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Americans play semi-tough

US just hangs on; Mexico is up next

CHICAGO -- The Gold Cup has little in common with the World Cup. And Soldier Field is a long way from Nurnberg's Frankenstadion. But the United States has regained some of its prestige and pride with a 10-match undefeated streak and a berth in the Gold Cup finals after a 2-1 win over Canada last night.

The US displayed an opportunistic streak in scoring twice against the run of play late in the first half, squandered several chances to clinch the result, and barely held on at the end. Frankie Hejduk (39th minute) and Landon Donovan (45th-minute penalty kick) scored for the US -- 9-0-1 since being eliminated from the World Cup by Ghana last June -- which advanced to Sunday's final against Mexico.

The US faded late in the match, losing Michael Bradley to a red card, then allowing Canada the potential tying goal, which was disallowed because of an offside call in injury time.

"Their player [Oguchi Onyewu] headed the ball in the box and our player [Atiba Hutchinson] kicked it in, it cannot be offside," Canada coach Stephen Hart said. "Like all of us, [officials] have good days and bad days. I have no control over that. It's part of the game."

The Canadians appeared to have scored the tying goal nearly four minutes into injury time, but Hutchinson's one-timer off a poor clearance by Onyewu was ruled offside by linesman Ricardo Louisville, referee Benito Archundia upholding the decision, then whistling the end of the match seconds later.

But the Americans' problems started before that, in a performance similar to a 2-1 quarterfinal win over Panama last Saturday.

"From where I stand, it was impossible to call a close play like that," US coach Bob Bradley said. "The last 10-15 minutes of the game we need to find a way to keep the ball a little better and be better with clearances. Two games in a row, somewhere around the 75-minute mark, our ability to still keep the ball and still keep doing what we had done prior to that has come into play. We had excellent chances to make it 3-0. Those are some of the things we need to continually work on."

Canada's best early threats were produced by mistimed back passes from US defenders and miscommunications with goalkeeper Kasey Keller. Ali Gerba and Dwayne De Rosario collided with Keller after attempted clearances from Hejduk and Carlos Bocanegra in the first 12 minutes. Canada began to advance into attack midway through the first half. De Rosario earned a corner with a shot deflected by Donovan, Julian De Guzman was flipped by Bocanegra, who was cautioned (28th minute), and a De Rosario free kick hit the right post (33d) after two deflections following a Bocanegra foul.

The US attack stalled for about 20 minutes, before Clint Dempsey was fouled by De Guzman after running onto a pass from Hejduk on the right wing. Canada failed to clear DaMarcus Beasley's free kick to the back post, Pablo Mastroeni keeping the ball in play and finding Donovan, who rolled a pass for Hejduk to one-time off the inside of the left post in the 39th minute. Donovan was cautioned (41st) for diving following a clash with Martin Nash. Then, Dempsey curled a perfect lead pass for Beasley running into the left side of the penalty area. Beasley touched the ball past Pat Onstad and went down, Archundia immediately awarding a penalty.

Donovan sent the penalty kick low and straight as Onstad dived right, Donovan's third successful penalty of the tournament and 33d international goal (one behind Eric Wynalda on the all-time US list) in his 93d game.

The US had chances to extend the lead in the second half. Donovan stumbled over the ball (49th) in front of an open net following a feed from Beasley. Then, instead of protecting the advantage, the US continued to advance.

And Canada continued to battle, De Rosario and Hejduk clashing; both were cautioned (68th), Hejduk to be suspended for Sunday's game. De Rosario's left-footer was saved (73d) by Keller. Then, with US left back Jonathan Bornstein caught upfield, Canada cut the deficit, substitute Iain Hume left-footing a shot off the inside of the left post after avoiding Bocanegra on the right side of the penalty area in the 76th minute. Hume then cleared a Dempsey header off the line (79th) off a Donovan corner. Bornstein continued to advance into attack and had two shots blocked. Canada threatened with a counterattack, substitute Benny Feilhaber clearing at the back post. Bradley short-circuited another counter but was red-carded (89th) for a tackle from behind on De Guzman.

"We have had problems in the last minutes of the last two games," said Keller, who played in his 100th international game. "We need to do better at the end. But a win is a win."

Said De Guzman: "We had a feeling from the beginning we were playing not just against the States but against the officials."

Mexico captain Pavel Pardo spared El Tri the ultimate embarrassment.

After squandering numerous chances against Guadeloupe, Pardo scored on a curling shot from 30 yards in the second half to give Mexico a 1-0 win last night and a spot in the Gold Cup final.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.