PHILADELPHIA — Despite playing most of the second half with ten men, the United States held on for a heroic 1-0 win over Paraguay to advance to the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario.
It wasn’t the prettiest match, but it was another gutsy performance for the Americans, something that has become a signature of this team.
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Before we look ahead to the knockout rounds, what did we learn at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday night?
BROOKS IS THE REAL DEAL
With Jurgen Klinsmann finally keeping the same lineup, John Brooks and Geoff Cameron have been allowed to get consistent minutes together as the USMNT’s top center-back pairing.
Brooks’ development was seen in the opening minutes, as Cameron got dispossessed upfield while no one dropped to cover, allowing Paraguay to break on the counter in a 3 v. 1 situation. With Brooks the only man back, the 23-year-old read the play brilliantly, making a sliding tackle to keep the match scoreless.
Coming off of a standout season with Hertha Berlin, Brooks’ form has carried over to the national side. Playing next to experienced defenders in Cameron and Fabian Johnson, Brooks has grown more comfortable in his role in the U.S. back-line. Despite his young age, Brooks could be seen barking out orders and keeping the defense in shape, key attributes in a top-class center-back. The future of the U.S. defense for years to come, selecting John Brooks could end up being one of Klinsmann’s most important decisions during his tenure in charge.
ZARDES HAS ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Gyasi Zardes can be one of the most frustrating players to watch in this USMNT side, alternating between flashes of brilliance and moments that leave you scratching your head.
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His pace is killer on the outside, seen in his first half assist on Clint Dempsey‘s goal. The 24-year-old Galaxy winger blew past his defender and slotted in a cross to Dempsey, who easily scored to give the U.S. a lead. However, his lack of composure in front of goal was on display in the second half, when he bundled a close-range opportunity that would have given the U.S. some added breathing room.
Zardes’ final touch has seemed to haunt him throughout his USMNT career, and those bad misses often take the headlines over some of his positive moments. He has the abilities to be a game-changing talent, but he must take advantage of his opportunities.
While it is a positive that young players are coming through the national team ranks, their inexperience and lack of maturity was on display in Philadelphia. DeAndre Yedlin, who is still just 22-years-old despite having 37 caps, was sent off in the second half for two quick-fire yellow cards. While the first card could have been debated, his second was an extremely foolish challenge, especially considering it came just minutes after his first warning. In a match with so much at stake, Yedlin has to keep his emotions in check to avoid costing his teammates.
Bobby Wood also showed a lack of maturity later in the match, picking up a needless booking for jawing with some Paraguayan players after the whistle. With the U.S. already down to 10 men, Wood unnecessarily got involved with the opposition and picked up a yellow, which could have been costly. Moving forward, the U.S. has to be smarter when playing in a heated match.