Copa America recap: USA 2-1 Ecuador

Photo: Peter Andrews

For the first time under Jurgen Klinsmann, the United States won a knock-out match against non-CONCACAF competition on Thursday night, triumphing 2-1 over Ecuador in a dramatic Copa America quarterfinal in Seattle.

Clint Dempsey opened the scoring in his club stadium, finishing off a brilliant move with a powerful header. The game flared to life in the second half when Antonio Valencia and Jermaine Jones received double red cards after an incident. Gyasi Zardes doubled the American lead shortly thereafter, again finishing a well-executed passing sequence. A late goal by Michael Arroyo upped the tension at CenturyLink Field, but the Americans saw out the game and claimed their berth in the tournament’s final four.

First half

Jurgen Klinsmann made but one change, forced by DeAndre Yedlin’s red card, to the lineup which started all three group games. Matt Besler, a center back, deputized at left back, while Fabian Johnson flipped across the formation to defend from right back.

A well-worked passing sequence by the United States opened the scoring in the 22nd minute. At midfield, Clint Dempsey turned and fired a through-ball toward Wood. Taking the ball into the box, Wood turned towards the top of the 18 and spotted Jermaine Jones. The midfielder received the ball and played a perfectly weighted ball — just enough pace, just enough height — that Dempsey met with his head. The ball cut across the face of goal and nestled into the net, sending the Seattle fans into ecstasy as their club captain celebrated his 52nd international goal.

“Clint is special,” Klinsmann said after the match. “This performance tonight from him was unbelievable.”

On balance, the first half was very even, with both teams looking to expose the other. The United States saw success working down the right side, with Fabian Johnson repeatedly finding Bobby Wood with penetrating passes.

The most dangerous moment from Ecuador came with just seconds left in the half. An extremely sloppy turnover from Michael Bradley sent the Ecuadorians away, with John Brooks unable to stop the charge and Geoff Cameron desperately trying to avoid a foul. Brad Guzan spring to life, stonewalling the hard shot and maintaining the US advantage into the locker room.

Second half

Ecuador started brightly after intermission. After a foul committed by Jones, the whipped in free kick saw Enner Valencia get just glancing contact on a free header in front of goal.

The simmering tension between the two teams boiled over in the 52nd minute, and it would be Jermaine Jones and Antonio Valencia whose nights were cooked. Valencia, already on a yellow, crashed through the back of Alejandro Bedoya near the technical areas. In retaliation, Jones appeared to make contact with Valencia’s face. Both men were sent off, leaving the two sides to play at 10 v 10 for the rest of the match.

Klinsmann, furious, called the red card decision “an absolute joke” and “a disgrace” after the game.

A sloppy and frenetic stretch of play ensued as both teams struggled to settle into a new shape. Out of that chaos, the United States doubled its advantage with another brilliant team goal. John Brooks looped the ball forward to Wood, who turned and brought Besler into the play. Besler fed the ball to Zardes, who put Dempsey through on goal. Dempsey returned the ball to Zardes across the goal mouth for a tap-in, as bedlam ensued around the stadium. The crowd, and the team, could taste the quarterfinals.

The match was in disarray by this point. Among the flashpoints were a botched handoff for a throw-in that left Matt Besler on the ground and the American bench up in arms, and an uncalled foul that prompted the Ecuadorian staff to throw water bottles on the field, possibly prompting the ejection of some members of the coaching staff. It was sloppy, vicious football, and the Ecuadorians did not seem to threaten.

But just as things seemed comfortable for the Americans, Ecuador put one on the board themselves. Alejandro Bedoya gave the South Americans a free kick just wide of the box, earning a yellow card and a possible semifinal suspension in the process. Passed directly to Michael Arroyo at the top of the box, the midfielder made no mistake with a blazing fastball past Guzan. And suddenly the yellow-shirted visitors had life.

“This team is damn good. This team is leading World Cup qualifying in South America,” Klinsmann observed after the match. “It was not by accident that they put us into big difficulties the last 15-20 minutes, because this is one of the top teams in the world.”

The final twenty minutes were fingernail-biting time for the partisan crowd of more than 47,000.  Ecuador had success firing balls right at the six yard line, and Enner Valencia in particular missed one sitter. “He didn’t head the ball in, so everything is fine,” John Brooks said with a laugh after the game. 

