USA coach makes con­ti­nen­tal his­tory

Bruce Arena wins his third Gold Cup Fi­nal

World Soccer - - World Service - MIKE WOITALLA

Vic­tory over Ja­maica gave USA a sixth Gold Cup ti­tle – one less than Mex­ico – and earned Bruce Arena a record-break­ing third CONCACAF crown, al­though the hosts’ boss con­ceded: “Well, I have coached in more Gold Cups than any­one else.”

Arena called on just one Euro­pean-based player for the fi­nals – Not­ting­ham For­est’s Eric Lichaj – and at his fifth Gold Cup he started 27 dif­fer­ent play­ers in his side’s six games, tak­ing full ad­van­tage of the com­pe­ti­tion rules that al­low six new play­ers to be brought in for the knock­out stage.

Af­ter a 1-1 draw with Panama, the US coasted through their group, beat­ing Mar­tinique (3-2) and Nicaragua (3-0), af­ter which Arena brought in vet­er­ans Michael Bradley, Jozy Alti­dore and Clint Dempsey, who helped the USA beat El Sal­vador (2-0) and Costa Rica (2-0) to claim a place in the Fi­nal. But just as im­por­tant were the per­for­mances of a quin­tet of promis­ing play­ers who had been given lit­tle play­ing time, or none in the case of left-back Jorge Vil­lafana, be­fore Arena took over: Kel­lyn Acosta, Paul Ar­riola and Jor­dan Mor­ris, who are 22, and 27-year-olds Dar­ling­ton Nagbe and Vil­lafana.

“They are play­ers with not that much ex­pe­ri­ence at the in­ter­na­tional level, not that many caps,” said Arena of the five, who all played in the Fi­nal.

“And to put them in the fire tonight was good. I think they walked away with pass­ing grades. That is en­cour­ag­ing.”

Mor­ris was the hero, scor­ing his third goal of the tour­na­ment with the 88th-minute game win­ner in the Fi­nal against a Ja­maica side that started with nine cur­rent or for­mer MLS play­ers them­selves.

That Ja­maica made it to the Fi­nal was not that much of a shock as they had been fi­nal­ists last time out, in 1995, when they beat the US in the semis be­fore los­ing out to Mex­ico. The Reg­gae Boyz gained their re­venge over El Tri this time with a 1-0 vic­tory to reach the Fi­nal.

Mex­ico’s fail­ure was not that big a sur­prise as they brought a sec­ond-string squad to the tour­na­ment as it kicked off just five days af­ter Mex­ico lost on penal­ties to Por­tu­gal in the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup third-place game. And their cause wasn’t helped by coach Juan Car­los Osorio be­ing banned for six matches on the open­ing day of the tour­na­ment for us­ing in­sult­ing words and dis­play­ing an ag­gres­sive at­ti­tude to­wards the match of­fi­cials in that fi­nal game in Rus­sia.

With no Mex­ico in the show­piece fi­nale – ev­ery Gold Cup they have played in has been a sell-out – the at­ten­dance of 63,032 for the Fi­nal at Levi’s Sta­dium in Santa Clara, Cal­i­for­nia, was dis­ap­point­ing. How­ever, with Arena’s side now on a 14-game un­beaten run ahead of Septem­ber’s World Cup qual­i­fiers, few will be wor­ry­ing about that.

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