6/17/16 US Wins–Advances to COPA SEMIs on Tues Night 9 pm Fox Sports 1, Indy 11 Take Chicago Fire to OT, Copa and Euro Cups Continue with full weekend slate

US Wins – Advances to COPA SEMIs vs Argentina on Tues Night 7 pm Fox Sports 1, Indy 11 Take Chicago Fire to OT, Copa and Euro Cups Continue with full weekend slate

Wow so the US Wins a huge knockout game against #11 ranked Ecuador 2-1 in the COPA last night in front of the best US and in fact the best City for Soccer in the US Seattle.  I thought the US played one the best 45 minutes they have played in the Klinnsmann era in the 1st half. The 2nd half- well lets just say we held on much like US teams have done in the past by out hustling, out fighting, out scrapping and somehow figuring out how to keep the ball out of the net but 1 time.  Guzan stood tall and again played a world class match, while Brooks and Cameron were stellar in the middle once again.  The US won literally every head ball into the box.  I even liked the German flipping Johnson to the left inserting Bezler – who proved even though he is not a natural left defender he is the US 3rd best true defender behind the center back pairing currently playing so well.  Beez won no fewer than 4 headballs and was able to survive against world class winger Man Us Valencia.  The midfield was solid until Jones got the STUPID RED CARD for half throwing a punch/slap during a mele with Ecuador early in the 2nd half.  While Dempsey continues to show he is a world class finisher – and he really really played hard in front of his home crowd in Seattle – it was really young forward Bobby Wood who opened up the Ecuador defense with his lightning runs along the edges giving room and service for Dempsey to operate at his best.  I thought Dempsey, Brooks, Guzan and Wood were equally players of the game – as was the entire team in their US Gritty 2-1 win.  The Outlaws and entire crowd was electric and I honestly thinked helped the US  WIN this game with their support – man I would have given my left big toe to be in attendance.  Oh well.  Congrats USA – now its on to Tuesday night 7 pm on Fox Sports and a match-up with World #1 Argentina and the world’s best player Lionel Messi.

The COPA has been just fantastic and I am glad to see as we move thru the Quarters and Semi’s the fans are really showing up now.  Oh and we don’t have explosions in our Stadiums and fighting in the streets like the European Cup.  Finally great job by the Brickyard Battalion traveling to Chicago for the Indy 11 US Open match with the Chicago Fire – the traveling crew was obvious and loud and helped the 11 take the Fire to a shootout – where they barely loss by 1?  Great performance by Indy 11 and a great performance by the traveling fans showing everyone Indy knows how to support its Pro Soccer Team!  Enjoy the COPA games on Fox Sports1 tonite Columbia vs Peru at 8 pm and FX on Saturday night with Argentina vs Venezuela at 7 pm, and perhaps the most anticipated Quarterfinal Mexico vs defending champs Chile at 10 pm of FX.

 USA

US Advance – Grant Wahl SI

Armchair Analyst – US Set the Tone – MLS

US loses 3 key players for Semi’s

The Replacements – best options?  MLS

Klinsys decisions for Semis

Everyone played together

Team Spirit was key to Win – ESPN FC McIntyre

Dempsey Does it Again!! – McIntery eSPN FC

US coach hails maturing program – ESPN FC

US meet objective beat damn good Ecuador – MLS

US Seattle Was Rocking the Home Energy

US Player Ratings – MLS

US Player Ratings – Jason David ESPN FC

Zardes Talks Argentina mls

US Emerson Hyndman sign with EPL Side Bournemouth

 COPA

Copa top 10 goals

Columbia plan aggressive apporoach vs Peru

James shakes off injury to win for Columbia

Peru looks to break down Columbia

8 unsung heros in group stages

Argentina Still improving Messi says

Messi is a football Giant

Mexico not the favorite

INDY 11

Indy 11 take Fire to OT in US Open Cup

Indy 11 Secure Spring 2016 NASL Championship

Champs Square off Sunday – June 26th – 1 pm at the Mike – Mexican Champ Pachuca and USMNT player Omar Gonzales vs the NASL Champs Indy 11

EUROS

Conte Hails Italy tough win vs Swedes

Doubts on Germany Attack>

Guide to Euro’s 2016

Euro Full Bracket

Full TV Schedule EUROS

ALL GAMES ON TV

Friday, June 17
Italy vs. Sweden — Toulouse (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Czech Rep vs. Croatia — Saint-Etienne (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Spain vs. Turkey — Nice (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Copa America Columbia vs Peru — East Rutherford, New Jersey (8 p.m. ET/1 a.m. CET on Fox Sports 1, UniMas)

Saturday, June 18
Belgium vs. Rep of Ireland — Bordeaux (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Iceland vs. Hungary — Marseille (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Portugal vs. Austria — Paris (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Copa America Argetina vs. Venezuela –  Foxborough, MA  7 p.m. FX

Copa American Mexico vs. Chile  Santa Clara, CA 10 p.m. FX

Sunday, June 19
Switzerland vs. France — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Romania vs. Albania — Lyon (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)\

Monday, June 20
Slovakia vs. England — Saint-Etienne (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Russia vs. Wales — Toulouse (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Tuesday, June 21
Northern Ireland vs. Germany — Paris (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Ukraine vs. Poland — Marseille (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Croatia vs. Spain — Bordeaux (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Czech Rep vs. Turkey — Lens (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Copa America USA vs. Argentina- Houston, TX – 7 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Wednesday, June 22
Hungary vs. Portugal — Lyon (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Iceland vs. Austria — Saint-Denis (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Italy vs. Rep of Ireland — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Sweden vs. Belgium — Nice (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Copa America Chile vs Columbia   Chicago, IL  8 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Euro Round of 16  Starts Saturday, June 25

Sat., 6/25

Copa America L29 vs. L30 Glendale, AZ 8 p.m. FX

Sun., 6/26

Copa America final  East Rutherford, NJ 8 p.m. FOX Sports 1

MLS TV Schedule ‘ They Are Back

European Championships This Summer on ESPN

Copa America Centario Schedule   TV Schedule

COPA AMERICA 100 –GAMES IN CHICAGOstill seats left for Semi-Finals.

International Champions Cup – ICC – @ Chicago – Bayern Munich vs AC Milan Soldier Field Wed 7/27 @ 8 pm Tix still available  $35 to $135

 Soccer Camps – Boys and Girls -Ages 6 – 14

Ok so its almost Summer Camp time – below are some nice options for Soccer Camps this summer

Indy 11 Soccer Camp NEXT WEEK June 20-23 — 9 am till 12 noon Ages 5-14 $135 @ Badger Fields

Kick in the Grass – 3 v 3 Soccer Tour at Badger Field July 9th

Goal2Gol Soccer Camp
CHS Men’s Head Coach Shane Schmidt, a former U-20 US National Team player, runs his annual camp from 9 am to 2 pm July 11-16. $150 before 6/30 @ River Road Fields.

