With Landon Donovan on the bench to start the afternoon, the U.S. still managed to advance in the Gold Cup thanks to goals from Jermaine Jones and Clint DempseyThere was drama surrounding the United States men's national team as coach Bob Bradley decided to bench Landon Donovan, but none of that seemed to matter after the U.S. moved within two wins of winning the Gold Cup.
Jermaine Jones scored the first goal, Clint Dempsey added to the total and Donovan eventually got back on the field as the Americans advanced to the semifinals with a 2-0 over Jamaica Sunday afternoon at RFK Stadium.
"It's been a busy stretch for Landon and we felt that in an afternoon game it made sense to use him as a reserve today and then we could bring him on and he could give us a lot," said Bradley, who decided to put Donovan in the game in the 66th minute.
The U.S. will play either Panama or El Salvador Wednesday in Houston.
Jones put the Americans on the board in the 49th minute with a shot from outside the box that took a mean deflection off a Jamaican defender into the back of the net. It was his first goal of the Gold Cup for the U.S., which improved to 3-0-1 in the tournament.
"Jermaine has a good engine and has the ability in certain moments to get forward and be a threat," Bradley said. "And that was nice to see."
Dempsey broke out of a strange slump 31 minutes later to all but end the game, scoring off a nice assist from Juan Agudelo, who replaced the injured Jozy Altidore early in the first half. Dempsey, who missed a couple easy goals in the previous game, easily beat goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
"I thought I was able to play good today, help the team out and chip in with that goal." Dempsey said.
The Reggae Boyz had their best opportunity to score in the opening minutes, but U.S. keeper Tim Howard made an incredible save on an attempt by Ryan Johnson, who missed from just four yards out. The rebound was booted over the wide-open net.
Altidore came out with a hamstring injury early in the first half after attempting to get position on a ball over the top. Agudelo, who had lost his starting job up front following his team's loss to Panama in its second Group C game, looked solid in his place as the lone U.S. striker.
Altidore's status is unknown for the next game.
"Jozy's played well thus far in this tournament and hopefully he'll still be available for us," Bradley said. "But I think we've had different guys come through so far. Everybody is needed in this kind of tournament. This is tournament is a tough one in terms of the games, how fast they come and the travel."
Donovan was on the bench to open the game due to a lack of sleep last night. The 29-year-old midfielder had left the team to attend his sister's wedding on Saturday but did not return to the D.C. area until around 7 a.m. ET on Sunday.
"I always want to play, but those decisions are for the coaches," Donovan said. "And I'm always respectful of the coaches' decision. I just wanted to make sure that I was able to help tonight."
Dempsey also left the team to attend a wedding in Texas but was back by 2 a.m. ET and was prepared to play a full 90 minutes.
"I wasn't going to let a flight coming in at 2 a.m. in the morning affect my performance," Dempsey said. "It was going to motivate me to go out and work harder."
Sacha Kljestan and Alejandro Bedoya started in favor of Donovan and Chris Wondolowski, who didn't even make it on the bench after starting against Guadeloupe. Freddy Adu made the bench for the first time in the tournament but didn't play.
Jamaica played with 10 men for the closing minutes after Jermaine Taylor tripped up Jones in the 66th minute. But by that point the game already seemed out of reach.
Follow Mike Slane on Twitter