was an important goal for us tonight,” said the German-speaking Jones, as his teammate defender Steve Cherundolo translated.

Jones, who was born to a German mother and an American serviceman, celebrated the goal with a military salute to the crowd.

“It was a way of thanking my father on Father’s Day,” Jones said. “My father was a soldier, and it was a way to show respect to him.”

Dempsey, who had flown in the night before from his sister’s wedding in Texas, tapped home an easy shot and made up for the countless missed chances he had in the 1-0 win over lowly Guadeloupe in the group stage last week.

The Americans could have easily doubled the score if not for the fine efforts of Jamaican goalie Donovan Ricketts, who made nine saves.

The U.S. team will play the winner of the Panama vs. El Salvador match (which was a late kickoff at RFK) at Houston’s Reliant Stadium on Wednesday.

“I felt we played a good game today,” said U.S. coach Bob Bradley. “I felt right from the start we did a good job at establishing control, passing the ball and keeping the ball moving. It took a lot to get the goal — and the second goal — but certainly at establishing our game today, we did an excellent job.”

The Americans faced an early scare in the opening five minutes when Howard had to pull off an excellent save with his feet to stop Ryan Johnson’s shot.

In the 10th minute, the U.S. was forced to make an early substitution when striker Jozy Altidore pulled up with a hamstring and was replaced by 18-year-old Juan Agudelo, who went on to play a fine game.

Jamaica had reached the quarterfinals with three wins in group play without conceding a goal, and the U.S. team had struggled after its opening win over Canada; losing to Panama and squeaking past Guadeloupe.

Landon Donovan, who got into town in the early hours of Sunday morning after attending his twin-sister’s wedding in California, did not start. The team’s all-time leading goal scorer came off the bench in the 65th minute and played a role in Dempsey’s late goal.

“I know how important both these days were for them,” said Bradley on allowing both Dempsey and Donovan to miss training this week and attend their sister’s weddings on Saturday. “I thought they both did a good job today.”

Dempsey kept Ricketts busy all afternoon. In the 36th minute, he forced the Jamaican goalie to make a huge save with a 30-yard shot from a free kick.

Ricketts made another save, stopping Sacha Kljestan’s blast, and seconds later Dempsey fired a bicycle-kick shot over the bar. The Los Angeles Galaxy goalie was keeping Jamaica on a lifeline with his efforts, stopping shots from Agudelo and Eric Lichaj just before the interval.

The U.S. team finally took the lead in the 49th minute when Jones‘ 30-yard blast took a nasty deflection off a defender leaving Ricketts helpless.

Jamaica was forced to play the final 23 minutes a man down after Jermaine Taylor fouled Jones on a breakaway.

The U.S. scored the insurance goal with 10 minutes left. Agudelo’s cross found Dempsey, who rounded Ricketts for an easy shot from a yard out.

Game Note: Former D.C. United star Freddy Adu was a surprise substitute on the bench for the U.S. team.

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