Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie key to USA’s hopes against Jamaica

Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie are offering hope for the future of U.S. men’s soccer while contributing plenty to its present.

After combining on the lone goal in a 1-0 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal victory over Curacao, the two 20-year-old midfielders will try to help the defending champion United States beat Jamaica in a Wednesday night semifinal. The winner plays for the title Sunday in Chicago against either Mexico or Haiti.

U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter describes Pulisic and McKennie as “two completely different players” whose distinct strengths enable them to complement each other.

“When you look at Christian, he’s a guy that can change a game with his skill, with his ability to find players, his ability to take players on and beat them one (on) one and deliver a final pass,” Berhalter said.

“When you look at Weston, he’s a very physically dynamic player. When you talk about being able to break a man-oriented defense, he can do it singlehandedly. When he gets the ball and starts running, players just can’t catch him.”

Pulisic and McKennie are playing integral roles in helping U.S. soccer turn the page after failing to reach the World Cup last year. They’re vital parts of the U.S. team’s long-term outlook along with Tyler Adams, another 20-year-old midfielder who is missing the Gold Cup because of a groin injury.

Pulisic is the youngest U.S. player to appear in a World Cup qualifier, score an international goal or score in a World Cup qualifier — feats he accomplished before his 18th birthday. He served as the U.S. team’s captain for its victory over Curacao on Sunday.

Now the duo will help the U.S. face Jamaica as both teams attempt to improve upon underwhelming quarterfinal performances.

Jamaica beat the U.S. 2-1 in a 2015 semifinal. The U.S. bounced back two years later by beating Jamaica 2-1 in the Gold Cup championship game.

The two teams met again less than a month ago, with Jamaica winning 1-0 in a June 5 exhibition at Washington, D.C.

Brazil 2, Argentina 0: Brazil beat Argentina in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and will play Sunday’s Copa America final at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, seeking its 10th South American title.

Lionel Messi, meanwhile, remains without trophies for his national team.

Gabriel Jesus opened the scoring at 19 minutes in the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte after a samba-style play from right-back Dani Alves. It was the striker’s first goal in the tournament.

Roberto Firmino added the second at 71 minutes assisted by Jesus in front of 56,000 fans.

Brazil’s opponent will be determined Wednesday when defending champion Chile takes on underdog Peru at the Arena do Gremio in Porto Alegre.

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