KENYA BROWN - Sunday, June 12, 2016
Clint Dempsey's first-half goal was enough as the 10-man United States side held on for the win against Paraguay on Saturday in Philadelphia in their final Group A game of the Copa América Centenario.
Colombia's shock 3-2 loss to Costa Rica on the same day saw the US finish atop of the group as they now move on to the quarterfinals.
After Tuesday's 4-0 thrashing of Costa Rica, the US had placed themselves in a strong position to qualify from their group, but like with tournaments in the past they left it until the last game, which put a lot their fans on edge. However, luck has been on the side of the team in the past and while this game was not pretty, they ground out the win to move on.
U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann kept faith with the starting eleven that he has played for the past two games, but this time used a 4-3-3 formation.
Paraguay found themselves with the first opportunity in the 11th minute when they sprung a 3-on-1 counterattack, but John Brooks, who was the star man of the game, did well to block Miguel Almiron's attempt at goal.
The host country would turn the tables later and launch their own attack, but they failed at completing the final ball to opening the scoring. Dempsey would have a chance from a free kick, but his effort sailed past the post.
The U.S. then got the goal they needed in the 27th minute. Gyasi Zardes made a run down the left wing with the ball before crossing it into the area where Dempsey connected and put his shot past Paraguay goalkeeper Justo Villar for the 1-0 advantage.
This left their opponents needing at least two goals to avoid elimination, and needing a break to go their way.
Early in the second half, this break appeared to materialize for the Paraguayans when DeAndre Yedlin got his first yellow card for a challenge on Almiron. The US protested that decision, but their was no arguing when Yedlin received his second yellow card for his tackle on Miguel Samudio.
Down to 10 men, the Klinsmann's squad had to work hard to keep play tight, and maintain their advantage.
They came close to doubling their lead in the 62nd minute when Bobby Wood's through ball found Zardes on the left, but he was unable to take a crack at the Paraguay goal.
Paraguay would then press forward to find the equalizer. Their best chances came with 10 minutes left in regulation, but Brad Guzan would be there to make the double save.
Now that the US have guaranteed qualification to the knockout stage, they must await until Sunday night to find out the identity of their opponent for Thursday's quarterfinal in Seattle. This will be the second-place team in Group B, which will most likely be either Ecuador or Peru.