Christian Pulisic, USA Beat Curacao 1-0; Advance to Semifinals of 2019 Gold Cup

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2019

USA's Tyler Boyd (R) embraces teammate Weston McKennie after McKennie scored a goal in the first half during the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal football match between USA and Curacao in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 30, 2019. (Photo by DOMINICK REUTER / AFP)        (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States men's national soccer team held off Curacao to earn a 1-0 win in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Gold Cup on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Weston McKennie was responsible for the only goal. Christian Pulisic delivered a cross into the far post, and McKennie headed in from close range in the 25th minute.

The USMNT moves on to the semifinals, where it meets Jamaica on Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee. The two countries met in the 2017 Gold Cup final, with the U.S. walking away as the champion following a 2-1 win.

The United States' performance against Curacao was far from inspiring.

Although Curacao allowed just two goals in the group stage, McKennie's early goal should have opened the game up a bit. Curacao had to score and thus couldn't sit back and defend for the entirety of the game, which was largely the strategy it used to great effect earlier in the tournament.

Pulisic had an opportunity to put the U.S. ahead 2-0 in the 57th minute. His right-footed shot on the edge of the 18-yard box rolled wide of the left post.

Beyond that, the United States created little in the final third, finishing with fewer shots on goal (three) than its opponent (five).

The match was destined for extra time were it not for a save by Zack Steffen in the 84th minute. Leandro Bacuna's shot was headed for the top left corner until Steffen went full extension to knock the ball away with his right hand.

Pulisic was a clear bright spot for the United States, and his assist to the 20-year-old McKennie is something fans will hope to see a lot more of at international tournaments. Beyond that, it's difficult to put a positive spin on a 1-0 win over a team ranked 79th in the world and ninth in the CONCACAF region.

Gregg Berhalter officially took over as national team coach in December, and the USMNT has had nine matches since then. While some growing pains are to be expected, Berhalter hasn't made a ton of progress getting the squad to play his possession-heavy style.

Jamaica beat the United States 1-0 on June 5 when Berhalter used a lineup largely of younger players who didn't make the Gold Cup roster. Based on Sunday's match, nobody should be surprised if Jamaica repeats that result against a full-strength U.S. team.