The United States’s 4-0 win over the Dominican Republic on Sunday night was a tale of two halves. Stagnant and pedestrian in the first half, buoyant and clinical in the second. The win pushes the U-23 side into first place in their group pending the result of Mexico versus Costa Rica later in the evening, and puts the Yanks in the driver’s seat to advance from their group to the Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Championship semi-finals.
Head coach Jason Kreis made six changes to the side that beat Costa Rica 1-0 on Thursday, with Johnny Cardoso and Andrés Perea joining captain Jackson Yueill in midfield. The midfield struggled to break down Los Quisqueyanos’s low block, with the three holding midfielders asked to get forward and create chances. For the most part, they failed to do so, leaving forward Jesús Ferreira isolated and uninvolved.
Perea and Yueill alternated turns as the number 6 and getting further forward, but neither were able to consistently find entry passes into the final third. To compound the problem, both center-backs (and especially Henry Kessler) were often content to rotate the ball around the backline, playing simple horizontal passes and not looking to break lines.
The second half brought significant improvement. Forward Sebastian Soto came on for Ferreira at the break, but it was Yueill who found the breakthrough in the 60th minute. The holding midfielder made a rare foray into the Dominican Republic penalty area, and deftly finished a low cross from winger Sebastian Saucedo.
After that, the floodgates opened for the US. Substitute Hassani Dotson brought his typical energy to the midfield, and earned a brace in just five minutes with two well-taken finishes from just inside the box. And Djordje Mihailovic capped off the scoring with an empty-net finish in the 90th minute.
While the first half raised plenty of question marks, it was encouraging to see the US come up with solutions on the fly and effectively improve their play over the course of 90 minutes. Kreis’s substitutes positively impacted the match, and he’ll have plenty of selection headaches on his hands for their match against Mexico on Wednesday.
The US currently lead their group after two matches played. A Mexico win or draw would ensure the Americans advance to the semifinals.
Man of the match – Hassani Dotson
Dotson significantly improved the energy and endeavor in midfield, getting forward to greater effect than his counterparts. His workrate has never been in question, but his quality in the final third was on full display. Both his finishes were made to look easy. Neither was.