The clock ran out on Ecuador’s furious comeback attempt, and the match finished 2-1.

Against long odds, the United States achieved Jurgen Klinsmann’s goal for the tournament — reaching the final four. Nearly two weeks after dourly meeting the media after a disappointing 2-0 loss to Colombia, the manager was beaming after the match. “Now, we get even hungrier for the next step,” he declared.

They await the winner of Argentina-Venezuela in a semifinal match that will be played on Tuesday in Houston, Texas.

Three Takeaways (and some miscellaneous thoughts)

Familiarity breeds cohesion, not contempt

In four Copa matches, the United States has made just one change to their starting lineup. That continuity, so atypical of the Jurgen Klinsmann era, has been rewarded from some of the most fluid soccer that the U.S. has played in years. Both goals against Ecuador came from strings of connected passes that displayed vision, skill, and awareness of the tendencies of teammates. The unfamiliar forward line of Wood, Dempsey, and Zardes gelled over the course of the tournament and tormented the Ecuadorian backline tonight.

A total team performance

Singling out individual players for praise seems beside the point; this victory was a total team performance. Brad Guzan made the saves when he was called upon. Matt Besler played a smart, conservative game, and Bedoya did a lot of hard work tracking back to protect him. The Americans swarmed their opponents when on defense, and displayed offensive sharpness on the counterattack. Backed to the hilt by a robust Seattle crowd, the United States responded in a pressure situation. Except for…

A few moments of madness

Whether the red card was totally deserved or not, Jermaine Jones put the fourth official in position to make a call with his rash response to Antonio Valencia’s challenge on Bedoya. Valencia is sent off either way — why is the macho challenge needed in response? The yellow cards to Bedoya and Wood were also avoidable and unnecessary. Now, the United States will be forced into major changes for the first time all tournament, missing one striker and two-thirds of the first-choice midfield. Going up against either Argentina or Venezuela will be a tall order, even with the anticipated return of DeAndre Yedlin.

Some miscellaneous thoughts from the author…

Seattle soccer fans can be a little bit too proud of themselves sometimes. But they can be proud of their raucous performance tonight. The streets were filled with people in red, white, and blue by 3 pm local time, and that was reflected in the din of the stadium. . . Can’t say enough good things about the city of Seattle, either. This is the second trip I’ve made up there for PSP, and both times it’s been absolutely beautiful. . . My favorite moment of Klinsmann’s press conference was his statement that “our Outlaws are organized across the country.” Can they be outlaws if they’re organized? But I digress. . . This is the end of my Copa America after four matches, three in Santa Clara and one in Seattle. It’s been a great experience, and while we can wait until it’s all done and dusted to render an overall verdict on the tournament, covering these matches is something I’ll remember forever.
USA (player ratings in parentheses)
Brad Guzan (7); Fabian Johnson (7), John Brooks (8), Geoff Cameron (7), Matt Besler (6); Michael Bradley (7), Jermaine Jones (3.5), Alejandro Bedoya (6) (Graham Zusi 81′ (n/a)); Gyasi Zardes (7) (Steve Birnbaum 90+3′ (n/a)), Clint Dempsey (8) (Kyle Beckerman 74′ (6)), Bobby Wood (7.5).
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

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

Scoring Summary
USA: Clint Dempsey (Jermaine Jones) — 22′
USA: Gyasi Zardes (Clint Dempsey) — 65′
ECU: Michael Arroyo (Walter Ayovi) — 74′

Disciplinary Summary
ECU: Antonio Valencia (unsporting behavior) — 37′
USA: Jermaine Jones (red) (violent conduct) — 52′
ECU: Antonio Valencia (second yellow) (argument) — 52′
USA: Bobby Wood (unsporting behavior) — 53′
ECU: Juan Carlos Paredes (unsporting behavior) — 64′
USA: Alejandro Bedoya (unsporting behavior) — 73′
USA: Brad Guzan (time wasting) — 84′

