EAST HARTFORD, Connecticut – Five minutes after coming on a substitute, Brek Shea scored his first career goal to lead the United States to a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup’s Group C finale at Rentschler Field on Tuesday .
The U.S., which extended its winning streak in all competitions to a record eight games, captured the group title and will face El Salvador in the opener of Sunday’s quarterfinal doubleheader at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. In the nightcap, second-place Costa Rica will meet Honduras.
With the encounter in the balance as the clock wound down, the Ticos came inches away from taking the lead, when Carlos Johnson got on the end of Celso Borges’ corner toward the back post. U.S. goalkeeper Sean Johnson, in his first tournament appearance, made a spectacular save.
The Americans immediately went on a quick counterattack. Joe Corona connected with Landon Donovan, who crossed to an open Shea sprinting towards goal. The Stoke City midfielder took a touch into the box and took a left-footed shot from 16 meters out that went off the right hand of goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton. The ball, though, barely changed course and found the back of the net for what proved to be the game-winner in the 81st minute.
DaMarcus Beasley had the game’s first opportunity in the second minute, racing into the box, only to see his low right-footed shot go wide of the near post.
Beasley took an inadvertent knee to the head by Rodney Wallace in the eighth minute and was off the field for two minutes. But the U.S. captain recovered quickly and, in the 22nd minute, delivered a dangerous cross toward the back post that was knocked away.
In the 29th minute, Alejandro Bedoya headed Donovan’s whipped in corner kick off the mark.
Four minutes later, Junior Diaz attempted an acrobatic bicycle kick following Borges’ corner, but it flew over the crossbar.
Nine minutes after the break, red-hot Chris Wondolowski -- the Gold Cup’s leading scorer with five goals -- put an attempt from 14 yards over the crossbar.
One minute later, Pemberton handled a Wondolowski shot outside the box and was issued a yellow card by referee Courtney Campbell.
On the ensuing free kick, the keeper dived to his left to make a stellar save off an effort by Jose Francisco Torres and, then, stopped Donovan from knocking in the rebound.
The Ticos had their own chance on a set piece on the hour mark. Borges’ attempt, though, went over the crossbar.
Both teams had previously earned berths in Sunday’s quarterfinals in Baltimore, where they will face El Salvador and Honduras, respectively.
NOTES: Costa Rica had its seven-game unbeaten streak and 785-minute shutout snapped…the U.S. extended its winning streak to eight games, setting an all-time team record for consecutive wins…Brek Shea is the seventh player in history of the U.S. men’s national team to score his first international goal in the CONCACAF Gold Cup...the U.S. six wins and one draw in seven all-time Gold Cup meetings with Costa Rica.