By Mike Slane, Goal.com
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Brek Shea scored the night's only goal and Sean Johnson held a clean sheet as the United States handled its first real test of the Gold Cup by holding on for a 1-0 win over Costa Rica at Rentschler Field.
The Americans, who had already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals following big wins over Belize and Cuba, finished in first place in Group C with nine points.
Jurgen Klinsmann said prior to the game that the team's Gold Cup run would begin against Costa Rica, which trails only the Americans at the top of the World Cup qualifying Hexagonal standings. Both teams entered the game having won their first two Gold Cup matches.
With a spot in the quarterfinals already secured and only a draw needed to finish at the top of Group C, Klinsmann elected to go with Johnson in place of the Gold Cup squad's No. 1 goalkeeper Nick Rimando. The Chicago Fire man responded by keeping out nine shots in the shutout.
Johnson's biggest moment led to the break that led to the night's lone goal.
In the 82nd minute, Johnson made a remarkable fingertip save when Costa Rica's Alvaro Saborio fired a header off of a corner kick. The U.S. picked up the rebound and Landon Donovan guided the counterattack that led to Shea finding himself with a clear path and sliding the ball past keeper Patrick Pemberton.
It was Shea's first international goal in 20 appearances with the national team.
Donovan, who is fighting for his spot on the USA's World Cup team, now has three assists to go along with a pair of goals during the Gold Cup.
After a scoreless first half, which saw the U.S. take just two more shots than its opponent, the Americans began to put on the attack to start the second half.
The game appeared to have changed in the USA's favor early in the second half when Pemberton came out of the box and made a save with his hands, but the referee only handed out a yellow card. On the ensuing free kick, Pemberton made a remarkable diving save and denied Donovan on the rebound.
Shea, who was coming off a miserable performance against Cuba on Saturday, came off the bench in the 77th minute.