Post2Post Soccer Camp
Former Pittsburgh Head Coach Sue-Moy Chin and Former Iowa Coach Carla Baker run their annual field player camp for players of all abilities July 25-28 — 9 am to 3 pm $195 each @ Badger

ATP_Gen_350x250

Earn Your Accredited College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools www.achievetestprep.com/shane

USA’s new, promising identity on display in Copa win over Ecuador

Can USMNT advance to Copa America final without key players?

SI senior writer Grant Wahl discusses how the U.S. men’s national team will approach the Copa America semifinals without Bobby Wood and Jermaine Jones.

BY GRANT WAHL

Posted: Fri Jun. 17, 2016

SEATTLE — So now we know.We know it’s possible for the U.S. men’s national team to combine the identity that defined its past (courage, spirit, athleticism) with the identity it wants to have in the future (playing good, technical soccer). For much of the last two years it was hard to see an identity on this U.S. team as it lurched from a post-World Cup hangover into a full-fledged malaise.But on Thursday, in the U.S.’s 2–1 victory over Ecuador in the Copa América quarterfinals, we witnessed a team that has revealed over the last three wins a blueprint for What Comes Next in the history of the USMNT. It is in fact possible to retain your best traditional qualities while taking the next mandatory steps as a soccer nation.Progress isn’t a zero-sum game.The U.S. will face Argentina or Venezuela in the Copa América semifinals on Tuesday in Houston, and if the Americans are to take one more step and reach the final, they will have to summon what they did on Thursday in a first half that was marked by some truly good soccer and a second half that was defined by that famous U.S. grit and resilience.There were moments in the first half against Ecuador when the U.S. played some of the best soccer it has shown against any good opponent in coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s five-year tenure. Intricate passing, smart runs, intuition: The ingredients were all there, except for the final pass or finish. Clint Dempsey’s well-taken goal put the U.S. up 1–0 at halftime, but the lead could have easily been bigger.Then in the second half, as the game descended into chaos and two red cards were shown (to Jermaine Jones and Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia), the old U.S. fight-or-flight instinct kicked in.We saw a come-at-me-bro courage from the Americans, one that had disappeared at times over the past two years, and that team-wide commitment paid off as the U.S. held on desperately to triumph.Did it come at a cost? You’d better believe it. Three U.S. players will be suspended for the semifinals: Jones (on a straight red card that Klinsmann called “an absolute joke” and “a disgrace”), Bobby Wood (for yellow-card accumulation) and Alejandro Bedoya (for yellow-card accumulation), who could be the hardest one to replace given his indispensable yeoman’s work during this tournament.But the overall lesson from this game was a positive one: The U.S. identity may finally be evolving the way Klinsmann promised from the start in 2011.  • WATCH: Jordan Morris leads march to the match at USA-Ecuador

“I thought in the first half we played very well in moments,” said captain Michael Bradley. “If we were a little bit sharper, a little bit better when it came time for the final shot, the final cross, maybe we can be up more than just 1–0.” “In the second half, the game becomes chaotic, it gets turned on its head a little bit as a lot of these games do,” Bradley continued. “Anybody who has watched any of these games in this tournament, it’s not surprising. Then when there’s a few red cards and when Ecuador gets back to 2–1, you know at that point it’s going to be a frantic finish. And style points go out the window. And it’s about the willingness from every guy to do whatever it takes.”No U.S. player combined the good soccer/junkyard dog role better than Dempsey, who was involved in several of the U.S.’s most attractive passing sequences (to say nothing of his goal) but also showed the desire and grit that allowed him to beat his Ecuadoran foes to the ball in the box, which turned into the game-winning assist to Gyasi Zardes.In the first half, Dempsey said, “I thought we played well, created some good chances. We had some good looks in front of goal. Unlucky not to score more. At the same time, we kept fighting in the second half. It wasn’t as pretty. We didn’t keep possession as well. It’s always nail-biting when you can see the goal, and they had some good chances to equalize.”At 33, Dempsey has become a national soccer treasure. There is something classically American about him, an East Texas kid with no soccer pedigree who refused to accept that he had no business playing on the world stage.Dempsey broke barriers with his will and his skill, and now he’s shattering the idea that his national team career was coming to an end.With three goals in the Copa América, Dempsey is tied for the Golden Boot lead with Lionel Messi and Philippe Coutinho. And his 52 international goals are now only five behind Landon’s Donovan’s U.S. record.• U.S. soccer releases a video in support of Orlando victims “Clint is special, and he showed that tonight,” said Klinsmann on Thursday. “He showed it the last few weeks. He showed it his entire career … The performance from him tonight was unbelievable.”As goalkeeper Brad Guzan said of Dempsey, “He’s been doing it for so long that it’s almost come to be expected a little bit. If he gets half a chance, more times than not he’s going to put it on frame, and if he gets a clear chance, more often than not he’s going to score. He’s a big-time player for us.”It seems appropriate that Dempsey would be part of this Copa América semifinal run, part of this promising identity that the U.S. team is finally adopting. Skill and fight, guile and grit: Dempsey has all those qualities. Increasingly his teammates do, too.“They made a huge step forward tonight,” Klinsmann said. “They absolutely deserved to win.”Now the semifinals await.

USA must deal with loss of three key players for Copa America semifinal

June 17, 20163:26 AM EDTAri LiljenwallContributor

SEATTLE – Once the euphoria of their dramatic 2-1 Copa America Centenario quarterfinal victoryover Ecuador at CenturyLink Field on Thursday wears off, the US national team will have to contend with the looming reality of replacing some key contributors.The US will be without midfielder Jermaine Jones, who was sent off after the referee determined his hand made contact with the face of an Ecuador player during a 52nd-minute altercation.The act earned Jones an ejection, only offset by the fact that Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia was also sent off during the sequence for a tackle on US midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, turning the game into a 10-on-10 affair for the duration of the contest.Asked his thoughts on Jones’s red card at his postgame press conference, US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann didn’t hold back.“An absolute joke,” Klinsmann said. “I was right there. The fourth [officlal] made that decision. Not the referee. The referee didn’t see it. He followed the advice of the fourth official out there. It’s a disgrace, a decision like that.”Jones isn’t the only USMNT regular that will have to sit for the semifinal. Bobby Wood and Bedoya each picked up yellow cards on Thursday, meaning they’ll have to sit out the game due to accumulation.“Obviously we’re going to miss Bedoya and we’re going to miss Bobby in the semifinals,” Klinsmann said. “So it’s not easy. But I think this is a team that has so much desire to grind it out.”On the other hand, Klinsmann can look forward to the return of DeAndre Yedlin for Tuesday’s match, after he served a one-game suspension on Thursday for a red card he picked up in the team’s group stage mach against Paraguay.But the task of replacing the trio of Jones, Wood and Bedoya doesn’t figure to an easy one for the US, which will play the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal between Argentina and Venezuela (7 pm ET, FX, Univision, UDN).“We’ll give everything we have with all the respect for the upcoming opponent,” Klinsmann said of his team’s impending semifinal fixture. “The same as we talked about Colombia, Ecuador and Paraguay – they’re all wonderful teams. We’ve come so far and now we’re even hungrier for the next step.”

