It took a little longer than expected, but the United States did what it had to do to win Gold Cup Group B with a 3-0 victory over Nicaragua on Saturday evening at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
Out of the three group-stage matches, this was the best performance from the U.S., which really isn't saying that much. Yet there were some positives, namely Alejandro Bedoya and Kelyn Rowe in midfield. Matt Miazga and Matt Besler also worked well as the two center backs and could be the pair that lines up in Wednesday's quarterfinal.
Two missed penalties will not make coach Bruce Arena happy at all, especially with the knockout round looming. The U.S. team's disconcerting trend of letting the tempo drop after a bright first 10-15 minutes will also agitate.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Arena elected to field a completely new squad from the 11 that started against Martinique and had a chance to evaluate all his field players. He faces some big decisions ahead of the quarterfinal.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best -- players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Bill Hamid, 7 -- Comfortably dealt with any potential danger. Was really pressed into making a save only once in each half. Seemed to communicate well with his center backs.
DF Jorge Villafana, 6 -- Probably not as clean as Arena would like. Gave away a couple of cheap balls early but improved in the second half.
DF Matt Besler, 7 -- The Sporting Kansas City man had the look of a leader on a back line that has been much-maligned in this tournament. Read the game well and had good chemistry with center-back partner Miazga.
DF Matt Miazga, 7.5 -- A well-taken goal when the U.S. needed a third. Outside of one instance in which he was beaten by Juan Barrera, Miazga answered the call. His composure belied his lack of international experience.
DF Graham Zusi, 5.5 -- Too many giveaways to make him an automatic selection for the quarterfinal. Had a dangerous clearance in front of goal and also an ill-advised header that gifted Nicaragua a chance. Lofted a beautiful ball in for Miazga to head home for the third.
MF Dax McCarty, 6.5 -- Better than his initial outing against Panama. There was a lapse in the first half when he was dispossessed too easily deep in the U.S. half but recovered nicely and put forth a workmanlike performance.
MF Chris Pontius, 6.5 -- Erred on a headed clearance in the second half but did a nice job overall down the right flank. Attempted a bold overhead kick to try to lift the U.S. from its early lull. Good pass into Dwyer that earned a penalty. Also worked hard defensively, constantly battling for possession.
MF Alejandro Bedoya, 8 -- Built off his good substitute performance in the Martinique game. Bedoya was in the middle of most of the U.S. chances, including the Rowe goal when he set the table for the New England Revolution man. Made the run that earned the U.S. its second penalty. His run and cutback pass also led to the Corona opener.
MF Kelyn Rowe, 7.5 -- Rowe's clever finish was a fine reward for his performance. Made a smart run to receive the pass from Bedoya and finished it off with aplomb. Played some nice early balls and did good work in traffic. There was a wasted chance on a counter to Dwyer, but that is nitpicking. A very good 60-minute shift.
MF Joe Corona, 5.5 -- Had a roller coaster of a game. Lady Luck was on his side in scoring the first U.S. goal, but a weak penalty that was easily saved by Nicaraguan goalkeeper Justo Lorente drops his rating. A little too heavy with touches, but still much better in midfield than he was during the Panama game.
FW Dom Dwyer, 5 -- Like Corona, did not distinguish himself with his penalty as his spot kick was also saved by Lorente. Also mistimed several runs and was flagged for offside. A frustrating night.
MF Paul Arriola, 6.5 -- On for Rowe and injected some energy into the U.S. attack against a tired Nicaragua defense.
FW Jordan Morris, 6.5 -- Came on for Corona in the 66th minute as the U.S. searched for a third goal. Never had a good look at goal but was a constant threat.
FW Juan Agudelo, NR -- Replaced Dwyer in the 73rd minute. Earned a late free kick for the U.S. in a dangerous position.