Seattle, Wa. – As promised by coach Jurgen Klinsmann the U.S. MNT is heading to the Copa America Centenario semifinal next Tuesday in Houston after hanging on to defeat Ecuador 2-1 in front of a loud pro- U.S.A. crowd Thursday night in Seattle.
Mr. Clutch, Clint Dempsey staked the hosts to a 1-0 lead in the 22 minute at the end of an impressive passing sequence finishing a Jermaine Jones pass to the Ecuador net with a powerful header.
Bobby Wood played a big part in the goal and was buzzing from the start helping to keep Ecuador’s highly touted wide players busy defending and helping to blunt the La Tri attack.
The first half was nearly all positives for the Americans, although a stray Michael Bradley pass needed a good save from Brad Guzan to maintain that 1-0 lead into the break.
The second half was a much different affair and it turned on a double ejection in the 52nd minute. Ecuador’s Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia sparked the situation with a flagrant kick to Alejandro Bedoya and when Jermaine Jones interceded he and Valencia both ended up with an early exit.
Jurgen Klinsmann called Jones’ red card, “an absolute joke.” The fracas occurred in front of the U.S. bench and the coach said, “I was right there.” Klinsmann said that it was the fourth official who made the call, adding that the decision, “is a disgrace.”
Replays seemed to back the U.S. coach, who will have to face the winner of Saturday’s Argentina vs. Venezuela match without Jones, Alejandro Bedoya, and Bobby Wood, the latter two for yellow card accumulation.
The U.S. was put back on its heels after the twin dismissals with Ecuador taking advantage of the extra space in the 10 v 10 matchup but it was the Americans who scored next with Bobby Wood finishing from Dempsey in the 65th minute.
John Brooks started the scoring play with a ball over the top to Wood, who fed Matt Besler, Besler found Dempsey and Zardes helped the veterans shot/cross into the net.
The L.A. Galaxy forward said afterward that, “there was a defender right there, so I didn’t want to take a chance, so I had to bury it.” Zardes felt that team’s character showed after the red card, adding, “our leader, Michael Bradley, he really brought us in together, kept us focused on the game plan and the task at hand.”
That task was made more difficult when the U.S. was caught napping on an Ecuador free kick in the 74th minute, allowing Walter Ayovi to pick out a wide open Michael Arroyo who beat Guzan cleanly to halve the U.S. advantage.
The crowd responded to the setback by getting louder and with the industrious Bobby Wood winning the occasional foul the Americans were able to slow things down enough to make it to the final whistle with their lead intact.
That final whistle brought equal parts joy and relief as the U.S. players celebrated on the field and the fans rejoiced in the stands. At Wednesday’s practice Michael Bradley had said of the expected fan support that, “it could be the difference.”
After his side’s big win Bradley said, “look, the atmosphere was amazing inside the stadium.” “The fans pushed us on in a big way,” the captain said, emphasizing that, “on night’s like this the fans can make the difference for us.”
Jurgen Klinsmann had one big decision to make prior to the game and the coach nailed it, inserting Matt Besler at left fullback and flipping Fabian Johnson to the right side in place of suspended DeAndre Yedlin.
Besler was solid defensively and contributed more going forward than expected. Good team defense thwarted Ecuador’s speed based attack and the Americans did enough to withstand La Tri’s second half onslaught.
Now it is on to the semifinals where the home team gets a break from the schedule makers for Tuesday’s match at NRG Stadium in Houston. Even if the U.S. wind up facing Lionel Messi and mighty Argentina, it could be a tired La Celeste that the Yanks face. Argentina and Venezuela don’t play until Saturday, giving the Americans some needed recovery time and leaving its opponent with a very short turnaround.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 1 2
ECU 0 1 1
USA – Clint Dempsey (Jermaine Jones) 22nd minute
USA – Gyasi Zardes (Clint Dempsey) 65
ECU – Michael Arroyo (Walter Ayovi) 74
USA: 1-Brad Guzan; 5-Matt Besler, 20-Geoff Cameron, 6-John Brooks, 23-Fabian Johnson; 11-Alejandro Bedoya (19-Graham Zusi, 81), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 13-Jermaine Jones; 9-Gyasi Zardes (3-Steve Birnbaum, 90+4), 8-Clint Dempsey (15-Kyle Beckerman, 74), 7-Bobby Wood
Subs not used: 10-Darlington Nagbe, 12-Tim Howard, 14-Michael Orozco, 16-Perry Kitchen, 17-Christian Pulisic, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 21-Edgar Castillo, 22-Ethan Horvath
Not available: 2-DeAndre Yedlin
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
ECU: 22-Alexander Dominguez; 2-Arturo Mina, 3-Frickson Erazo, 4-Juan Paredes (17-Jaimen Ayovi, 82), 10-Walter Ayoví (capt.), 13-Enner Valencia; 6-Christian Noboa (8-Fernando Gaibor, 62), 7-Jefferson Montero, 11-Michael Arroyo, 16-Luis Valencia, 18-Carlos Gruezo
Subs not used: 1-Maximo Banguera, 5-Cristian Ramirez, 9-Fidel Martinez, 12-Esteban Dreer, 14-Angel Mena, 15-Pedro Larrea, 19-Juan Cazares, 20-Robert Arboleda, 21-Gabriel Achiller, 23-Miler Bolaños
Head Coach: Gustavo Quinteros
Stats Summary: USA / ECU
Shots: 7 / 13
Shots on Goal: 4 / 3
Saves: 2 / 2
Corner Kicks: 4 / 5
Fouls: 11 / 11
Offside: 0 / 4
ECU – Luis Valencia (caution) 38th minute
USA – Jermaine Jones (sent off) 52
ECU – Luis Valencia (caution) 52
ECU – Luis Valencia (sent off) 52
USA – Bobby Wood (caution) 53
ECU – Juan Paredes (caution) 64
USA – Alejandro Bedoya (caution) 73
USA – Brad Guzan (caution) 84