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US Reaches Gold Cup Soccer Semifinals

U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones, with 'Man of the Match' trophy - He scored the first U.S. goal

The U.S. men's soccer team has reached the semifinals of the Gold Cup regional championship with a 2-0 victory over Jamaica.

The United States maintained its perfect record against Jamaica, which now stands at 10 wins and eight draws.

This was a Jamaican team that came in confident after not allowing a goal in its three first-round group wins over Grenada, Guatemala and Honduras. And it held the Americans scoreless in the opening half of their quarterfinal.

Jamaica would have grabbed the lead in the opening minutes of the match, if not for a great save by U.S. goalie Tim Howard.

Four minutes into the second half, the Americans went ahead on a hard shot by Jermaine Jones from outside the box that deflected off a Jamaican defender.

Salvadoran Fans cheering on their team which lost to Panama in a shootout
Salvadoran Fans cheering on their team which lost to Panama in a shootout

Jermaine Taylor of Jamaica was expelled in the 67th minute after tripping Jones on a breakaway. And with the one man advantage, the United States made it 2-0 in the 80th minute. Clint Dempsey scored the goal, which was a bit of redemption after he was criticized for missing several chances in the Americans' previous game -- a close 1-0 win over Guadeloupe.

Dempsey said he takes it all in stride. "I keep going. I keep, you know, picking myself up after a bad situation happens, and I rise above it. And you know, I was able to chip in with a goal and help the team out today and that's the most important thing," he said.

U.S. Coach Bob Bradley was pleased with his team's performance. "I thought we were able from the start to do a good job establishing control, passing the ball, keeping the ball moving. And I think ultimately, you know, it took awhile to get the goal and then the second goal. But certainly as far as establishing our game today, I thought we did an excellent job," he said.

Two of the Salvadoran Fans cheering on their team which lost to Panama in a shootout
Two of the Salvadoran Fans cheering on their team which lost to Panama in a shootout

In the day's other quarterfinal at RFK Stadium on Sunday, Panama beat El Salvador in a penalty shootout, 5-3, much to the disappointment of the majority Salvadoran crowd of 45,000 fans.

El Salvador had grabbed the lead on a penalty kick in the 78th minute by Rodolfo Zelaya, but Panama's Luis Tejada scored on a goalmouth scramble with only seconds left in regulation. Neither team scored in 30 minutes of extra time and Panama prevailed in the shootout with Tejada scoring the clinching goal.

The win sets up a rematch with the United States. Panama upset the U.S. in the first round, 2-1. Their semifinal is in Houston on Wednesday. The other semifinal features Mexico against Honduras, who won their quarterfinals Saturday.

Mexico edged Guatemala, 2-1, and Honduras eliminated Costa Rica on penalty kicks, 4-2.

The winner of this Gold Cup earns a berth in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil that serves as a tune-up event one year before the next World Cup.