USA digs deep to beat Ecuador 2-1 and Earn Copa America Semifinal Berth

Dempsey scores opener, assists Zardes’ game-winner. USMNT to face Argentina-Venezuela winner on Tuesday, June 21 at NRG Stadium in Houston

SEATTLE – The U.S. Men’s National Team earned a massive 2-1 win against Ecuador before 47,322 fans at CenturyLink Field to secure a Semifinal berth at the 2016 Copa America Centenario.

The match was played at a high intensity from the first whistle as both teams wrestled for control of the game early. But it was the USA that landed the first blow in the 22nd minute as Clint Dempsey, playing in the city where he suits up for Seattle Sounders FC, opened the scoring with a textbook headed finish.

The U.S. carried the lead into the second half where cards began to take their toll on both teams. In the 52nd minute, both sides had players sent off as Antonio Valencia received a second caution for Ecuador and Jermaine Jones earned a straight red for an after-the-play incident for the U.S. Both teams kept up the high tempo despite being reduced to 10-men but the U.S. was able to exploit the additional space when Gyasi Zardes tapped home what proved to be the game-clincher in the 65th minute.

Although Ecuador pulled a goal back from a set piece – Michael Arroyo picked out the lower left corner of Brad Guzan’s goal as Ecuador utilized crafty play deep in U.S. territory – they were not able to further breach a staunch U.S. defense led by center back duo John Brooks and Geoff Cameron.

The win against La Tri sends the USA to NRG Stadium in Houston next Tuesday, June 21 for a showdown with the winner between Argentina and Venezuela, who play this Saturday night in Boston. The Semifinal will be broadcast live on FS1, Univision and UDN. Fans can also follow the action on Twitter @ussoccer and @ussoccer_esp.

Goal Scoring Rundown:
USA – Clint Dempsey (Jermaine Jones), 22nd minute: Dempsey was the alpha and omega of the final thrust of the USA’s goal scoring move. Picking up the ball in the center of the offensive half, Dempsey played Bobby Wood into the Ecuador box before getting chopped down by a tackle. Wood was able to run the ball down, face up his defender and play a smart pass back to Jones at the top right corner of the box where the midfielder one-timed a lofted ball into the heart of the Ecuador defense. Dempsey, who had recovered to make a late run into the box, leapt between two defenders to plant a header into the right side of the net. USA 1, ECU 0

USA – Gyasi Zardes (Clint Dempsey), 65th minute: John Brooks played a long ball from midfield into the left corner for Bobby Wood to run down. He once again controlled the ball, faced up his defender and made a smart pass back to Matt Besler, who crossed to the back post, looking for Zardes. A deflected header fell to Dempsey, who beat his man and sent the ball across the face of goal to where Zardes was unmarked to tap in the eventual game-winner with ease. USA 2, ECU 0

ECU – Michael Arroyo (Walter Ayovi), 74th minute: Ecuador won a free kick near the right U.S. corner flag. With all his teammates stationed in the U.S. penalty area, Ayovi played the ball on the ground to the top center of the U.S. box for where Arroyo met it with a curling run to smack a low, one-time shot through traffic into the lower right corner of Brad Guzan’s goal. USA 2, ECU 1 FINAL

Key Saves and Defensive Stops:
ECU – Alexander Dominguez, 41st minute: On a quick counter, the USA sent the ball over Ecuador’s high defensive line and Dempsey ran onto a bouncing pass as it rolled to the left of the box. He slipped a one-touch pass past his defender and into the path of Alejandro Bedoya who took a moment to look up and pick out his spot, but Dominguez was quick to close down the angle and got down to his left to make the save.

USA – Brad Guzan, 45+1: A giveaway in midfield allowed Michael Arroyo to get in behind the U.S. defense and crack a wide angle shot on goal from close range, but Guzan had his positioning right and was able to make the kick save to keep Ecuador off the board in the first half.

Next on the Schedule: The U.S. MNT continues its 2016 Copa America Centenario in the Semifinal against the winner between Argentina and Venezuela, who play on Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET in Boston. The Semifinal will be played at NRG Stadium in Houston on Tuesday, June 21.

Leave a Reply