U.S. Defeats Paraguay, Advances to Quarterfinals
June 11, 2016
ONCE AGAIN needing a result, a 10-man United States men’s national team beat Paraguay on Saturday evening in Philadelphia to advance to the quarterfinals of Copa America Centenario.
Dispensing with his penchant for tinkering, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann started the same lineup for the third match in a row and elected to go with the same 4-4-2 formation he used against Costa Rica for the last 60 minutes of that contest—a consistency that paid dividends once again.
First time Jurgen Klinsmann has ever used the same starting lineup in 3 straight games as the US coach.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) June 11, 2016
In the first 10 minutes of play, the U.S. and Paraguay each earned a set piece in the others’ attacking third, but neither team capitalized and the score remained 0-0 as the two squads jabbed at each other ineffectively.
Then, in the 11th minute, Paraguay broke up a promising American attack and launched a lightning-fast counter leaving center back John Brooks facing three attackers all by himself. Patiently, Brooks contained the attack down the length of the U.S. half before finally breaking up the play only eight yards away from the U.S. net with a tremendous last-ditch tackle.
In the 19th minute, Los Guaranies threatened again when DeAndre Yedlin lost Dario Lezcano at the back post. Lezcano headed the ball on frame, but Brad Guzan made the stop to preserve the scoreline.
The Americans earned their first good look in the contest in the 23rd minute when a Fabian Balbuena handball gave the Americans a set-piece opportunity at the top of the box. However, Clint Dempsey put his effort over the crossbar.
Then, in the 27th minute, Gyasi Zardes made a strong run down the flank and centered the ball to Dempsey, who didn’t miss again. Ghosting into the area, Dempsey hit the ball low and hard to give the Yanks the lead.
The match settled down for the next 15 minutes and looked to be heading to the half without any more good chances. However, Lezcano again caused trouble for the U.S. defense when he split Geoff Cameron and Brooks on a diagonal in the 45th minute and went in all alone on the American goal. Guzan bailed out his defenders with a strong save in the 1 v. 1 situation and helped the Americans keep their 1-0 lead heading into the locker room at the half.
Another fantastic shot of Brad Guzan as well. pic.twitter.com/PrI5JZXjLL— American Outlaws KC (@AOKCdoesnotstop) June 11, 2016
The script flipped quickly in the second half when DeAndre Yedlin earned two yellow cards inside the first three minutes of play, leaving his feet on both occasions and forcing his teammates to play down a man for the last 42 minutes of the match. Klinsmann elected to sacrifice Dempsey at the next stoppage, inserting Michael Orozco into the game at right back in place of Yedlin.
While the Americans continued to defend well after Yedlin’s successive yellows, their frustration started to get the best of them. In the next 15 minutes, the Yanks began to foul repeatedly and the center official issued another caution, this time given to Michael Bradley for dissent in the 59th minute.
Three minutes later, the Americans nearly earned themselves some breathing room as Bobby Wood sprung forward on the attack and found Zardes wide open in the box. The L.A. Galaxy forward, however, bungled the opportunity and couldn’t manage to get off a shot on goal.
Pushed back deep into its own end, the Americans continued to defend bravely, but struggled to get much going of their own. Bobby Wood attacked as best he could as the lone striker, but Paraguay put a body on him every chance they could—clearly frustrating Wood. In the 75th minute, Klinsmann made another change to bolster his side, this time bringing in Graham Zusi on the right flank for Alejandro Bedoya.
In the 82nd minute, the U.S. defense found itself in disarray and Guzan was forced into action once again. Up to the task, the Aston Villa netminder made point two blank saves in a row to preserve the Americans’ narrow advantage.
Looking to close out the contest, Klinsmann made his final switch of the game in the 84th minute, replacing Wood with holding midfielder Kyle Beckerman. Completing the switch, Zardes moved to forward and Jones slid wide to make room for Beckerman in the middle.
Paraguay continued to press as time ticked away—including through six minutes of stoppage time—but the American defense held firm and secured the win, guaranteeing themselves a spot in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals next week.
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.