Copa America recap: USMNT 1-0 Paraguay

Photo: Earl Gardner

Clint Dempsey put the US ahead early, but back to back rash tackles earned DeAndre Yedlin two yellow cards in the span of a minute early in the second half. John Brooks led a resolute defense that saw the US qualify for the Copa America quarterfinals, where they fill face either the winner or runner-up of Group B (depending on the Colombia-Costa Rica outcome).

First half

Jurgen Klinsmann stuck with the same starting XI from the first two matches, though they lined up in a 4-4-2 from the opening whistle. Gyasi Zardes slid into a wide midfield spot opposite Alejandro Bedoya, with Bobby Wood moving into the center to join Clint Dempsey.

It was a slow, bumpy start though, with both sides conceding a handful of fouls in the opening 10 minutes.

Dario Lezcano got into the US box off of set piece in the 2nd minute, but US captain Michael Bradley held his ground well to clear the danger.

Dempsey was dragged down at the other end, but Fabian Johnson’s free kick lacked the whip to trouble Justo Villar as the teams exchanged dangerous set piece opportunities.

In the 11th minute, Geoff Cameron’s powerful run through midfield released his fullback, DeAndre Yedlin to get forward and cross. Villar punched away, and the US was left thin at the back as Paraguay flew across the midfield stripe. Left alone, John Brooks faced down three attackers, using his body to close the passing lane before sliding into the shot attempt. The Linc exploded as Guzan ran out to give the young defender a well deserved pat on the back.

Given the lack of rhythm that comes with such a choppy game, neither side was able to stake its claim to the center of the park. Paraguay kept the Philly crowd on edge as they looked consistently dangerous on the counter.

In the 23rd minute, Dempsey appeared to have Wood racing in on goal, but a Paraguayan hand stopped his throughball. Up stepped Dempsey for the free kick, bending his shot inches over the crossbar.

After a pinballing encounter in midfield, the US emerged with the ball in the 27th minute, with Zardes racing away up the flank. Shaking passed two defenders, he raced to the endline before cutting the ball back into the box. As he so often does, Dempsey reacted quickest, pouncing on the cross and smashing it beneath the sprawling Villar.

Following the goal, the US sat deeper into its shell, absorbing pressure and trying to draw out the Paraguayans. Despite conceding the majority of possession over the final 20 minutes of the half, the Americans plan largely worked, with Paraguay frustrated by the two blocks of four sitting in front of Brad Guzan.

It wasn’t until the stroke of halftime that Paraguay finally found a way through the Brooks-Cameron duo. When Brooks appeared to slip, Lezcano flew into the space behind him, racing in alone on Guzan. But the American keeper was up to the task, getting down quickly to deny the attacker.

Second half

Two moments of madness within a minute defined the second half, and both came from DeAndre Yedlin. After receiving a yellow card in the 47th minute for a crunching tackle in midfield, Yedlin returned to his position at right back and proceed to come flying through the back of Miguel Samudio on the very next play, leaving the US with only 10 men and Lincoln Financial Field deathly quiet.

Michael Orozco entered the fray to replace Yedlin at right back, with the goalscoring Dempsey making way and shifting the Americans to a 4-4-1.

As Paraguay continued to go down and win fouls under minimal contact, the US players struggled to maintain their composure. The entire US coaching staff was screaming from the touchline in the 59th minute for a particularly soft foul, with Bradley going into the book for his protests.

Yet, despite their man advantage, Paraguay continued to struggle to create clear cut chances, with Derlis Gonzalez and Lezcano trying their luck with weak long range efforts.

With all of their numbers pressing forward, the US nearly doubled their advantage and put the match out of sight. However, after a driving run from Wood left Zardes with a clean run-in on goal, the LA Galaxy man dawdled badly on the ball and allowed Villar to close the angle and smother at his feet.

The US received a lucky — and appreciated — chance to catch their breath on 66 minutes, when referee Bascuñan blew play dead, clutching his calf. A few minutes (and a dose of magic spray) later, the Chilean referee was ready to continue.

In the 76th minute, Wood’s off the ball movement almost put him through, but Paraguay did just enough to clear the danger.

The fouls and cards continued to mount after Victor Ayala’s full-blooded body check floored Zardes and Orozco joined him in the book after dragging an opponent down by the collar.

With 10 minutes to go in normal time, Paraguay finally began to find space in the box, with substitute Juan Iturbe’s fancy footwork setting him free to loft a cross into the box. Fortunately for the US, the cross was just too tall for Lezcano, who headed over the bar.

In the 82nd minute, scrambling defense from the US kept Paraguay at bay as they raced in from the American’s left flank. Man of the match Brooks slid in to deny the first tight angle effort, then Guzan made himself large, slamming the door on the Paraguayans with a double-save from close range.

Wood made way for Kyle Beckerman in the 85th minute, but the veteran’s first involvement was to run over a Paraguayan player in a very dangerous area. Ayala could do nothing with the free kick though, ballooning it badly over the bar.

Paraguay momentarily thought they had leveled in the 89th minute, but an attacking flick-on left Gustavo Gomez in an offside position and his goal was rightly ruled out.