United States Ecuador
 9 Shots 18
4 Shots on Target 3
 4 Shots off Target 10
 1 Blocked Shots 5
4 Corner Kicks 5
 9 Crosses  32
 0 Offsides  4
12 Fouls  13
 3 Yellow Cards 1
 1 Red Cards 1
310 Total Passes 410
 77% Passing Accuracy 86%
 42% Possession  58%
 54 Duels Won 40
 57.4% Duels Won %  42.6%
 14 Tackles Won 13
 3 Saves  2
 31 Clearances  18

Referee: Wilmar Roldán (COL)
Assistant Referee 1: Alexander Guzmán (COL)
Assistant Referee 2: Wilmar Navarro (COL)
4th Official: Wilton Sampaio (BRA)

Attendance: 47,322


  1. pragmatist says:

    That first half was very impressive. They were clean and compact, minus a few too many long balls in the dump-and-chase fashion. But I could live with that first half performance on a repeat basis.
    That second half was an absolute train wreck. I have no idea what happened, but they were insanely lucky to hang on. That needs to not happen again.
    The roster for the next game will be very interesting…

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Right result but just complete stupidity from Jones and Wood. Also Bedoya should have been pulled at 2-0 so he didn’t pick up his yellow (which can be forgiven a LOT more than the other two)
    At least they’ll be well rested for the 3rd place match.

  3. el Pachyderm says:

    I bow in respect to the USMNT tonight.
    Total commitment. A possessed and dare say World Class- Dempsey and Brooks.
    Aesthetic first half being in total control.
    A Bobby Wood coming in to his own.
    A JJones absolutely a monster on the field until an egregious error of judgement that reminds me why he aggravates me so much.
    Can’t wait ’til Tuesday.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I can’t call it total commitment when Jones and Wood get into extra curricular activities that cause them to miss Tuesday’s game. You commit a foul during play to pick up a yellow like Bedoya, fine. But to get involved in pushing and shoving and pick up a yellow, especially Wood who did it in two consecutive games, is showing selfishness rather than commitment.

      • Fair point.
        The game devolved in 2nd half.. but up till then I’d argue that was the best I’ve seen a USNT play in years and years and years.

  4. Watched this one delayed, unspoiled. Man, emotional roller coaster.
    Really disappointed our best XI won’t be on the field vs (likely) Argentina. Wow, what a dream matchup.
    My hope is we can shut em down and score.

  5. Alicat215 says:

    I don’t necessarily think our best 11 have been on the pitch………lets see what the 11 look like Tuesday.

  6. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Jermaine Jones is not Mario Balotelli. But they both play in the same emotional sandbox.
    I can see why New England’s pursuit was lukewarm; I can see why Colorado is taking a chance. Yes, the two perceptions contradict.
    But contradiction is not only oppositeness, but also can be complementary [sic]. (see the Old Master, Laotzu).

    • I agree, although that’s not a red card. That’s a pathetic call. I don’t even think it’s a yellow. Jones barely touched him.

      • pragmatist says:

        Apparently it’s a new rule. Any contact with the face gets a straight red. Even though it was the softest touch, there is no longer any grey area.
        Flat-out undisciplined. But JJ is basically Dennis Rodman, so it’s part of the package.

      • It’s part of the stupid rule change that took affect with the beginning of Copa America and EURO’s 3rd person in that uses his hand(s) or fist(s) to the head or face of an opponent is automatically given a red. I don’t believe Jones is the first in Copa to get a red in this manner.

      • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

        In fairness to the ref, Jones balled up his hand into a fist and made contact with the Ecuadorian’s chin. That is a red card regardless of how hard he hit him.

      • He “balled up his hand” and pushed him, like 4 other people did in that gathering. Rules are rules, but that’s not a red card regardless. People get hit harder celebrating, in fact Jones got pushed back more than the player he “hit”.

      • Right in front of the linesman… 2 yards from him. That was the problem

      • Maybe someone else gets away with it but not the guy who harassed a ref physically a season ago. Jones made his bed.
        Absolutely ignorant choice by him. Ignorant and unacceptable.
        JK can push a different narrative because he is supposed to support his players….but
        ….Jones made that game closer than needed and now, while clearly at the top of his game in full flow, will sit and likely watch this tournament come to an end from the bench.
        When people tell me I’m crazy cause I don’t like his undisciplined way of play, I stand back today, arms across the chest and say…. Are you sure?