Klinsmann’s decisions as United States prepares for Copa America semifinals

EATTLE — The U.S. men’s national team could be forgiven for taking some extra time to bask in the afterglow of its quarterfinal triumph over Ecuador in the Copa America Centenario.Let’s face it: Excluding the Gold Cup, it’s not that often the U.S. wins a knockout game in an international tournament. You have to go back to the 2009 Confederations Cup, when the Americans beat heavyweight Spain 2-0, to find the last time they won such a match after the group stage. So when the players gathered in a circle at midfield after the final whistle, singing and jumping in unison, it was a right they had earned. Now they’ll face the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal between Argentina and Venezuela on Tuesday in Houston.”It was a great night,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said. “To go deep into a tournament, you need to be able to win games in different ways. I think we’ve done that. We’ve had nights where we played very well, scored goals. We’ve had other nights where we’ve had to defend, to suffer together, to make sure that our mentality carries us through. Tonight was probably a little bit of both.”After playing perhaps its best, most balanced half of the Copa, the U.S. survived a chaotic second 45 minutes to claim a 2-1 victory. The price it paid was steep, however. Jermaine Jones was sent off in the 52nd minute along with Ecuadorian midfielder Antonio Valencia. Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya later picked up their second yellow cards of the tournament, meaning they’ll be suspended for the semifinal. A U.S. soccer spokesman told ESPN FC that it was considering appeals for Jones’ ejection and Wood’s yellow card. That said, it seems unlikely the U.S. will get the relief it seeks.So now Klinsmann must look forward, and he faces another set of tricky selection decisions. He certainly deserves immense credit for getting his choice of players right against Ecuador. He slotted Fabian Johnson in at right-back for the suspended DeAndre Yedlin, and deployed Matt Besler — normally a center-back — at left-back. Given Besler’s lack of experience at the position, it seemed risky, but it worked. Both held up well for the most part against Ecuadorian wingers Jefferson Montero and Valencia, though Montero found more space after the dual ejections. The U.S. midfield also provided Johnson and Besler with loads of defensive support.But now Klinsmann is faced with finding replacements for three players, not one. And while Venezuela has been one of the surprises of the tournament, Argentina is a heavy favorite to move on to play the hosts in Houston. TheAlbiceleste have a glut of talent, but most of all, Klinsmann will need to plan for one Lionel Messi.”Well, we’ll take it the way it kind of comes along,” Klinsmann said. “We don’t need to talk Argentina any bigger than they are. We had two years ago [Cristiano] Ronaldo coming to Manaus, [with Portugal]; big game, too. We had them down there 2-1 until the 96th minute. So we’ll give everything we have with all the respect for the opponent. We’ll talk about the opponent the same as Colombia, Ecuador and Paraguay because they’re all wonderful teams. But we’ve come so far now and we get even hungrier for the next now, even if we totally understand it’s a big one.”There are some simple decisions for Klinsmann. One is in the center of midfield, where Kyle Beckerman is the likely choice to replace Jones, playing alongside Bradley, although Darlington Nagbe is an option as well. Yedlin has served his suspension, meaning he can resume his place on the right side of the U.S. defense.There is some merit to the idea of pushing Johnson into a wide midfield role, but that would mean sticking with Besler for another game at left back. That seems a step too far. Playing Besler there against Ecuador is one thing. Putting him up against the likes of Ever Banega, Angel Di Maria and, in particular, Messi is quite another. That points to Johnson returning to left-back, but as you’ll see, this choice can end in a blind alley.Wood will be difficult to replace. His diagonal runs did plenty to upset Ecuador’s defense, and his presence has been a boon to Clint Dempsey, who scored for the third consecutive game. Gyasi Zardes could be deployed up top given that he’s played a similar role at times for the LA Galaxy, and he’d be in a position to give Dempsey the support the Seattle forward needs to be effective. Klinsmann seemed to be leaning that way in his postgame news conference, as he talked up the growth of Zardes and Wood in the same breath. That would leave Graham Zusi to play one of the wide midfield slots.So if Johnson is at left-back, there is one more hole to fill, and Klinsmann’s options are down to two players who have never started a game for the U.S. national team: Nagbe and Christian Pulisic. Nagbe, at 25 years old, is more experienced. Pulisic is just 17 but has the Bundesliga pedigree. Klinsmann could opt to deploy one of them centrally, leaving Zardes to help protect one of the flanks, or trust them to play out wide. Or Klinsmann could just keep Besler at left-back and move Johnson to left mid, and spare two inexperienced players at the international level from being thrown to the Argentine wolves. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Klinsmann go that route.Of course, there will be more to the team’s preparation than deciding on personnel. There will be the task of coming down from the high of Thursday’s victory. But the U.S. won’t want to wash all of that good feeling away. The team’s confidence is at its peak, and it’ll need to carry that into the semifinal regardless of the opponent.”It’s a semifinal, it’s a huge occasion,” Bradley said. “It’s a big game, it’s a chance to get into the final. If it’s Argentina, great. If it’s Venezuela, we’ll be ready the same way.”Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

U.S. team spirit key to sealing place in Copa America semifinals

EATTLE — If Clint Dempsey is on the downward slope of his decorated U.S. national team career, somebody forgot to tell the 33-year-old Seattle Sounders forward.Playing in front of his home fans at CenturyLink Field, Dempsey’s goal and assist helped the U.S. record a 2-1 win against Ecuador on Thursday, vaulting the Copa America Centenario hosts into next week’s semifinal in Houston.It was the third straight game in this tournament in which Dempsey scored his side’s opening goal, and this consistency is nothing new. Dating back to the beginning of last year, the Texan has now found the net in 13 of his past 18 international appearances.”I don’t marvel at it now — he’s been doing it for so long that it’s almost come to be expected a little bit,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said after Thursday’s match. “If he gets a clear chance, more often than not he’s going to score. He’s a big-time player for us. I couldn’t be happier for him.”Dempsey took home Man of the Match honors for his performance, but there were no shortage of other candidates on the night. Far from a one-man show, this was a team win of the very highest order; a signature victory; a litmus test passed with flying red, white and blue.The U.S. squad had been in a rut for the better part of two years heading into the competition. It’s easy to forget after Thursday’s result that they would have been all but eliminated from World Cup qualifying contention with a home loss against Guatemala back in March. They won that game 4-0, and now, they’re likely to face off against Lionel Messi and mighty Argentina for a spot in the Copa final on June 26 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.”Our program is maturing,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said afterward. “Our players are maturing. They are learning with every game they can play in this type of an environment. This is what we had hoped for.”The fans are starting to get what they had hoped for, too. After too many listless displays under Klinsmann, his team appears to be finally finding its identity. The funny thing is, it’s a new and improved version of the one it’s always had; while there’s more quality in the player pool than there has been in more than a decade, team spirit and hard work still makes the U.S. more than the sum of its parts.Let’s be clear about this, though. Beating Ecuador — FIFA’s 13th ranked team — was no fluke. The U.S. enjoyed the majority of the possession in the first half, even after going up a goal, and they had the better of the scoring chances.The balance tilted when the game opened up shortly after halftime, as both teams were reduced to 10 men — Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia picked up a second yellow for a hard foul on Alejandro Bedoya; Jermaine Jones saw a straight red for confronting Valencia — and as the South Americans desperately tried to get back into the game. In the end, though, the home team deserved to move on.”It was a great night,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said. “To go deep into a tournament you need to be able to win games in different ways. I think we’ve done that. We’ve had nights where we played very well, scored goals. We’ve had other nights where we’ve had to defend, to suffer together, to make sure that our mentality carries us through. Tonight was probably a little bit of both.”With DeAndre Yedlin suspended, Klinsmann was always going to have to make one lineup change, yet Matt Besler was still a surprise inclusion on Klinsmann’s team sheet. It was the central defender who was charged with keeping Valencia in check on the left flank, while normal left back Fabian Johnson slid into Yedlin’s spot on the right.”I’ve got to be honest: I was a little nervous going into the game,” Besler said. “I don’t have a ton of experience playing left back. I thought we did well going up a guy like Valencia, who plays at Manchester United, one of the biggest clubs in the world. It’s not an easy task. But I think for the most part we handled him. I just tried to play within myself.”He also got help from Bedoya in front of him, and center back John Brooks to his right — who seems to be getting better with every game. The team was the star on Thursday, and although it has already met Klinsmann’s goal of reaching the semifinals, the sense is that these players have their sights firmly set on the trophy, and that they fancy their chances of hoisting it. That’s a remarkable turn of events since losing to Colombia in the Copa opener.”We haven’t won too many second-round games against big opponents,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati told reporters following Klinsmann’s news conference, just over a week after he sounded like he was considering parting ways with the German manager. “Now we’re guaranteed two more games.”It’s not the third-place game the players are thinking about, however. “A lot of guys have been huge for us, have stepped up and played well,” said Dempsey, deflecting the credit for the win. “We’re still not going to celebrate too much because we know there’s a lot of work to be done. We want to get to the finals. Hopefully we can do that.”After what happened on Thursday night, nobody is going to tell him they can’t.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on

