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USA finally knocks off Canada on penalties to advance to final

31.01.02 - For 120 minutes, Canadian goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld was able to keep the USA at bay. But his, and Canada’s, Gold Cup luck finally ran out in the penalty shootout, as the USA reached the final for the first time since 1991 after a scoreless draw.

Hirschfeld made no fewer than 15 saves – most of the spectacular variety in the second half and extra-time period – as Canada faced their second successive penalty shootout. The 23-year-old ‘keeper, who plays for semi-professional Calgary Storm, had played just two international halves before the 2002 Gold Cup.

But U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller made a pair of fine saves during the shootout, while his teammates made all four of their spot kicks, to put the USA into the final against Costa Rica.

The match got off to a slow start, but just after the half-hour Hirschfeld gave a preview of what was to come when he turned aside a deflected Landon Donovan shot at full stretch.

The game’s best sequence came on 54 minutes. Josh Wolff was put clear through, but saw his shot rebound back off the angle of post and bar. The rebound came out to Brian McBride, but he saw his effort parried by Hirschfeld.

After the ball bounced around the box, Wolff again sent it goalward with a full bicycle kick – only to see defender Jason deVos cleared it off the line. The rebound once again fell to McBride, whose shot was again miraculously parried by Hirschfeld.

On the hour, Donovan again burst through on the right, Hirschfeld saving well on a low blast at the near post. Not five minutes later, a McBride header was just deflected by Donovan enough to put Hirschfeld in danger, but again the Canadian goalkeeper slapped his arm out to knock it wide.

Even when Hirschfeld was able to watch the ball from the start it wasn’t easy – a long-range effort from Chris Armas dipping and swerving to test him.

Deep into extra time, Hirschfeld again came up with a pair of game-saving stops, a powerful blast from Brian West from the top of the area turned aside before a Clint Mathis effort on the full run at the end of a counterattack was also denied.

But in the shootout, the clock finally struck 12 on Canada’s Gold Cup run, which saw them survive a coin flip and score a pair of golden goals on their way to the 2000 title, then survive another draw and a penalty shootout to reach this year’s semifinal.

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