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July 16, 2013
Johnson's save, quickly followed by Shea's goal lifts USA to win, CONCACAF Group C title

By Michael Lewis Editor

Brek Shea scored the USA’s only goal in a 1-0 win
Brek Shea scored the USA’s only goal in a 1-0 win
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- In a matter of seconds the United States went from near disaster to jubilation and the Group C crown at the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Tuesday night.

Second-half substitute Brek Shea scored his first international goal off a counterattack attack in the 82nd minute to boost the Americans to a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica at Rentschler Field.

The U.S., which registered a record eighth consecutive victory, won the group title with a 3-0-0 record and nine points while the Ticos fell to 2-1-0 and six points. The Americans will play El Salvador in a quarterfinal confrontation in Baltimore on Sunday, while the Costa Ricans will take on Honduras in the second game of the doubleheader.

It took only 18 seconds for the game to change. Carlos Johnson sent a close-range toward the upper right corner, but goalkeeper Sean Johnson produced a brilliant save and knocked the ball away. Joe Corona cleared the ball out of danger. The ball eventually went to Landon Donovan, who found himself with lot of room on a counterattack. He fed an onrushing Shea to his right and the Stoke City midfielder buried the ball past goalkeepr Patrick Pemberton from 15 yards.

Most of the physical game had misses and near misses by both sides.

A strange series of events gave the U.S. an opportunity to grab the lead in the 55th minute. Pemberton came out of the net to snare Chris Wondolowski's shot. Pemberton, however, ran into teammate Giancarlo Gonzalez and handled the ball outside the penalty area. Referee Courtney Campbell awarded Pemberton a yellow card for his infraction, although many goalkeepers have seen red for touching the ball outside of the box.

On the ensuing free kick, Jose Torres launched a shot that Pemberton managed to knock away in the 57th minute. Landon Donovan swooped in and fired a rebound at goal, but Pemberton denied the U.S. standout.

As the second half wore on, the game turned more and more into a physical affair. Several Costa Rican players wound up on the ground, including Red Bulls left back Roy Miller, who had been clipped by Chris Wondolowski.

In a dramatic finish in the opening game of the doubleheader, Cuba managed to register a 4-0 victory over Belize to book a spot in the quarterfinals. Jeniel Molina's goal two minutes into stoppage time lifted the Caribbean side into the second third-place slot over Martinique via goal differential. Cuba needed to win by four goals to reach the knockout stages for only the second time in its history.

Martinez connected for his first international hat-trick to score Cuba's first three goals.

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