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UNITED STATES 2, COSTA RICA 0

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY STEVEN GOFF steven.goff@wash­post.com

The U.S. moves into the Gold Cup fi­nal with a 2-0 win over Costa Rica.

ar­ling­ton, tex. — Bruce Arena has treated the CONCACAF Gold Cup as a test­ing ground for sev­eral sec­ondary play­ers. But make no mis­take: He also wants to win the cham­pi­onship very badly.

And so with Satur­day’s tense semi­fi­nal with Costa Rica score­less mid­way through the sec­ond half, Arena turned to an old war­rior, Clint Dempsey. Six min­utes af­ter en­ter­ing, the east Texas na­tive rushed past one de­fender, then an­other be­fore set­ting up Jozy Alti­dore for the break­through goal.

An­other 10 min­utes passed, and Dempsey stung a 25-yard free kick into the near cor­ner, ty­ing Lan­don Donovan’s U.S. men’s scor­ing record and punc­tu­at­ing a 2-0 vic­tory be­fore 45,516 at AT&T Sta­dium.

The Amer­i­cans ad­vanced to the fi­nal for a record 10th time and will play reign­ing cham­pion Mex­ico or Ja­maica on Wed­nes­day at Levi’s Sta­dium in Santa Clara, Calif. The other semi­fi­nal is Sun­day at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

Alti­dore put the United States ahead in the 72nd minute, run­ning onto Dempsey’s well-weighted through ball and driv­ing a left­footed one-timer past goal­keeper Pa­trick Pem­ber­ton for his 38th in­ter­na­tional goal.

Dempsey fol­lowed with his 57th, bend­ing a set piece around the de­fen­sive wall and be­tween Pem­ber­ton and the right post. From the Fox Sports broad­cast booth, Donovan, Dempsey’s long­time team­mate, smiled.

The teams will meet again Sept. 1 in Har­ri­son, N.J., for a more im­por­tant match: a 2018 World Cup qual­i­fier. Both teams are in the thick of the race for a berth in next sum­mer’s tour­na­ment in Rus­sia.

The Gold Cup has no bear­ing on the World Cup, but with the teams set to col­lide again so soon, this en­counter car­ried psychological im­pli­ca­tions.

Arena showed an­other new look to his ever-changing lineup, pair­ing Alti­dore and Jor­dan Mor­ris on the front line and Michael Bradley and Kel­lyn Acosta in cen­tral mid­field. Dar­ling­ton Nagbe pushed wide.

The Alti­dore-Mor­ris col­lab­o­ra­tion left Dempsey on the bench, but af­ter play­ing 90 min­utes 72 hours ear­lier against El Sal­vador, the 34-year-old for­ward fig­ured to be­gin in re­serve.

Gra­ham Zusi, Jorge Vil­lafaña and Matt Besler re­turned to the back line, join­ing Omar Gon­za­lez, a quar­ter­fi­nal goal scorer with Dal­las roots.

The Amer­i­cans got off to a roar­ing start as Paul Ar­riola and Alti­dore com­bined to set up Mor­ris for a near-side bid that clanged off the right post a mere 11 sec­onds af­ter the open­ing whis­tle.

In the 15th minute, Mor­ris sprung Alti­dore for a cross that Acosta hooked wide from close dis­tance.

The U.S. at­tack hummed with con­fi­dence and con­vic­tion, leav­ing the Ti­cos to ab­sorb and coun­ter­at­tack.

They did not mount a se­ri­ous threat un­til the 37 th minute, when Bryan Ruiz em­barked on a 40yard run through the heart of the re­sis­tance and supplied Marco Ureña slip­ping into the penalty area. Tim Howard charged off his line and used a sweep­ing kick save to pre­vent a deficit.

Early in the sec­ond half, with Pem­ber­ton pulled out of po­si­tion by Mor­ris’s in­fil­tra­tion, Zusi’s high cross missed Alti­dore and Nagbe prowl­ing at the edge of the six­yard box.

The pace of the match picked up, and both teams were one killer pass from shat­ter­ing the dead­lock.

Dempsey, who grew up three hours east of the Dal­las area in Nacog­doches, Tex., en­tered to a thun­der­ous ova­tion in the 66th minute in place of Ar­riola.

Pem­ber­ton made a leap­ing save on Acosta’s rasp­ing one-timer from the top of the penalty area. Howard an­swered with a fully ex­tended reach on Ureña’s low shot.

The match was build­ing to­ward a goal, and a mo­ment af­ter Costa Rica’s threat, Dempsey sent Alti­dore into the clear, and “Deuce,” as Dempsey is known, added the sec­ond goal.

Be­fore the match, CONCACAF an­nounced multi­game sus­pen­sions for two Sal­vado­ran play­ers in­volved in in­ci­dents dur­ing the quar­ter­fi­nal against the United States on Wed­nes­day in Philadel­phia.

The tour­na­ment’s three-mem­ber dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee ruled the duo had en­gaged in “an­ti­sport­ing be­hav­ior.”

Henry Romero re­ceived a sixgame ban for bit­ing Alti­dore on the shoul­der and pinch­ing the U.S. striker’s nip­ple. Dar­win Ceren was given a three-game penalty for bit­ing Gon­za­lez on the back of the shoul­der.

The sus­pen­sions cover of­fi­cial in­ter­na­tional matches. El Sal­vador was elim­i­nated from the Gold Cup, the re­gional cham­pi­onship, by the United States and isn’t in­volved in the fi­nal round of 2018 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing.

TOM PEN­NING­TON/GETTY IM­AGES

Soon af­ter en­ter­ing as a sub­sti­tute mid­way through the sec­ond half, Clint Dempsey, mid­dle, scored his 57th in­ter­na­tional goal.

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