Clint Dempsey didn’t start the United States’ Gold Cup semifinal against Costa Rica, but he sure finished it in style.
Coming on as a second-half substitute with the game scoreless, Dempsey immediately infused life into a U.S. attack that was lacking ideas. His creativity and skill sprung Jozy Altidore for the U.S. opener and then Dempsey capped his night by hitting an excellent free kick for his side’s second.
It was also Dempsey’s 57th international goal, which tied him with Landon Donovan for the top U.S. goalscorer of all time.
That performance, along with Tim Howard making a pair of massive stops on 1-on-1 chances, helped ensure the U.S. a 2-0 win and advancement to the Gold Cup final on Wednesday, where it will face either Jamaica or Mexico for the crown.
Here are Goal’s player ratings for the U.S. victory over Costa Rica:
GK Tim Howard, 8: While he was not busy, he earned his clean sheet with a big save in the 37th minute to deny Marco Urena. He then made another big save in the 71st minute, just before the U.S. scored the opener. Reminded everyone why he’s the team’s No.1.
DF Graham Zusi, 6: Didn’t always link well with Paul Arriola on the right and had a few mistimed runs. But was mostly sound defensively as Costa Rica did not generate much down his side.
DF Omar Gonzalez, 4: While he was his usual strong self in the air, he was beaten on a good chance in the first half and then surrendered another excellent chance in the second half. It could have been a very different game had Howard not came up with saves on both chances.
DF Matt Besler, 7.5: Outside one poor touch in the first half, was the far steadier of the two center backs. Always seemed to pop up in the right place for a clearance and was the best player on the U.S. backline.
DF Jorge Villafana, 6.5: Had one nervy moment defensively, but was mostly sound in his performance. Pushed forward well in the first half.
MF Michael Bradley, 7: Consistently distributed the ball well in a first half when that was mostly all he was asked to do. He was partially culpable on Costa Rica’s excellent first chance as Bryan Ruiz went right past him but that was his only blemish on a solid evening.
MF Kellyn Acosta, 6.5: Moved well in the midfield, linking play well. Had a few good chances to find the net, but couldn’t be faulted for not finishing those opportunities. His best game of the tournament.
MF Darlington Nagbe, 7: Created well and consistently asked questions of Costa Rica’s defense - for much of the game the only U.S. player who was doing so. Made one mistake as he switched off on a golden chance in the second half but overall a very good performance.
MF Jordan Morris, 6.5: Slammed the post on his first shot just seconds into the contest. Released Altidore for a great chance later in the half. Faded a bit from the game after that however, with a few decent moments.
MF Paul Arriola, 6: Worked hard and put Costa Rica’s defense under pressure with his pace and movement. But his final ball was often lacking as he was unable to make the most of the room he created for himself.
FW Jozy Altidore, 7: Could have had an assist early on Morris' shot that hit the post. Then when released by Morris later, passed on a good chance for a ball that was too difficult for Acosta to finish. Was much more aggressive in the second half to his benefit, culminating in his well-taken finish for the U.S. opener.
FW Clint Dempsey, 8: Completely changed the game upon entering. Set up Acosta with a great chance soon after coming on. Set Altidore in for the USA opener on a brilliantly weighted ball. Then earned his record-tying goal with a well-taken free kick. Brilliant performance.
MF Gyasi Zardes, 5: Came on for Altidore after the U.S. established the two-goal lead. Possibly could have done better with a pass Dempsey gave him not long after.
MF Dax McCarty, 5: Came on for a late cameo to help lock down the game.