By FRANCO PANIZO
DETROIT – The U.S. men's national team may not have opened its Gold Cup campaign with a lopsided scoreline, but it did put forth a strong performance en route to earning three points against an archrival.
Jozy Altidore scored in the first half and Clint Dempsey netted in the second to give the Americans a 2-0 win over Canada in front of 28,209 fans at Ford Field on Tuesday.
Tim Howard also came up with a handful of fine saves on the night to preserve a shutout victory that helped keep the U.S. team undefeated in the group stages of the tournament, and gave it first place in Group C after Panama defeated Guadeloupe, 3-2, in the first match of the night.
"From the moment the group was put together and the first game was Canada, we expected a tough match," said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. "I think this Canadian team is a good one, and going in, we knew it would be a tough match. And there's a lot to build on, so for us, (we're) excited to get going."
The Americans got going from the opening whistle, controlling the possession of the game and earning several corner kicks. Landon Donovan's service on the set pieces was lacking, however, and the U.S. team was unable to break through.
That was until Altidore netted his first goal since October 2010 in the 15th minute. Donovan hit Altidore with a pass in the penalty area, and the 21-year-old forward blasted a low shot towards goal that goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld could not save despite being positioned well.
"I don't think about any of that stuff to be honest with you," said Altidore of his scoring slump. "Every game is different. You just try to go out there and try to help the team any way you can."
Altidore and the United States continued to pressure Canada for the remainder of the first half, but the Americans were unable to translate that pressure into goal-scoring chances.
When the second half began, Dwyane De Rosario and the rest of Canada had some newfound life as they took the game to their rivals.
Centerbacks Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson did well to deal with the Canucks' attack and that allowed the Americans to double their lead in the 62nd when Dempsey scored with a sliding effort.
On the play, Altidore received the ball and made a run down the right side of the penalty area before releasing a low cross that Juan Agudelo slightly re-directed into the path of an oncoming Dempsey.
"It's good for my confidence to get the goal because it's my first goal I scored in 2011 with the U.S. team," said Dempsey, who now has 20 goals at the international level.
Down 2-0, the Canadians began to play more direct and almost scored on a few occasions. Unfortunately for them, Howard came up with several tremendous saves, including a pair of point-blank blocks that left Ali Gerba and the Canadian fans in attendance frustrated.
"The chances we did create (in the second half) were very good, and Howard was absolute magic," said Canada head coach Stephan Hart. "I almost clapped."
The Americans did receive an ovation as they went on to finish the game with precise passing and a pair of attacks that almost led to a third goal.
"I thought it was a real team effort tonight," said Michael Bradley. "I thought everybody made it their business to be committed from the first minute on. I'm proud of our guys for that tonight."
The Americans currently stand in first place in Group C after Panama beat 10-man Guadeloupe, 3-2, in the first game of the day.
Blas Perez opened the scoring in that game with a 29th-minute tally before Luis Tejada netted. Gabriel Gomez added a third in the second half off a penalty kick, but Guadeloupe refused to roll over. Second-half substitute Brice Jovial scored a brace to make things interesting, though an equalizer never came.
What do you think of the United States' 2-0 win? Who impressed/disappointed you? Surprised by the Americans' dominance in the match? What did you take away from the Panama-Guadeloupe game?
Share your thoughts below.