The US national team concluded Group B play at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 3-0 victory over Nicaragua on Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, clinching the group win with a late goal by defender Matt Miazga.
Joe Corona opened the scoring late in the first half, with a solo run in the box and shot that deflected off a Nicaragua defender on its way to goal. Kelyn Rowe finished off a USMNT attack shortly before the hour mark to extend the lead for the tournament hosts.
Shortly after the restart, Dom Dwyer earned a penalty for the US, but his subsequent spot kick was blocked by Nicaragua goalkeeper Justo Lorente. The US got another chance at a penalty after that, with Corona stepping up to take the second attempt, but Lorente blocked that as well.
Luis Copete picked up his second yellow card in the 85th minute and was ejected, leaving Nicaragua down to 10 men. With it looking like the US might end up finishing second in group play to Panama on goal difference, Miazga scored on a header from a free kick in the 88th minute to grab hold of the group and ensure the USMNT finished on top.
LEAVING IT LATE: We won't know for certain until the field is set for the knockout stage, but the US nearly threw a spanner in the pre-Gold Cup projections, had they only managed a 2-0 win. Panama would have finished ahead of them via tiebreaker, and the USMNT would have faced Costa Rica in the quarterfinal. Given the projections of the US contending for the Gold Cup title this time around, even with the experimental squad fielded by Bruce Arena, going past dark horse contender Costa Rica would not be mission impossible. Still, it could have blown up some brackets and made the road to the final potentially tougher for the Americans.
FLATTERED TO DECEIVE? Even with a scoreline that looked like a blowout, this was as tough and gritty a 3-0 win as you'll see. The US lacked cohesion for most of the match, and Corona's goal, which counted but wasn't altogether pretty, served as a good encapsulation of the performance. On the bright side, the US kept their first clean sheet of the tournament, with Bill Hamid not tested much but stepping up when needed in goal. This group overall, however, continued to struggle to fly against less talented opposition.
JUSTO SAYS NO: Lorente's two penalty saves were definitely a highlight for Nicaragua, who have never been a Gold Cup power. Dwyer and Corona didn't take outstanding attempts, and it's probably safe to say Arena will give neither player penalty duties again anytime soon. Lorente, though, stepped up in the big moment to try and keep his team in the game not once, but twice. He should definitely keep his head up high as Nicaragua's 2017 Gold Cup comes to an end.
USA: Wednesday, July 19 vs. TBD (8 pm CT | FS1, UniMás, UDN)
Alicia Rodriguez is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com.