 

Clint Dempsey does it again as US beats Ecuador en route to Copa semis

SEATTLE — The U.S. national team is on to the semifinals of the Copa America Centenario after a hard-fought 2-1 win over Ecuador on Thursday in front of a raucous home crowd of 47,322 at CenturyLink Field. Goals by Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes on either side of half-time paced the Americans, who will meet the Argentina-Venezuela winner on Tuesday in Houston, Texas.Here are three quick thoughts on Thursday’s big win.

  1. Dempsey does it again

When Dempsey was left off coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster in November for the first two qualifiers of the 2018 World Cup cycle, it appeared that the veteran’s national team days could be numbered. But Dempsey, who was recalled for a pair of March qualifiers, has been so good in this tournament that Klinsmann started off this week in Seattle by saying he hopes the 33-year-old is still kicking around in Russia two years from now. Nobody should count him out.”Deuce” has been lights-out for the Americans during this Copa; his 22nd-minute strike against Ecuador was his third in three games, and he also helped set up Zardes’ game winner. Dempsey is tied with Argentina’s Lionel Messi atop the tournament’s goal-scoring leaderboard. Simply put, Dempsey — who continues his assault on the retired Landon Donovan’s all-time goal-scoring record, now just five goals shy of Donovan’s 57 — remains the country’s most reliable scorer by a country mile.Two years is an eternity in soccer. A lot can and will happen between now and then. But Dempsey has been brilliant in this competition, and a head-to-head meeting with Messi & Co. in the semifinals is his likely reward.

  1. The hosts are playing with house money

With Klinsmann’s pretournament goal of reaching the semifinals met, the pressure is off the U.S. If they do face Argentina — the Albiceleste are a heavy favorite to beat Venezuela on Saturday in Foxborough, Massachusetts — it’s a game nobody expects them to win, which can only help the hosts. The Americans will be short-handed. Jermaine Jones was red-carded in the second half for confronting Michael Arroyo after Antonio Valencia’s hard foul on Alejandro Bedoya, and Bedoya and Bobby Wood will also miss out after picking up their second yellows of the tournament. But that only means more opportunities for reserves like Kyle Beckerman and Graham Zusi, who were excellent in helping close out Thursday’s win after entering as substitutes.It’s even possible that 17-year-old Christian Pulisic will get a shot up front in Wood’s place. Why not? At this point, the U.S. has nothing to lose.

  1. Ecuador unable to use its biggest advantage

It was no secret coming into this match that Ecuador’s big strength was on the wings. With Valencia and Jefferson Montero running riot on the flanks, that was always going to be the place where coach Gustavo Quinteros’ team would find the Americans most vulnerable — especially since U.S. right-back DeAndre Yedlin was serving a one-match suspension for the double-yellow he picked up in the hosts’ Group A finale.Klinsmann responded by moving starting left-back Fabian Johnson to the right side and sliding Matt Besler — a career center-back — into Johnson’s vacated place. It looked as if Klinsmann was overthinking things yet again; the coach could have simply plugged Michael Orozco, who filled in ably for Yedlin vs. Paraguay.It was a bold move, one Klinsmann would’ve been heavily criticized for if it hadn’t worked out. But it did. The left-footed Besler isn’t a full-back, but he started all four games for the Americans at the 2014 World Cup, and he is a better defender than Orozco. Bedoya helped out in front of Besler, who was able to contain Valencia while Johnson shut down Montero on the opposite side.With Yedlin available for the semis, Besler will probably be back on the bench. Still, this is one example of Klinsmann’s tinkering that hit exactly the right note.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

 

United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann hails maturing program and players

