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After quarterfinals at the Linc, United States and Jamaica set for Gold Cup semifinal clash

The semifinal is scheduled for Wednesday night in Nashville, Tenn.

United States midfielder Christian Pulisic, a Hershey native, fights for the ball with Curacao defender Darryl Lachman during the second half at the Linc on Sunday.
United States midfielder Christian Pulisic, a Hershey native, fights for the ball with Curacao defender Darryl Lachman during the second half at the Linc on Sunday.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

The United States and Jamaica each scored only one goal on Sunday, but that was all they needed to secure their spots in the Gold Cup semifinals. In the first of the two games, Jamaica defeated Panama 1-0, then the United States outlasted Curacao by the same score.

Less than a week after Philadelphia’s announcement of its intention to be a host city at the 2026 World Cup, 22,233 fans filled most of the lower bowl of 69,000-seat Lincoln Financial Field for the Gold Cup quarterfinal doubleheader. Although the crowd was small in size, its liveliness outdid that of a United States team that was sluggish for most of the night, with the exception of the first half hour.

It seemed that the United States had lacked the elusive final ball for ages, but it took only 25 minutes for a Christian Pulisic cross to find the head of Weston McKennie, who made it 1-0. Pulisic’s double scissors move from the touchline created just enough separation with his defender to loft to the waiting McKennie at the back post. For the remaining 20 minutes, though, the U.S. wasn’t as attack-minded, and the half ended without any further action.

“We had the opportunity early to put a couple of goals in, and we didn’t do that,” coach Gregg Berhalter said. “We kept them hanging around, and then they were very compact.”

In the 57th minute, the US created its first legitimate scoring chance of the second half, with a long ball instead of more deliberate buildup play. Tyler Boyd did well to bring down a long pass from the American defensive third before turning back inside and finding Pulisic near the top of the 18-yard box, from which Pulisic sent a low, driven shot just wide of the left post.

The reliance on the long ball played out for the game’s entirety because of the U.S. midfield’s lack of movement and initiative on the ball. Although he started centrally, Pulisic often drifted upfield with Gyasi Zardes to create a 4-4-2 look that left McKennie and Michael Bradley alone in the middle of the field. While McKennie did make a few incisive runs with the ball, Bradley was content sit back in unoccupied areas, rarely -- if ever -- drawing defenders to create space for teammates.

The U.S. took its foot off the gas in the second half, and Curacao tried to take advantage, completing 154 more passes than the US. The US had 55 percent possession in the first half, but that number dwindled to 48 by the end of the game.

“When you look at these quarterfinal matches, they’re all tight matches,” Berhalter said. “[The media] wanted us to go out there and beat them 5-0, but we knew it was going to be a difficult game.”

In the first match of the evening, one clear-cut chance was all that Jamaica needed to defeat Panama, 1-0, and advance to the CONCACAF Gold Cup’s semifinal round. Jamaica, the Group C winner, capitalized on a 73rd minute Darren Mattocks penalty kick, which Panama defender Michael Murillo conceded with a handball.

Mattocks had entered the game for forward Dever Orgill mere seconds before Guatemalan referee Mario Escobar made the game’s decisive call. While Jamaica’s spot-kick came against the run of play -- Panama maintained 60 percent possession -- the match was far from an offensive bonanza, with neither team creating many must-have opportunities. Only two of Panama’s seven shot attempts were on target, in comparison to four of seven for Jamaica.

Jamaica will take on the United States in the second Gold Cup semifinal game, which is set for July 3 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., while Mexico and Haiti, the other semifinalists, will play July 2 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.