US verdict

John Brooks was dominant: His 1 v 3 defending was the play of the match, as he not only slid in to block the shot, but positioned his body perfectly to close down the passing lane. That play aside, he was immense in his positioning, aerial prowess and overall reading of the game. Brooks and Cameron looked every bit the top tier centerback partnership for which US fans have been longing.

Hey everybody… chill: Julio Bascuñan did not have a great game. Every time a Paraguayan hit the deck, he seemed to instinctively reach for his whistle, while the bigger, stronger Americans struggled to earn fouls. So what? That happens. The US is in CONCACAF, after all. Yedlin’s second yellow, Bradley and Brooks’ cards for protests and frustration. The US must be better than this. With their most veteran leaders, Dempsey and Jones being two of the more hot-headed though, it is not entirely clear from where that calming presence will arrive.

What to do with Zardes? His run and cross to set up the match’s lone goal was a thing of beauty. The rest of his match? Not so much. Zardes’ first touch and decision making remain a subject of intense scrutiny among the American soccer media, and rightly so. Three of the best chances on the night came to naught based on mistakes he made. With even more technical teams on the horizon, it’s awfully difficult to justify a player who offers such infrequent offensive production, regardless of his defensive input.

Michael Orozco, right back: That’s right. Thanks to the red mist that descended over DeAndre Yedlin, the US will likely go into the Copa America quarterfinals with Michael Orozco as their starting right back.

Final thoughts

A win is a win, and the US marches on. But despite all the character a match like this shows, it’s hard to see the US benefiting that much overall. With Brazil potentially coming up next, the US will have to recover very quickly from a grueling 90 minutes in very warm conditions. Dempsey’s early hook may have been a blessing in disguise, and it will be interesting to see how how much Jermaine Jones has in the tank for the quarterfinal.

Brad Guzan; DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Fabian Johnson; Alejandro Bedoya (Zusi 75′), Michael Bradley (capt.), Jermaine Jones; Gyasi Zardes, Clint Dempsey (Orozco 50′), Bobby Wood (Beckerman 83′)

Subs not used: Steve Birnbaum, Matt Besler, Darlington Nagbe, Tim Howard, Perry Kitchen, Christian Pulisic, Chris Wondolowski, Edgar Castillo, Ethan Horvath
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

Justo Villar; Gustavo Gomez, Fabian Balbuena, Paulo Da Silva, Miguel Samudio; Derlis Gonzalez, Victor Ayala, Celso Ortiz, Miguel Almiron; Antonio Sanabria, Dario Lezcano
Subs not used: Ican Piris, Bruno Valdez, Jorge Benitez, Rodrigo Rojas, Edgar Benitez, Antony Silva, Blas Riveros, Juan Iturbe, Nelson Valdez, Diego Barreto, Robert Piris Da Motta
Head Coach: Ramon Diaz

Scoring Summary
USA – Clint Dempsey (Gyasi Zardes) – 27′

Disciplinary Summary
PAR – Celso Ortiz – 14′
USA – DeAndre Yedlin – 47′
USA – DeAndre Yedlin – 48′ (second yellow + red)
USA – Michael Bradley – 59′
PAR – Rodrigo Rojas – 71′
USA – Bobby Wood – 72′
PAR – Victor Ayala – 78′
USA – Michael Orozco – 79′
USA – Jermaine Jones – 87′

Stats Summary (USA / PAR)
Shots: 10 / 7
Shots on Goal: 5 / 3
Saves: 3 / 1
Corner Kicks: 2 / 4
Fouls: 10 / 14
Offside: 3 / 1

Referee: Julio Bascuñan (CHI)
Assistant Referee 1: Carlos Astroza (CHI)
Assistant Referee 2: Christian Schiemann (CHI)
4th Official: John Pitti (PAN)

Venue: Lincoln Financial Field; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Attendance: 51,041


  1. Brooks was tremendous. Wow!

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    More Industrial Revolution than Information Age.
    A lively crowd, my son was fuming a bit I pulled him from a pool party to go to game and after a talking to rallied~ then timed the walk in perfectly with the Outlaws in full throat – pulled him close and whispered in his ear that, “while I recognize you are bummed for leaving party early- unlike all his other buddies who stayed and then are going home, there is only ONE place in ALL the United States of America to be tonight and you are there.
    He said, “I know dad, thanks.”
    Anyway ~ I would like to wring Gyasi Zardes’ neck for not finishing the game in early second half – so the 51,000 people in that stadium could have serenaded Jurgen Klinsman: Pu-lis-ic Pul-lis-ic…
    Beyond that I’m hoping Costa Rica can hang on.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Looks like the Ticas did hang on so now the US will probably avoid Brazil and most likely get Ecuador (assuming they can beat Haiti by more than a goal).

    • There has got to be a better option than Zardes, no? That flub in the box in the middle of the second half was maddening. What on earth was he waiting for?

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        That was infuriating. When you have a chance down a man, you have to put it away. Period.