SEATTLE – U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann hailed his side’s quarterfinal victory over Ecuador in the Copa America Centenario, noting the growth of this team since its performance at the 2014 World Cup.The U.S. prevailed 2-1, but was made to sweat out a chaotic second half, one which witnessed the ejections of U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones and Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia. The Americans were up 1-0 at the time through Clint Dempsey’s 22nd minute header.They later added to their lead through Gyasi Zardes’ tap-in in the 65th minute. But Michael Arroyo’s 74th minute goal from a set piece set up a nervy finish, one that saw Enner Valencia squander some clear chances.”Obviously we talked before about the magnitude of this game,” said Klinsmann during his postgame news conference. “I didn’t talk much about Ecuador because I didn’t want to make them too big. This team is damn good.”This team is [second] in World Cup qualifying in South America. 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. But our program is maturing. Out players are maturing. They are learning with every game they can play in this type of an environment.”Klinsmann fully expects to use this win as a platform for bigger things, starting with Tuesday’s semifinal against the winner of Argentina and Venezuela. “Right now this team, I think they’re more convinced, more confident,” he said. “Confidence you only build over a long period of time, playing big teams and you get some results against big teams. Sometime you will get a loss, like against Brazil, but then you go over a stretch of the last couple of years to Italy, Bosnia, Holland, Mexico — Azteca, finally — and that’s where you grow.”The match marked the third consecutive game that Dempsey has scored in this tournament, and Klinsmann was full of praise for the U.S. forward. Dempsey now has 52 international goals, five behind all-time leader Landon Donovan.”Clint is special,” said Klinsmann. “And he showed that tonight, he showed it the last couple weeks, he showed it his entire career. So when he was not there for a couple of times — that’s why we wanted to bring some youngsters out there and give them a go — I always had a great relationship with him, and he was right there where he should be. And this performance tonight from him was unbelievable.”The win did come at a cost for the Americans. In addition to Jones being ejected, Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya picked up yellow cards that will see them suspended for the semifinal. Klinsmann was especially livid about Jones’ red card, which he received for pushing an Ecuador player after Bedoya had been taken down by Antonio Valencia..”Unfortunately we lost Jermaine for that incident which is an absolute joke, because I was right there and the fourth official made that decision, not the referee,” said Klinsmann. “The referee didn’t see it. He followed the advice of the fourth official out there and it’s a disgrace, a decision like that.”Obviously we’re going to miss Ale and we’re going to miss Bobby for the semifinal. Not easy, but I think it’s a team that has so much desire to grind it out.”With right-back DeAndre Yedlin suspended, Klinsmann opted to switch usual left-back Fabian Johnson to right-back to contend with Ecuadorian speedster Jefferson Montero. He then chose Matt Besler, a center-back by trade, to play left-back. The moves paid off, though the back line received considerable help from wide midfielders Bedoya and Zardes. The U.S. wingers also tested Ecuador at the other end.”With the two wingers that they have, with [Juan Carlos] Paredes coming from behind and [Antonio] Valencia there, that is difficult to deal with. Then you need the help of your wingers Gyasi and Ale to do a lot of defensive work as well.”But they are also growing and maturing. They pushed them back, they made them work also defensively and that’s another step forward from two years ago. We pushed the game back into the other half, and make them work the same way as well. It’s cool, then you have the feeling, ‘We can go eye-to-eye here.’Jeff Carlisle covers MLS 

 

Armchair Analyst: USMNT set the tone and punish Ecuador en route to semis

June 17, 20161:52 AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Editor

There’s a great behind-the-scenes clip from the old USMNT documentary called “Our Way: The Story of the United States’ 2002 World Cup Journey” in which then-head coach Bruce Arena is pumping up his charges ahead of the opener against Portugal.”First foul, first card, first shot, first goal,” Arena fairly screams at the likes of Landon Donovan,John O’BrienBrian McBride and Earnie Stewart. You can see that they’re buying in not just regarding what Arena’s saying, but also regarding what he actually means: Go out there and set the tone. Punch them in the mouth and make them fear you in the first 10 minutes, and take control of this game.That is, of course, exactly what happened. The US hung three on Portugal inside half an hour, then held on against a ferocious comeback to take a 3-2 win and start a journey that would only end two weeks later in the quarterfinals.On Thursday night in a 2-1 win over Ecuador in the Copa America quarterfinals, there were shades of that ethos visible for the US from the start. Maybe we’ll never see behind-the-scenes footage of this one, and maybe I’m reading too much into the way the team carried itself out of the locker room, and maybe Jurgen Klinsmann was busy diagramming tactics on a chalkboard rather than giving motivational speeches. Perhaps none of the similarities of intent I saw were actually purposefully there.But whether it was purposeful or not, the US absolutely set the tone in this game, putting Ecuador on the back foot from the start and forcing them to play catch-up. Everybody played a role, but let’s start up top:

The Boxer

One of the great debates in the field of soccer analytics is “How do we accurately measure what happens off the ball?” Opta does great work tracking touches and events, but that run that pulled a defender away? We don’t see that on the chalkboard or in any sort of numbers that teams make public (lots have SportVu cameras that track that stuff, but all the info is guarded like a state secret — none of it is publicly available).What happens off the ball matters a whole hell of a lot. And what Bobby Wood did off the ball in this one was the equivalent of a boxer going into a match and just thumping body blows against an opponent from the first minute. He took the wind out of Ecuador’s chests, gave them the yips, and wouldn’t let up:Wood is driven, fast and relentless, and incredibly north-south. His instinct is almost never to come to the ball — he’d rather try to split defenders, or at least draw them into his own run.He showed that to Ecuador from minute one, and because of his work Frickson Erazo and Arturo Mina ended up becoming preoccupied with the space behind them rather than the play going on in front of them. When you hear broadcasters or coaches or armchair analysts use the term “disconnect”, this is what they’re talking about: the pressure of worrying about Wood’s runs disconnected the central defense from the central midfield, and that opens up space.

Clint Dempsey happens to thrive in that space:

Dempsey was a second forward in this game, and the beauty of that role for him is that he gets to just sort of run around and figure out where he can do the most damage. Notice how he’s arriving inside the 18 when there are three other Yanks already there, and that Ecuador can’t figure out that he’s the real danger man until it’s too late?That’s because of the space Wood created and the tone he set. This is how a forward partnership is supposed to work, and why a team with two good forwards can line up without a true playmaker and still be consistently dangerous.Cesar Luis Menotti, who coached Argentina to the 1978 World Cup, always said that soccer is about partnerships. Can you figure out how to become more dangerous together than you would be as individuals?Wood and Dempsey figured that out. Wood pummeled La Tricolor with body blows until there was an opening for Dempsey to land a crushing overhand right that, eventually, scored the US a knockout.

I Am A Rock

For as great as Dempsey and Wood have been, their partnership has been overshadowed by the work of John Brooks and Geoff Cameron in central defense. Both before and after Jermaine Jones‘s infuriating red card, the two of them were dealing with the surfeit of attacking threats Ecuador present like the veteran, high-level pros they are. Cameron had one bad clearance, but otherwise was impeccable, and Brooks has just about exhausted the list of adjectives with his superlative play throughout the tournament.The US have now gone nearly 10 hours without conceding an open play goal. Brooks is the biggest reason why. He is the best individual defender left in the tournament, and his and Cameron’s is the best partnership.This is such a huge change from the Brooks of last year’s Gold Cup, who was often timid to start games — he’d invariably lose the first physical duel, or get beaten in the air by an attacker half-a-foot shorter than him. His progress over the past year from “Bundesliga starter who’s more just a kid with potential” to “backline anchor who’s drawing understandable interest from Bayern Munich” is almost fantastical.Two years ago, of course, Brooks scored what will probably forever be the greatest goal of his career — there aren’t too many folks who can claim to have scored a game-winner in a World Cup. So it was fitting that he celebrated the anniversary with the type of calm, composed and leaderly display from the back that any team with designs on a trophy needs:

America

Part of Klinsmann’s mandate when he was hired was to move the US away from the 4-4-2 (then considered archaic) and into what folks feel are more modern, proactive and attacking formations — most notably the 4-3-3. Klinsmann fed into that and, for years and years, has fought against playing in a 4-4-2 even when it was the obvious choice.He has finally come home to America.We’re still, it turns out, a 4-4-2 country. Maybe that changes when Christian Pulisic gets more than a sightseeting tour, or maybe it’s when we produce our own Juan Roman Riquelme. Perhaps that’s soon, or perhaps that’s never.