      • alicat215 says:

        Dude, I actually thought he was playing for Ecuador in the first half. While we played well……watch again how many passes he turned over…….worst guy on the pitch for us against Ecuador……IMHO. To your point, and I was pleasantly surprised, he had a good tournament till that match.

      • Could be you are right, I have learned to watch JJ with a standard deviation of turnovers so maybe he was within the mean for me and I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.
        He appeared to be Full On defensively and was almost literally sucking life out of the midfield which is what I love about his game.
        Either way…too bad he sits for remainder of event.

      • Alicat215 says:

        Goes back to that edge!

      • Alicat215 says:

        And don’t get me wrong, I love the guys story………it’s understandable why he has an edge…..came from a tough neighborhood in Germany to a single mother…..poor. Dempsey grew up in a trailer park playing with the Mexican kids…….there is a common denominator here……

  7. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Many thanks, Peter Andrews.
    I seriously doubt I am alone in my gratitude.

  8. Going into the match everyone with card trouble HAD to know they had a responsibility to consider. TOTALLY, COMPLETELY UN-ACCEPTABLE TO ALLOW YOURSELF TO GET THAT NEXT CARD, good or bad call from the officiating…esp Jones & Woods… no help to the club now!!! Shame on Klinsman too… This completely takes away from the STELLAR effort put out last nite by the team… REALLY Jurgen??? The coach will now show us what he’s all about with the next line up… GOOD LUCK BOYS, MAKE US PROUD !!!

  9. The lack of discipline on the pitch and in the dugout was appalling.

  10. While I am disappointed that Wood will miss the next game – I think this tournament was a real “next step” for him – I think the Bedoya and Jones suspensions might benefit the team, putting Yedlin back in the RB slot and moving Fabian into the MF (with MB at LB again). Particularly against Argentina, I think that Johnson in the MF could benefit the US.

    • Agreed. He had an edge to his play. An expectation on his countenance every game that conveyed, to me at least…. fuck you.
      I LOVE that edge. As much as I love the edge Dempsey brings, when even at a slow-jog on the field has the thumbs up of Dutch from the Karate Kid.

      • You just said up earlier ion the comments that you didn’t like Jones undisciplined play. Wood will miss the next game because of pushes worse than Jones in the past 2 games. Can’t have it both ways. (I agree on Jones in general though, I just don’t agree he was really in the wrong this time).

      • alicat215 says:

        Playing with an edge, and being ill-disciplined are not mutually exclusive. One can easily have one without the other. Most ballers I know who played at any decent level play with a “don’t fuck with me” edge. You have to have it….otherwise, someone is going to test you on the pitch, locker room, training field. You have to be able to stand up for yourself out there…….hence why most guys you watch on TV, besides the US, have that edge. It also has to do with upbringing….the hood you came out of. Lack of of discipline on the pitch and playing with an edge….are two entirely different things.

      • Fair enough. I don’t particularly like Jones either, very frustrating player, Just was trying to say I think Wood acted dumber than Jones personally the last 2 games. Got away with a lot of unnecessary pushes after the whistle.

      • Having an edge and playing on the edge are two different things for me.
        I see way to many passive players for club and country… I see our U23 ‘ball sac up’ in Olympic qualifying and I hate it… they play from a place of fear… cause they are not properly vetted by US Soccer yet.
        Wood carried an edge from the Colombia game that I noticed… clearly he has self belief and malice to his style which may have always been there for club but is now rooted in an expectation to be damn good on the field for country too.
        Easily one of the best players in the tournament for the USA… first :: in IQ and second :: in work rate.
        Just so happens his ‘playing on the edge’ also caught up to him.

      • Alicat215 says:

        It’s a fine line you have to walk, no doubt. You are absolutely spot on about our youngsters and academy kids……I think you can see their balls coming out of their mouths when the whistle blows! One problem with the academy……very sterile environment with the best still coming from neighborhoods where an edge…..isn’t needed. They have food on their tables!

  11. Best guess on JK’s lineup:

  12. Looks good CP, but might consider:

    johnson Nagbe Zusi


    On second thought scratch that; we’re back to musical chairs again. Put them back as close as possible to where they were

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