By Robert Cross / AO: Portland
USA knocks out Ecuador 2-1 to advance to the Semifinals of Copa America Centenario.
There’s that man again. Clint Dempsey continues to defy skeptics as he opened the scoring for USA in the 22nd minute with a glancing header delivered off a precise pass in the box from Jermaine Jones. This goal was made possible by Bobby Wood’s strong run and deft layoff to Jones. Gyasi Zardes found himself in a fortunate position for the second tally as his first touch off of Dempsey’s shot found the back of the net in the 65th minute.
The match became frantic for the red, white, and blue as the 2nd half wore on. Jones and Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia were both sent off in a chaotic melee shortly prior to Zardes’ goal. Playing 10 men aside opened up considerable pace on the pitch and Ecuador pulled within a goal after a 74th minute strike from Michael Arroyo. USA were able to hold on for the victory, buoyed forward by string support in the stands and poor finishing by La Tricolor.
Bobby Wood was integral to the USMNT’s success with smart diagonal runs.
Wood is a direct player and his deep forays into Ecuador’s half opened up space for Dempsey and others to operate underneath. In the 2nd half his work continued, strong on the ball and battling to maintain possession for USA in critical spots. Wood has unseated the incumbent and inured Jozy Altidore as our top forward.
Alejandro Bedoya, Wood, and Jones will miss the Semifinals due to suspension.
It takes depth and shrewd roster management to win soccer tournaments. Coach Klinsmann will be faced with some challenging choices next week. Does he continue to take the conservative, pragmatic approach or will more technically skilled players such as Christian Pulisic or Darlington Nagbe be inserted into the starting 11? Expect more of the former as USA attempts to manage a tight match.
USMNT will be playing with house money in Houston.
Most observers thought the Yanks would struggle to escape from group play at Copa. We now find ourselves 90+ minutes away from playing for a trophy. Lionel Messi and Argentina are our likely Semifinal round opponent. USA will be an underdog in this scenario, but I wouldn’t count us out. Things tend to go well in soccer when you are playing sound defensively and are getting key contributions from your best players. Onward USA!
About the Author
Robert W. Cross is a founding member and former President of American Outlaws Portland, a lifelong football fan, and supporter of both club and country.