For now, this is us:

That’s a network passing map made using Opta data. The circles represent the aggregate position of each player’s measured events, and the thickness of the lines connecting players represents the number of passes exchanged back and forth.It’s lopsided and it wasn’t often flowing, but make no mistake: That was a variant of the 4-4-2 (more of a 4-1-3-2 with Michael Bradley holding in front of the back line as the “1”) the US played, and that Ecuador mostly couldn’t figure out.The reason the 4-4-2 became obviated on the world stage is because teams — starting mostly with France in 1998 — played a 4-2-3-1 and would use numerical superiority to control play through central midfield, which is the most profitable real estate on the pitch. That is still the way to crack open a 4-4-2 team, but Ecuador were never up to it.Things changed after the Jones red, and Ecuador almost made the US pay:

It also remains to be seen how the US will cope without Jones and Alejandro Bedoya in the semis (likely against Argentina). Jones solves problems with his legs and Bedoya with his brain, and their ability to anticipate/physically blow through most tactical obstacles is a big part of why Ecuador never really controlled the game.It will have to be a different story without them, though not necessarily a different formation. The 4-4-2 may be a security blanket for the US, but it does provide real warmth and comfort.

A few more things to ponder…

  1. I didn’t love the decision to startMatt Beslerat left back and flip Fabian Johnson to the right side in place of the suspended DeAndre Yedlin, but it worked out. Besler struggled a bunch with his positioning in the first 45 when the US had the ball — he received a couple of back-passes from Brooks, and the left back should never be receiving back-passes from the left center back — but proved crucial once the US went into desperation mode in the second half.
  2. And as for Johnson… I still think the US misshis creativity on the wings in midfield. Full credit toGyasi Zardes for his workrate and his productivity, but I still say that putting Johnson in that spot and, say, Eric Lichaj at left or right back gives the US a better chance to be dangerous on the regular.
  3. Gyasi’s first touch says what’s up:
  4. For as great as some of the desperation defensefrom the US backline was, so much of this result came down to Ecuador’sEnner Valencia missing chances he usually buries. He had multiple chances to equalize late in this one and will probably have a sleepless night thinking about it.
  5. FC Dallas youngsterCarlos Gruezostruggled to leave an imprint on this game. His passing map is comedic in that it vividly tells the story of a young man scared to take risks:

His ineffectiveness was only exacerbated by Christian Noboa’s injury and eventual substitution.

  1. The Jones red card was, as I mentioned above,absolutely infuriating. Part of what makes him great is how he can ride the line of “geez that’s way too much” without stepping over, but putting hands to the face of an opponent isalways going to be a red card. He blew up in last year’s playoffs, and now he’s blown up in a crucial knockout round game for the USMNT. Instead of becoming steadier and more stable as he ages, he’s grown more combustable and become more of a risk.
  2. Antonio Valencia‘s red card was cheap as hell.I’m glad he’s going home.
  3. I really don’t know who Klinsmann will put into his XI next week.But the one thing I do hope is that Zardes is moved up top in place of the suspended Wood, since Dempsey always plays best off of a true No. 9.

US hail “rocking” Seattle crowd in Ecuador win: “We feed off that energy”

June 17, 201612:31 PM EDTAri LiljenwallContributor

SEATTLE – US national team midfielder Alejandro Bedoya had never been to Seattle before his team took on Ecuador in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals on Thursday.He’s unlikely to forget his first visit anytime soon.The US bagged a 2-1 victory over Ecuador to advance to the Copa semifinals, aided by a raucous and heavily pro-US crowd of 47,322 onlookers at CenturyLink Field that Bedoya credited after the game as a catalyst for the result.“I had never been here before, so I was already looking forward to it,” Bedoya said. “This is as close as you’re going to get in these tournaments against these teams to a [heavily] pro-America crowd. You could see me, myself and other players, after we scored, trying to get the crowd amped up and everything.”Bedoya said that the energy provided by the C-Link crowd wasn’t just for show – that it actually gave his team a noticeable boost throughout the night.“We feed off that energy, right?” Bedoya said. “We knew it was going to be a pro-America crowd and feeding off that energy helps a lot. It makes you run that extra little bit. For sure, it helps.”US forward Gyasi Zardes and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann both credited the American Outlaws, the team’s unofficial supporters group, with making their presence felt in especially impressive fashion.The Outlaws took over the Brougham End at CenturyLink, the section normally occupied by the Seattle Sounders’ Emerald City Supporters group, leading the crowd in their usual array of songs and chants throughout the contest.“The crowd is like the backbone of the team,” Zardes said. “That’s what I always say. The American Outlaws today, you could feel the atmosphere rocking. They were just behind us the whole way.”Klinsmann says Thursday was a continuation of the expanding and dedicated support he’s noticed since he took over as US coach in 2011.“We had the best crowd of all nations down in Brazil [at the 2014 World Cup],” Klinsmann said. “In our World Cup qualifiers, it’s a real home advantage for us. The Outlaws are organized throughout the entire country and even followed us to Puerto Rico for a little warm-up game. It’s growing on all levels.”

Geoff Cameron on USA’s defensive effort: “Everybody worked together as one”

June 17, 20169:01 AM EDTAlicia RodriguezContributor

Nobody said the Copa America Centenario would be easy for the US national team, and especially not when they reached the knockout rounds.Defender Geoff Cameron retained his place in central defense on Thursday, in the USMNT’s 2-1 quarterfinal round win over Ecuador at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, and afterwards discussed the tall order ahead of his team in that game, and the tournament as a whole.”We’ve known from the get-go,” he told FOX’s Jenny Taft after the game. “We knew it was going to be tough playing against Colombia [in the opening match of the tournament] and the caliber of team they are.”But saying that, we won our second game and third game. We’re in the quarterfinals and now we’re on to the semifinals.”The defensive backbone of Brad Guzan in goal and Fabian Johnson, Cameron, John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin across the backline that served the US so well in group-stage wins over Costa Rica and Paraguay did not remain intact for this game. Yedlin was out serving a one-game suspension following his red card in the Paraguay game, with Matt Besler stepping in against Ecuador.“I thought Matt was solid today,” Cameron said. “He stepped in and didn’t miss a beat. And they have some quick wingers. But Fabian moved over to the right and Matt stepped in to the left and it was clockwork. Guys were organized. They talked. And they communicated with one another.”Everybody worked together as one and I think that’s why we’re so successful. Everybody is leaving it out on the field. People didn’t think we’d be in the semifinals and here we are.”The final 10 minutes were as nervy as any the US have faced in quite some time, but despite Ecuador’s furious attempts to complete their second two-goal comeback at this Copa America, the Americans did just enough to get the win in regulation.”When Graham [Zusi] came in and moved over to that side he kind of locked down that side a little bit better and blocked some crosses and so it was easier for us to step out,” Cameron explained. “But they were throwing guys forward. They wanted to get a goal. It was just tough. Guys just threw themselves in.  “And you know you have to have luck sometimes, and the luck’s going our way. And we just have to keep it going.”With the US now set to face either tournament favorite Argentina or surprise quarterfinalist Venezuela in the semifinal round, Cameron and company believe they can keep the current run going.”Anything is possible and the fact that the teamwork, the guys that are in the locker room we’re all sacrificing ourselves for one another and leaving it all out on the pitch,” he said. “We’ve done that every single game so far, and you’ve seen the success of it.”

