U.S. squeaks past Canada to advance to Gold Cup semifinal
United States goalkeeper Matt Turner. Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

U.S. squeaks past Canada on penalties to advance to Gold Cup semifinal

CONCACAF is an acronym that stands for the Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football--CONCACAF, therefore, governs soccer across all of North America, Central America and the Caribbean islands. 

Soccer in CONCACAF's region is often low on skill and high on drama, full of questionable officiating and torn-up fields--and that means that CONCACAF has taken on new meaning amongst fans as an adjective, too. If a game is described as being 'so CONCACAF', it means it's scrappy, violent and frustrating beyond belief.

With that in mind, last nights Gold Cup quarterfinal between the U.S. and Canada just might've been the most CONCACAF game of all time.

The fact that the match went on for well over two hours but condensed into six and a half minutes of highlights should tell you everything: this was no classic, a near-endless slog of failed attacks and defensive possession. The first half of the game provided little in terms of entertainment, with nothing but a referee injury in the first minute and a waved-off handball complaint in the final one keeping viewers engaged. 

Cincinnati hometown hero Brandon Vazquez slotted home the first goal of the game in the 88th minute, with Canada's Steven Vitória netting an equalizing penalty in the 93rd to take the game to extra time. Nashville's Jacob Shaffelburg hammered in a screamer to snatch the lead for Canada, but a loss of defensive focus shortly thereafter allowed the U.S. to level the game at 2-2.

From there, it was penalties--and no goalkeeper on earth is saving penalties better than Matt Turner at the moment. He stepped up when it counted to save Vitória's second penalty of the night and seal a semifinal berth for the States.

Turner has now saved 14 of the 29 penalties he's faced in his career--enough for an astonishing save record of 48%.

"I just trusted my instincts, really," Turner told ESPN after the match. "And typically when I do that I find myself having a lot more success."

The U.S. will be thrilled to meet Panama in the Gold Cup semifinals, but there were few positives to take away from its performance against a much-improved Canada. 

Jesus Ferreira was absent for much of the game, looking nothing like the player who scored back-to-back hat tricks in his previous USMNT appearances. Miles Robinson committed two in-the-box handball offenses in ninety minutes. James Sands lost his temper and spent much of extra time fighting with the Canadian midfield. If the U.S. is to take out Panama on Wednesday in San Diego, it'll have to focus on fundamentals and keep the game calm.

For Canada, meanwhile, a Gold Cup exit at the hands of the U.S. will sting. But the team is clearly growing in both confidence and skill after its World Cup qualification last winter. There's plenty ahead of this young, hungry team. The U.S. was desperately lucky to win in the end--and interim coach B.J. Callaghan knows it.

"These are the high-stakes, high-impact games that we're looking to play because they test the character of the group," he told ESPN. "Tonight we showed up."

More must-reads:

Customize Your Newsletter


Get the latest news and rumors, customized to your favorite sports and teams. Emailed daily. Always free!

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.