U.S. squeaks out ugly win against Curacao

The United States held on for an ugly 1-0 win against Curacao at the Gold Cup quarterfinals in Philadelphia on Sunday night to reach the final four of the tournament.

Christian Pulisic, wearing the captain's armband for just the second time, led Gregg Berhalter's first-choice lineup against Curacao and nearly scored twice inside the first five minutes but missed wide on one shot and saw another miraculously saved by goalkeeper Eloy Room.

Despite the early pressure and dominating possession, the U.S. couldn't find a way through until the 25th minute, when Pulisic picked out Weston McKennie at the back post and he headed past Room to give the Americans a 1-0 lead that they took into halftime.

"He can take players on and he likes to cut in a lot and I like to make late runs into the box," man of the match McKennie said of Pulisic.

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"So we always tell each other whenever he cuts in, look for me at the back post or look for me inside the box, because I am going to run.

"It's a connection that we are developing and improving on, and hopefully in the next games it will be even better."

Ranked 79th in the world, 49 places behind the United States, Curacao was not overawed by its opponent, and U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen had to be on his toes on more than one occasion.

At the other end, Room made several stops for Curacao and captain Cuco Martina thought his teammates had done themselves proud.

"We fought like lions," he said. "We did everything to win. The chances that we got, we didn't score."

Berhalter cut a frustrated figure on the sideline in the second half as the U.S. failed to create any quality chances and essentially split possession with Curacao.

The McKennie goal stood up for the U.S. thanks to the play of Steffen, who had his fourth consecutive shutout in the tournament. He made a brilliant save on Leandro Bacuna in the 84th minute, stretching to get his right hand on the rising shot from outside the box that would have levelled the score.

The result sets up a semifinal match with Jamaica, which the U.S. beat in the 2017 Gold Cup final but lost to in a friendly earlier this year.