It took a missed penalty and a late, late goal, but the U.S. men’s national team survived a tough CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal against Qatar on Thursday night, winning 1-0 at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas, to advance to Sunday’s final in Las Vegas.
Substitute striker Gyasi Zardes won it for the U.S. in the 86th minute. Defender Sam Vines intercepted a Qatar pass just inside midfield and headed a pass to substitute winger Nico Gioacchini, who drove into space and found midfielder Eryk Williamson at the top of the box. Williamson immediately played a return ball to Gioacchini, who squared a pass from the left side of the area to the top of the six-yard box, where Zardes slid onto the ball and buried a shot.
The U.S. will now face the winner of the Canada-Mexico semifinal, also being played on Thursday night, in the final in Las Vegas on Sunday.
Qatar outplayed the U.S. for most of the match and should’ve gone ahead via penalty kick in the 61st, but captain Hassan Al-Haydos chipped his spot kick over the crossbar for a bad miss. The Middle Eastern nation, playing in the tournament on a guest invitation, outshot the U.S. 13-3 in the first half and would’ve taken the lead if not for some fine saves from American goalkeeper Matt Turner.
Qatar’s first good opportunity came in the seventh minute when Almoez Ali dragged a shot just wide of the left post from the edge of the area following a bad turnover from U.S. center back James Sands. Turner made his first big stop in the 19th minute when Qatar center back Boualem Khoukhi tried a speculative shot from long range. The ball was headed well wide of the goal, but it deflected off of Sands, forcing Turner into a difficult diving stop at the left post.
He made an even better stop two minutes later, quickly changing direction and leaping to his left to deny midfielder Abdulaziz Hatem, who found himself alone in front of goal after a deflected Akram Afif shot fell to him at the corner of the six-yard box.
The second half started with a flourish, with the U.S. recording their first real chance and nearly taking the lead in the 52nd. Winger Matthew Hoppe, who scored the winning goal in the quarterfinals against Jamaica on Sunday, curled an incredible ball into the area for striker Daryl Dike, but his first-time effort was denied by onrushing Qatar goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham.
Qatar earned the penalty kick a few minutes later. Afif led a ferocious counterattack down the left following a U.S. corner kick in the 54th, racing into the box and cutting on his right foot before Sands kicked out his plant leg. Referee Juan Calderon didn’t initially call a foul, but later gave the penalty following a video review. Al-Haydos couldn’t take advantage, however, sending his attempt well over the bar.
The botched penalty seemed to breathe some life into the U.S., which got another boost when right back Reggie Cannon, midfielder Cristian Roldan and Zardes subbed on in the 63rd. Cannon in particular made a solid impact, taking advantage of an increasingly fatigued Qatar defense to get into some dangerous areas on the right side.
The pressure paid off in the 86th when Gioacchini, Williamson and Zardes combined for the winner.
(Photo: Robin Alam / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)