The U.S. Men’s National Team defeated Nicaragua 3-0 on Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland in their final group stage match of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. With the victory, the U.S. MNT took first place in Group B and will now face either Honduras or El Salvador in the quarterfinal round.
Bruce Arena made 11 changes to his starting lineup from Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Martinique, re-inserting Sporting KC’s American trio of Matt Besler (42 caps), Dom Dwyer (3 caps) and Graham Zusi (51 caps). All three started the group stage opener against Panama. Besler and Zusi played 90 minutes along the backline on Saturday, while Dwyer played 74 minutes before making way for New England Revolution striker Juan Agudelo.
Heading into the match, the U.S. MNT needed to win by three or more goals to take first place in the group and avoid a quarterfinal matchup with Costa Rica. After a strong first 30 minutes that saw the hosts control the bulk of the possession but unable to find the target, the U.S. MNT broke through in the 36th minute.
Dax McCarty found Dwyer just across midfield and the Sporting KC striker one-touched his pass to Alejandro Bedoya down the wing. Bedoya whipped in a cross that found Joe Corona at the top of the penalty box and after dancing around a pair of defenders, the Club Tijuana midfielder fired past goalkeeper Justo Lorente for the game’s first goal.
Needing two more to win the group, the U.S. MNT came out pressing in the second half and found the second goal from that pressure. In the 56th minute, Zusi forced an errant pass that Bedoya intercepted and played to Dwyer. His shot attempt was deflected, but the ball rolled to Bedoya who played a perfect pass between two defenders to Kelyn Rowe. The New England Revolution midfielder made no mistake, beating Lorente to the near post.
The increasing pressure in the second half also saw the U.S. MNT earn two penalty kicks. Unfortunately, Lorente was up to the task both times, first stopping Dwyer and then minutes later diving to his right to deny Corona a second goal.
The chances continued to mount for the U.S. MNT and the third goal came in the 88th minute. After defender Luis Copete picked up a second yellow card for a hard foul on Agudelo, Zusi placed a perfect free kick to the back post and Matt Miazga – who earned his first start for the U.S. MNT since May 22, 2016 – headed the ball past Lorente for a 3-0 lead.
The U.S. MNT will now wait for the final Group C matches to conclude before learning their quarterfinal opponent. Regardless of who they face, that match will be played on July 19 in Philadelphia. Arena can also make up to six changes to his roster with players on the preliminary roster being added to the mix.