  3. philpillas says:

    JK plays same 3 lineups in a r? Well, there won’t be a 4th. If Yedlin just took the first, he might not have gotten the second. Hanging on a man down and then winning the group – these are bets I would not have nade a week ago Friday. On to Seattle!

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    While a win is a win, it was certainly not what I would consider a smart win. The US players seemed to think they would have a better chance to get the ball into the back of the net by holding on to it and giving the defense a chance to take it away rather than one timing it. They kept playing for the perfect shot and usually ended up not shooting at all.
    Plus at least 3 of the yellow cards were sheer stupidity and could come back to haunt them. Obviously, Yedlin has some growing up to do and will hopefully do it while watching Thursday’s game. But Bradley and Wood both took dumb yellows which would mean they will miss the semifinals if they take one in the quarterfinals. Not what players on that level should be doing. And that to me reflects on their club’s coach, not on Klinsmann, since he shouldn’t be having to tell his players to not be stupid.

    • Agree with your points about the yellow cards. I did not realize until just now that the tournament rules wipe away single yellow cards (but not two) after the quarterfinals. Could it be that some of those players knew in advance that they would not be starting the next match?

  5. OneManWolfpack says:

    Great crowd last night at the game. It was worth the money in my opinion. And with Costa Rica winning, we have (in theory at least) an easier route to the final four – a goal stated by JK. It would be impressive to get there. With that said, they need a better game than last night though. Not terrible, but not great either. Brooks was awesome. That 3 on 1 break up was just unbelievable.

  6. Wish I was down there, but what a great game to watch. Brooks was a wall back there, and it looked like a great game to attend. I have seen the USA Men’s team several times at the Linc and at Soldier Field; this looked like the best of the crowds for them. Cletus’ withdrawn position looked like it was designed exactly for that goal, and I was ecstatic to see it actually work for him. I spent a lot of time comparing Rooney’s earlier work, playing point guard from central mid, to Bradley’s work. I am not sure why Bradley looked tentative in a similar role. I hope that he takes charge when he gets that role again.

    That being said, some of the difficulties here seemed to be from an inability to get a handle on the officiating. The game could not have been worse called if Mark Geiger was out there. (To bring back an old PSP feature, the Geiger counter was clicking madly throughout the game.) The same foul was committed multiple times, and the calls ranged from no call to a second yellow and ejection. Truly problematic.

  7. Brooks has arrived. 23 years old. Earned the starting job at Hertha in one of the top leagues in the world and now breaking into the international game.
    Yedlin looked improved at Sunderland. I caught a few of there games on TV toward the end of the season and payed close attention to him and he looked much better in defense. However, that has yet to translate to the international level as he is still relying on his recovery speed to get him out of trouble. His first card may not have been deserved but he needs to be smarter. That needs to be the next step in his development – positioning and situational awareness.
    Credit Jones and Bedoya, while both pretty quiet, they put in a ton of work especially when down a man.
    Cameron got burned a few times but I like him paired with Brooks because he has some speed, is comfortable on the ball, and is the most experienced player on the backline.
    Zardes is Zardes at this point. He has all the physical tools (speed, strength, etc.) to play at the international level but his touch and finishing is not. He still can play a role with the team – every national team needs a blunt force like him sometimes but I would not lock him into the lineup as much as JK has been doing.
    Wood is a striker and needs to stay up top.
    Hopefully, JK’s reliance of the older players in pressure situations lights a fire under the younger ones like Nagbe, Pulisic, Kitchen, etc to get them to the next level.
    Very winnable quarterfinal game against Ecuador.

    • Also, a talking point:
      Since Yedlin is suspended, would you start Orozco at RB or move Johnson to RB and start Castillo at LB.
      The first move is more defensive and has less moving parts while the second allows more going forward.

  8. Dr. Union says:

    Honestly, I think Yedlin may be the worst player for the US the whole Copa so far. He is not an international level player and if he is the best RB the US has it worries me. He got torched again and again vs Columbia and looked awful. Plus he had the handball which may have been a rough call, but why are you jumping with your eyes closed and back turned anyway (stay on the ground). He did fine vs Costa Rica as you can’t argue a 4-0 score line. And then this game 2 stupid fouls a minute a part all because he was out of position. He followed the one guy 20 yards in field in their half to make a questionable tackle (not a yellow, but not smart anyway). Then he makes a recovery run is mispositioned and jumps in two footed studs up at the next guy receiving the ball 40 yards from goal. I mean even if he didn’t have the yellow you could argue that a two-footed studs up tackle even if he slips could be a red coming from that angle. I just don’t think Yedlin has been very good at all and there has to be some better option out there for the USNT anyone got any thoughts on that?

    • Yedlin has gotten so much better at Sunderland IMO as I have paid a bit of attention to his arc as well, which tells you how bad he was before joining an elite level capable of coaxing what game intelligence he has which is minimal… but then that only returns us full circle to the real problem and well, nobody wants me spouting off about that this week… its a happy time.
      what is that bird flying around this boat…my— its an albatross.

      • Dr. Union says:

        Agreed he has gotten better but needs work I got to think there are better options out there.

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