The United States earned the right to play another day on Saturday night, as they held off Paraguay in an ugly 1-0 win. With the victory, the USMNT are through to the quarterfinals, but their position in the group depends on the result in the Colombia-Costa Rica match. With the loss, Paraguay have been eliminated.
51,041 watched on as the referee called scores of fouls and chances were squandered left and right. Still, the crowd was raucous, and will surely be the largest of Lincoln Financial Field's three Copa América games.
Paraguay shifted from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 for their matchup with the United States. Since their matchup with Colombia, Gustavo Gómez moved from center back to right back, and Fabián Balbuena came in to occupy his spot in the center of defense. Celso Ortíz survived the switch to a two-man central midfield, but Robert Piris did not. 28-year-old Víctor Ayala, who scored this stunner on Tuesday, was named Ortíz's partner for the match. Miguel Almirón was moved from the No. 10 spot to the left wing, and Dynamo Kyiv's Derlis González came off the bench to play on the right side. Roma striker Antonio Sanabria was chosen to line up next to Darío Lezcano up top.
Klinsmann started the same XI for the third-consecutive game, making him the first coach to do so since Robert Millar did it in 1930. Considering that he stuck with this group after their opening loss to Colombia, I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that he'd keep the lineup unchanged following their 4-0 thumping of Costa Rica. He did make a tactical adjustment; however, moving from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2. Wood and Dempsey served as the two forwards, while Gyasi Zardes dropped into the midfield.
The U.S. took the lead through Clint Dempsey, who finished off a Gyasi Zardes cross in the 27th minute. Zardes had come over to the left side ten minutes earlier, and the shift quickly paid off for the U.S. He made his way to the end line before playing a low ball to penalty spot. Deuce rushed in to score his 51st international goal, bringing him within six of Landon Donovan's record 57.
Aside from the goal, the most noteworthy play of the half was John Brooks's improbable clearance of a Paraguay counter. Brooks was the only defender to recover as three Paraguayan attackers rushed toward goal. In most cases, the defender doesn't win that battle, but John Brooks was otherworldly on the night. His inch-perfect sliding tackle was a sign of what was to come, as the center back had one of his best games in a U.S.A. jersey on Saturday night.
DeAndre Yedlin got the second half off to a thrilling start, as he managed to pick up two yellow cards in 59 seconds. Both were deserved, but the second card will draw more ire, and rightly so. The defender's decision to go in recklessly on a Paraguayan attacker was simply appalling considering that he had been carded seconds earlier.
As a result of that foolishness, we bore witness to some hideous soccer over the next 42 minutes. With a man advantage, Paraguay floundered--both figuratively and literally--for the duration of the second half. They failed to capitalize on their chances, but they did manage to draw cards and earn set pieces at a prolific rate.
Brad Guzan's emphatic double-save in the 82nd minute denied Paraguay their two best looks of the half. The saves--his fifth and sixth--bookended a fantastic night for the USMNT 'keeper. The U.S. haven't conceded since Colombia's penalty in the first half of the opening game, 238 minutes in total.
Gyasi Zardes had a chance to double his side's lead in the 62nd minute, but he couldn't get a shot off quickly enough. While his first touch was fine, the ones that followed left a lot to be desired.
- Here are the players who received yellow cards in the second half of tonight's game:
47' DeAndre Yedlin
48' DeAndre Yedlin
59' Michael Bradley
71' Rodrigo Rojas
72' Bobby Wood
78' Víctor Ayala
79' Michael Orozco
87' Jermaine Jones
- Here's a map of John Brooks's defensive actions. While Dempsey has two game-winners thus far, it's hard to argue that this tournament doesn't belong to Brooks.
- Former Union defender Michael Orozco came on after Yedlin's dismissal, and even though he didn't put in a great shift, there's a decent chance he starts at right back for the USMNT's quarterfinal game. Remember to tell your friends that you knew him when he was Michael Orozco Fiscal.