US national team meet Copa America objective vs. “damn good” Ecuador side

June 17, 20162:48 AM EDTAri LiljenwallContributor

SEATTLE – Before the start of this year’s Copa America Centenario, US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said that advancing to the tournament’s semifinals should be his squad’s baseline expectation.Consider that mission accomplished following the USMNT’s nail-biting 2-1 quarterfinal triumphover Ecuador at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Thursday – a victory that Klinsmann says carries extra symbolic weight considering the magnitude of the stage and the quality of the opponent.The US topped an Ecuador squad that is currently FIFA’s 13th-ranked team in the world and one that boasted one of the more dynamic attacking corps in the tournament.“That team is damn good,” Klinsmann told reporters at his postgame press conference. “This team is leading World Cup qualifying in South America. It was not by accident that they put us into difficulties the last 15-20 minutes because this is one of the top teams in the world.”The US benefitted from another standout performance from Clint Dempsey, who continued his strong run of form with a headed goal off a Jermaine Jones cross in the 22nd minute  — his third of the tournament.Dempsey also added an assist on the USMNT’s second goal on a cross to Gyasi Zardes in the 65th minute, more validation for the 33-year-old Seattle Sounders star, who had seen his starting status with the national team come into question in the days leading up to the tournament.“Clint is special,” Klinsmann said. “He’s showed that in the last couple weeks and he’s showed that through his entire career. He’s right there where he should be and this performance tonight from him was unbelievable.”Thursday’s performance certainly was not without its share of theatrics for the US, namely a double red card that saw Jones and Ecuador winger Antonio Valencia each sent off in the 52nd minute, as well as a rocket goal from Ecuador’s Michael Arroyo in the 74th minute that cut the US lead to 2-1.Klinsmann said that his team’s response to those adverse circumstances was biggest takeaway from Thursday’s result – particularly from his younger players.“Our program is maturing,” Klinsmann said. “Our players are maturing, they are learning with every game we can play in this type of an environment…We brought a few youngsters with along the way the last two years and they made a huge step forward tonight. They deserve this win.”

Here are the lineup changes Jurgen Klinsmann has to make for semifinals

June 16, 201611:53 PM EDTBenjamin BaerAssociate Editor

After having to play without DeAndre Yedlin against Ecuador, Jurgen Klinsmann has even more decisions to make when the US national team face the winner of Argentina and Venezuela in the Copa America Centenario semifinals.After beating Ecuador 2-1 on Thursday, Alejandro Bedoya and Bobby Wood will miss the semifinal thanks to yellow card accumulation while Jermaine Jones will also miss the game after he was shown a straight red card in the 52nd minute.Now the question becomes who will replace those players in one of the biggest games in the history of the US national team.

Alejandro Bedoya

POSSIBLE REPLACEMENT: Graham Zusi or Christian Pulisic.

Klinsmann could go with Zusi on the right wing and push Gyasi Zardes to the left after the Sporting Kansas City midfielder has shown well during his substitute appearances. Zusi would be a similar player to Bedoya, with both showing the ability to complete passes at a high level, while Pulisic would be a bit different look with his ability to take on defenders in 1v1 situations.

Jermaine Jones

POSSIBLE REPLACEMENT: Darlington Nagbe

There’s no doubt that Jones is a huge loss for the US. Klinsmann could deploy Nagbe in a spot that would be similar to the one he occupies for the Portland Timbers. The 25-year-old would provide a little less bite in the midfield but would add some creative punch.

Bobby Wood

POSSIBLE REPLACEMENT: Chris Wondolowski or Zusi

Wood has been more at home when deployed at center forward during this tournament so, while they are very different players, Wondolowski would slot into that position next to Clint Dempsey. Klinsmann could also push Zardes up top and play Zusi on the right wing.

US Player Ratings: Clint Dempsey leads way in Copa America win over Ecuador

June 17, 20161:12 AM EDTGreg SeltzerContributor

The US national team reached the Copa America semifinals for just the second time thanks to a 2-1 victory over Ecuador that was both solid and extremely nervy near the end. Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes did the business in attack, giving the red, white and blue boys enough cushion to withstand a furious Ecuador comeback attempt. At times, the home side made things a lot tougher on themselves than they had to be, but they kept following Dempsey’s dogged example to the final whistle to earn advancement.

Brad Guzan (7.5) – The netminder came up with three saves, including a big stop near the break. Guzan also made a key cross claim as part of commanding his area.

Fabian Johnson (6.5) – Switched to right back, Johnson definitely had some trouble dealing with Jefferson Montero’s dribbling work and crossing. However, he battled all game long, sticking a disruptive foot in on some important occasions. His influence moving forward was limited, but the ‘Gladbach star ended up with four tackles among several defensive stops.

Geoff Cameron (6.5) – The Stoke City man was largely solid at the back and on the ball, but got away with a couple of large errors. Cameron was left to wipe his brow in relief after both an early muffed clearance and losing Enner Valencia on a 77th minute cross to the doorstep.

John Anthony Brooks (7.5) – Aside from a hair-raising own goal scare late in the game, Brooks was again the star-wearing marshal at the back for the US. The importance of the Hertha Berlin defender’s shot block on Michael Arroyo near the half-hour cannot be over-estimated and he piled up eight area clearances.

Matt Besler (6.5) – Filling in at left back, the Sporting KC got plenty of help dealing with Antonio Valencia and made a couple of big step plays to keep Ecuador from invading his corner. However, he also was let off the hook after badly losing restart mark Enner Valencia shortly after the break. His grade rises above passing for the cross to Zardes that helped set up the winning goal play.

Michael Bradley (6) – It was a strange first half for the midfield general, who had to clean up for himself after making a particularly bad giveaway in the 17th minute. He was better in the second half, and especially down the stretch, but can certainly offer more over 90 minutes.

Jermaine Jones (5) – The Rapids troublemaker’s grade is a tale of two halves: the full one and the short one. In the opening frame, he disrupted in the US end and worked possession in Ecuador’s until serving a pinpoint cross for Dempsey to nod home the opener. However, Jones went for a highly foolish face slap to see red when Antonio Valencia momentarily handed the hosts a man advantage. The inexcusable lapse in judgment cost him two full points on this report card and his place for the semifinal.

Gyasi Zardes (7) – It took the Galaxy attacker a while to get into the game, in part because of a lack of touches. Zardes kept plugging away, however, and played two parts in the winning goal play. His header kept the ball alive for Dempsey, who eventually returned the favor with the pass Zardes tucked home. He also added a few important help plays on the track-back.

Alejandro Bedoya (6) – The Nantes attacker will again draw some heat for squandering a couple of chances, but that does not tell the entire story of his performance. Bedoya repeatedly linked well in the build and set up a decent chance for Dempsey. He gets docked slightly for picking up the yellow card that will keep him out of the semifinal.

