United States substitute Gyasi Zardes scored in the 86th minute and Matt Turner stopped four shots as the Americans blanked Asian champions Qatar 1-0 on Thursday to reach their 12th Concacaf Gold Cup final.
Zardes combined with fellow reserve Nicholas Gioacchini for the game’s only goal in a contest that highlighted the hosts’ steady improvement over the course of the biennial North American showcase tournament.
“Niko made a great run and got a nice through ball,” Zardes said. “I just had to crash the box.”
The Americans will play defending champions Mexico, the winner of Thursday’s second semifinal against upstarts Canada for the title in Las Vegas on Sunday.
Eight-time champion Mexico defeated the US squad 1-0 in the 2019 final. The teams have met in six Gold Cup finals, with the Mexicans winning all but the 2007 matchup, when the six-time trophy-holder American side took a 2-1 victory.
Zardes entered the game in the 64th minute for Daryl Dike and it didn’t take long for him to have an impact, being called for a foul on Karim Boudiaf two minutes later at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas.
He then bagged his goal four minutes from full time, his second of the tournament as the Americans extended their win streak to eight games.
Gioacchini, who also came on in the second half, did the heavy lifting on the play, working a give and go and then making a no-look pass off the outside of his right foot to a hard-charging Zardes, who poked it through a maze of player into the back of the net.
Zardes said the team from Qatar, the host nation for the 2022 World Cup, looked fatigued near the end.
“That was a great game and they have a great team. But when our subs came in, we were able to make a difference because our starters had tired them out,” he said.
Turner was the top US player in the first half, when Qatar had the better scoring opportunities. Turner’s best save came in the 20th minute when he got his fingertips on a Qatar shot from in close.
Qatar appeared set to go ahead in the 61st minute but captain Hassan Al Haydos bungled a penalty kick, sending a slow speed chip shot well over the crossbar.