2017 Gold Cup: U.S. 3, Martinique 2

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By JACK BELL

Gold Cup logoThe United States took over the top spot in Group B of the CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 3-2 win over Martinique in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday night.

It was not pretty.

U.S. Coach Bruce Arena made wholesale lineup changes after Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Panama and the lack of cohesion showed. All five goals in the game were scored in the second half and the U.S. squandered a two-goal lead before finally getting the winner..

With the win, the U.S. is in first place by virtue of more goals scored ahead of their group stage finale against Nicaragua this weekend, while Martinique will face Panama.

The U.S. and Arena could not have been happy after the scoreless first half. The American team dominated for most of the first 45 minutes, though it seemed to lose focus and sharpness as the half neared its end. Despite an 8-0 edge in corner kicks, the U.S. could not solve the packed Martinique defense.

As the U.S. buzzed and forced Martinique’s goalkeeper Kévin Olimpa to do more than he cared to, it was Martinique hitting far post in the 32nd minute. It was a quick reminder that the team that is not affiliated with FIFA had no intention of rolling over.

In the 36th minute, a hot cross intended for Paul Arriola was chested out for a corner kick by defender Jean Baptiste. Then, with time running down in the half, Martinique’s Kevin Parsemain picked up errant Eric Lichaj pass and rocketed a right-footed shot from 20 yards that forced Brad Guzan, the captain, to save a the hard shot.

The U.S. went for goal right from the opening whistle of the second half. Juan Agudelo‘s shot from about 25 yards was deflected by the defense. Arriola rushed to the high rebound but put his shot off the crossbar and out.

After Yoann Arquin forced Guzan to save his header, the U.S. broke back the other way with the speedy Jordan Morris running on to a through ball for a chip that was pulled down by Olimpa to keep the game scoreless.

The U.S. finally broke through on a goal by, of all people, defender Omar Gonzalez, his first for the national team in 42 games and only the second of his international career. Kellyn Acosta‘s corner kick bounded to Arriola at the top of the penalty area. His hard left-footed shot was deflected, then saved by Olimpa. But Gonzalez was in the right place to poke it into the goal.

The American team made it 2-0 in the 64th minute. Alejandro Bedoya, a second-half sub, slipped a pass to the overlapping defender Lichaj for a cross that was first-timed into the goal by Morris.

But just when it appeared that the U.S. was poised to pile it on, Martinique cut the deficit in half. Parsemain wound up and took a shot that should have been handled, but that could only be tipped by Guzan.

Martinique was not finished. In the 75th, defender Matt Hedges was beaten down the right side by Sebastien Cretinoir, who crossed for Parsemain. His shot was blocked but the ball fell to Johan Audel, whose blast deflected off Parsemain, who was lying on the turf.

As the Martinique players celebrated the comeback, Morris gave the U.S. a 3-2 lead only two minutes later from a nice pass from Gyasi Zardes.