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GOLD CUP SOCCER

Jozy Altidore leads U.S. over Canada, 2-0

Altidore scores the first goal and sets up Clint Dempsey in the second half at Detroit. Panama holds off Guadeloupe.

June 07, 2011|By Kevin Baxter

For all those who wrote the U.S. soccer team off after its embarrassing loss to Spain last week, Jozy Altidore has a message: That match didn't count.

But Tuesday's Gold Cup opener did and the U.S. was ready this time, beating Canada, 2-0, before an announced crowd of 28,209 at Ford Field in Detroit.

"A lot of people took a lot of attention on the Spain game, obviously. But for us it was a tuneup game, just to iron some things out," said Altidore, who had a goal and an assist against Canada. "Today was where it really counted.

"I thought we did well. But we're going to have to improve. It's only going to get harder from here."

Altidore gave the U.S. the only goal it would need in the 15th minute, collecting a through ball from Galaxy captain Landon Donovan along the right edge of the goalie box. After using Canadian defender Kevin McKenna as a shield, Altidore spun and fired a low drive from a tough angle that keeper Lars Hirschfeld slowed but couldn't keep out of the net.

Altidore, playing in his first Gold Cup match, then set up the second goal in the 62nd minute, threading the needle with a beautiful cross that eluded three defenders, allowing a sliding Clint Dempsey to tap it home near the far post.

Veteran keeper Tim Howard took it from there, preserving the lead — and the shutout — with a pair of remarkable saves in the final minutes, going to ground to frustrate a Josh Simpson effort, then jumping to stop a rocket from Ali Gerba.

"I thought we were solid," Howard said of the U.S. defense. "They're going to create chances. That's what you have to do. You have to make saves."

The U.S. has never lost a group-stage match in this tournament and Tuesday's shutout was its seventh in 11 Gold Cup openers.

"First game, it's important to get three points," Donovan said. "We wanted to make sure we defended well. So to keep them to zero was important."

In the first Group C match, Panama took a three-goal lead early in the second half, then had to hang on for a 3-2 win over Guadeloupe, which played the final 57 minutes short-handed.

Panama got goals from Blas Perez and Luis Tejada three minutes apart late in the first half and took a 3-0 lead on Gabriel Gomez's penalty-kick goal 12 minutes after intermission. Guadeloupe made a game of it on two goals from second-half substitute Brice Jovial, the second with 11 minutes left in regulation.

But Guadeloupe, which lost Michael Tacalfred on a red card late in the first half, could get no closer.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com Baxter reported from Los Angeles.

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