The US Men’s National Team averted disaster on Tuesday night when they smashed Costa Rica 4-0. Now the task is very straightforward: win and the US moves on to the quarter-finals, lose and they are knocked out, and if the US draws there are several different scenarios. It’s going to be a gripping game when the US plays its final group match against Paraguay on Saturday night.
Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Costa Rica was just the tonic the US and its fans needed after a very discouraging 2-0 loss to Colombia to open Copa America. For the first time in what seems like forever, manager Jurgen Klinsmann went with the same starting lineup two games in a row and it worked like a charm. Clint Dempsey scored his 50th international goal in the seventh minute and the US never looked back. Jermaine Jones was the best player on the field, breaking up Costa Rican attacks and scoring a pretty goal from 19 yards out. Michael Bradley even managed to get it together, completing 87 percent of his passes after an appallingly bad game against Colombia. John Brooks was again outstanding for the US in defense. Everybody on the team said after the Colombia loss that the result was not as bad as it looked and that there was a belief in the team that they would do much better the rest of the tournament. That’s certainly the way it played out on Tuesday.
Paraguay sits third in the group with just one point from two games after drawing their opening game against Costa Rica and falling to Colombia their last time out. Much like the US, the task is simple for Paraguay: a win and they move on, a loss or a draw and they go home. They have not posed much of an attacking threat so far in this tournament, managing just one goal from their two games (a wonder strike from Victor Ayala against Colombia). The man to watch for Paraguay is 32 year old Nelson Valdez of the Seattle Sounders, who with 13 goals in 76 caps, leads all players on the roster.
Colombia has already clinched a spot in the quarter-finals, so that leaves three teams to fight for one spot in the next round. As mentioned, the US advances with a win, as does Paraguay. If the US draws Paraguay, Costa Rica would have a very slim chance of advancing. They would need to beat Colombia by at least six goals.
• With his penalty against Costa Rica, Clint Dempsey became just the second American player to score his 50th international goal. The other was Landon Donovan (both players scored their 50th on a penalty).
• The US now has a five game unbeaten streak at Soldier Field. The last loss was to Brazil in 2007.
• The US returns to Lincoln Financial Field for the first time since Jurgen Klinsmann’s first game as US coach in 2011, having blown the opportunity to play there last year by losing in the Gold Cup semi-finals.
Series even at 2-2-2
USA 0-1 Paraguay
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