Clint Dempsey (8) – Unsurprisingly, the man they call “Deuce” stepped up in the big game. Dempsey’s firm but accurate header opened the scoring and his tenacity on the ball set up Zardes for the decider. He also could have earned an assist for the slip pass near halftime that saw Bedoya’s effort saved.

Bobby Wood (7) – Even though he didn’t make the score sheet, Wood was always stretching and pulling apart the Ecuador defense with runs across the final third. He also traveled a long way back to pitch in with a couple of important defensive stops in the second half.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (7) – This is a tricky one, as the excellent result might overshadow that the team got away with some things in gaining it. Some of these do not fall on the boss, but his odd refusal to replace the ejected Jones with another midfielder really allowed the visitors to take control and build rally steam. Were it not for a couple of woefully missed Enner Valencia chances, the USMNT could have easily entered the final stage of the match in a tense deadlock with added open space for Ecuador’s shifty attackers, or even behind.Still, Klinsmann has done what he set out to do, guiding the team to the final four. This Ecuador win was the toughest of the bunch so far and he deserves some credit.

Subs:
Kyle Beckerman (6.5) – The Real Salt Lake bulldog pitched in with three area clearances, including an important intervention 12 minutes from time.

Graham Zusi (6.5) – The Sporting KC ace came on to make four defensive stops in nine minutes to help the team drain the clock.

Steve Birnbaum (-) – Only on for less than a minute.

Clint Dempsey, John Brooks lead U.S. into Copa America semifinals

It took every ounce of effort it could muster, and the team lost several players to suspensions in the process, but the United States managed to squeak by Ecuador 2-1 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle and earn its way into the Copa America Centenario semifinals.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s gamble to start Matt Besler at left back worked, just barely. The Americans held on down the stretch under severe pressure from Ecuador and prevailed thanks to big nights from a number of players at both ends of the pitch.

 

Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):

GK Brad Guzan, 7.5 — Made several important saves and got off his line quickly in the closing stages when the U.S. defense was being tested by Ecuador’s direct balls.

DF Fabian Johnson, 7 — Solid defensively in the face of the very difficult task of stopping Jefferson Montero. Got forward in a limited capacity and gave the attack a wide outlet.

DF Geoff Cameron, 7 — Responsible for numerous crucial clearances, though there were a few obvious errors during his night. Bailed out on a missed clearance when Ecuador failed to take advantage.

DF John Brooks, 9 — Another immense performance by a player who has now put in an entire tournament of them. Provided last-ditch defense over and over down the stretch of a game that threatened to get away from the U.S. Provided a few good balls forward as well.

DF Matt Besler, 6.5 — Handled his unfamiliar role well enough, mostly in a stay-at-home capacity. Looked a little lost at times.

MF Alejandro Bedoya, 7 — Excellent as a buffer on the left side of the field, covering for the inexperience and relative immobility of Besler. Made mistakes in the final third, and wasted one golden chance that might have made things easier for the U.S.

MF Michael Bradley, 7 — “Quiet” in the sense that he didn’t impact the game dramatically in the attacking end, but that doesn’t mean his efforts weren’t effective. Did good work in distribution minus a few turnovers.

MF Jermaine Jones, 5.5 — Ruined an otherwise effective performance with a silly reaction that earned him a red card early in the second half. Defended well before his dismissal. Played the cross that Dempsey headed home for the opening goal.

FW Gyasi Zardes, 7 — Scored what would ultimately prove to be the winning goal, in part because of his effort to win a cross in the air. Gave excellent two-way coverage on the flank. Had his usual frustrating moments but made up for them.

FW Clint Dempsey, 8.5 — Did his thing as only he can do. Scored the U.S. opener with his head and set up the second American goal for Zardes. Refused to be eliminated as a factor and forced himself into the game.

FW Bobby Wood, 8 — Instrumental to the American effort to get forward thanks to his willingness to run the channels and latch onto long balls. Directly responsible for starting the move that turned into the first American goal. Sullied his performance with a late yellow that will see him suspended for the semifinal.

Substitutes:

MF Kyle Beckerman, NR — A little to eager to lump the ball forward with the Americans under pressure in the last 15 minutes, but otherwise brought the type of bite and energy the team needed as a late substitute.

MF Graham Zusi, NR — Made two massive recoveries in his limited time, and stretched out possession when desperately needed with long runs up the sideline.

DF Steve Birnbaum, NR — Entered the game in the final few seconds.Jason Davis is a writer from Virginia covering American soccer.

 

Gyasi Zardes talks potential matchup vs. Argentina in Copa America semi

June 17, 20162:04 AM EDTSimon BorgEditor-in-Chief

LA Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes scored the game-winning goal on Thursday night as the USA punched their ticket to the Copa America semifinals for the first time since 1995 with a 2-1 quarterfinal win over Ecuador.For that semifinal match next Tuesday in Houston, the USA will likely be relying on Zardes to score again after starting striker Bobby Wood received a yellow card that triggered an automatic one-game suspension. Zardes could potentially move from his regular right midfield position to his preferred center forward role in order to take over for Wood at NRG Stadium. That’s where many are expecting the USA to face world power and No. 1-ranked Argentina, a team that takes the field for its quarterfinal on Saturday night.”It means a lot,” Zardes told Univision after the match about the prospect of facing theAlbicelestes. “Argentina is a good side, but they have to do their part and win their game first [vs. Venezuela on Saturday, 7 pm ET on FX, Univision, UDN]. But whoever our opponent is, our coaches do an amazing job at getting us prepared. And I have full faith and confidence in our coaching staff.”Those are the kind of positive vibes in US camp that Zardes feels are fueling the USMNT’s Copa America run. The Americans were organized and worked hard in the first half, but Ecuador’s second-half onslaught in search of an equalizer pushed the USA deeper and deeper into their own area and into emergency defending situations.“You know, our team showed a lot of character,” Zardes told FS1 after the match. “Our captain,Michael [Bradley], brought us in and, as well, the coaching staff made some key substitutions. But our mindset was moving forward. It wasn’t dwelling on the past. And as you can see, the result is what it is because of everything that happened.”The unique thing about this group is unity. We battled for each other,” Zardes continued. “We’re working hard together. It’s been over a month with each other and you can see the brotherhood. It’s amazing.”In the first half, Zardes was busy on both side of the ball to cover his right flank, where teammate and right back Fabian Johnson also pushed up frequently in the first half.But even with all his tracking back, Zardes still found a way to be involved in attack and in the 65th minute he was there at the back post to touch a ball over the goal line served up by US teammateClint Dempsey.Zardes was very matter-of-fact when it came to how the USA created their goal-scoring opportunities against Ecuador.”Just making third-man runs,” Zardes explained, “and really just linking up. It was really pretty easy.”Easy? There’s got to be a secret. How does Zardes find it in him to put in all the work he does?”The energy here is just phenomenal. It was the backbone,” he said about the Seattle fans. “American Outlaws really came out and supported us. Not only that, our whole team — it was a hard fought battle and we came out victorious.”

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