U.S. team copes minus Bocanegra

RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) — The United States has made a run to the semifinals of the Confederations Cup by learning how to play without injured captain Carlos Bocanegra.

The defender has been sidelined since June 6 and could sit out Wednesday’s match against European champion Spain because of a hamstring injury.

But Jay DeMerit and Oguchi Onyewu have started to show improvement on defense, culminating in Sunday’s 3-0 win over African champion Egypt.

“They have been solid in the back,” United States coach Bob Bradley said Monday. “There still are some moments when I think we lose our line too easily.

“The understanding between Jay and Gooch at times is such that one will drop too far off and they’re not always perfectly in synch, but you can see the understanding getting better.”

With Jonathan Spector and Jonathan Bornstein the fullbacks, Bradley has kept the same defense in all three group matches, although he did switch from Tim Howard to Brad Guzan in goal on Sunday.

Spector and Bornstein each set up a goal in the win over Egypt.

Bornstein helped create the opener for Charlie Davies in the 21st minute with an alert throw to Jozy Altidore.

Spector sent in a swinging 40-yard cross from deep on the right that Clint Dempsey headed in to finish off the scoring in the 71st minute.

“Spector hit a great ball in and I happened to be on the right side of the defender,” Dempsey said. “I used my body to get a little bit of space and tried to get my head on it.

“I put it toward goal, kept it low and it found the back of the net.

“I didn’t know that was going to be the goal to get us through.”

Bradley said the defense has improved after the 3-1 opening loss to Italy and the 3-0 loss to Brazil. It will need to be at its best for next month’s Gold Cup and the Aug. 12 World Cup qualifier at Mexico.

“It’s been a good challenge, especially when you play teams where the movement underneath the back four is such that there’s different guys coming from the second line and everything else,” Bradley said. “It’s been challenging but at the same time I think we’ve seen some good efforts.”