Weston McKennie on Sunday scored in the first half as the US dodged a bullet by edging upstarts Curacao 1-0 to reach the semi-finals of the Gold Cup.
The unbeaten US recorded their fourth straight shutout victory, but the tiny Caribbean island of Curacao gave them their biggest test of the tournament so far.
The US looked sluggish in the second half at Lincoln Financial Field Stadium in Philadelphia and needed some superb goalkeeping from Zack Steffen to move on.
They advance to face Jamaica, who beat Panama by the same 1-0 score in the other quarter-final on Sunday.
“It wasn’t one of our best games, but it is about moving on and that’s what we did,” McKennie said.
McKennie scored in the 25th minute, finding open space near the back post and heading home a perfectly timed cross from teammate Christian Pulisic.
McKennie said the play was something they work on in training.
“He [Pulisic] likes to cut in a lot and I like to make late runs into the box,” McKennie said. “I always tell him when he cuts in to look for me around the back post.”
Curacao, who were the surprise second-placed finishers in Group B, controlled most of the play in the second half as they pressed for the equalizer.
Steffen on Sunday faced more shots than the US faced in the entire group stage.
Curacao came close to leveling the score in the 84th minute when Leandro Bacuma weaved around a couple of defenders and aimed his shot for the top corner, but Steffan made a desperate stab at the ball and managed to deflect it over the crossbar with his finger tips.
Curacao had the US on their heels and for a while it looked like they might have a chance to follow Haiti, who knocked out Canada, and score a big upset.
“We fought like lions. We did everything to win,” Curacao’s Cuco Martina said.
Elsewhere, Jamaica moved a step closer to reaching their third straight Gold Cup final as they booked their spot in the semi-finals with a 1-0 victory over Panama.
Darren Mattocks converted a penalty in the 75th minute for Jamaica, who won their group, but struggled to do so after drawing with El Salvador and Curacao.
The Reggae Boyz got a break when Panama’s Michael Amir Murillo was called for a controversial handball as he was challenging Mattocks for a header.
The Jamaica players then argued over who would take the penalty, before Mattocks won out.
He made no mistake, firing home as Panama goalkeeper Luis Mejia went the wrong way.
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