The U.S. national team has achieved Jurgen Klinsmann’s pre-stated goal of reaching the semifinals of the 2016 Copa America Centenario.
Klsinamnn’s USMNT knocked off an extremely game Ecuador side in a thrilling, end-to-end, 10-man-versus-10-man thriller in front of 47,322 spectators at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash., courtesy of goals scored by Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes.
It took the Stars and Stripes a bit of time to find their footing, as disaster nearly struck for the USMNT after a quarter-hour. Geoff Cameron, in a moment that stirred up memories of his costly mistake against Portugal at the 2014 World Cup. A terrible giveaway just outside the USMNT penalty area resulted in a quick and easy Ecuadorian counter-attack that should have resulted in a shot on goal.
The Yanks then went ahead on a bit of silky build-up courtesy of Bobby Wood and Jermaine Jones in the 22nd minute. Wood ran at two defenders down the left side of the penalty area, held the ball up at the end line and cut it back to the top of the 18-yard box, where Jones hit a curling, first-time cross toward the penalty spot. Clint Dempsey rose above the crowd and thumped a thunderous header back across the face of goal in front of a whole bunch of Seattle Sounders supporters.
The USMNT’s best chance to go up 2-0 in the first half came and went in the 42nd minute, when Alejandro Bedoya latched onto a through ball from Dempsey and hit a first-time, left-footed strike toward the back post. The contact wasn’t great, though, and Alexander Dominguez made the save rather easily.
The second half began with Ecuador ringing USMNT alarm bells in the 48th minute. Enner Valencia found himself in acres of space inside the penalty area for the first time all night, but the West Ham United ace’s glancing header went wide of Brad Guzan‘s left-hand post, mercifully so.
Both teams were reduced to 10 men four minutes later, when Antonio Valencia kicked out at Bedoya, earning himself a second yellow card. Jones followed up with a hand to the face of the Manchester United wide man, and saw straight red. Bobby Wood picked up his second yellow card of the tournament a minute later, meaning he’ll be suspended for the semifinals. Bedoya did the same in the 73rd minute, meaning he’ll also be suspended.
With 65 minutes gone, it was Wood and Dempsey who once again played their parts in the build-up to an USMNT goal. Wood latched onto a ball down the left flank which resulted in a cross from Matt Besler to Gyasi Zardes at the far post. Zardes headed the ball back across the penalty area to Dempsey, who went on a driving run toward the end line and hit a shot/cross to the far post for Zardes to slam home into an empty net.
Ecuador pulled a goal back in the 74th minute, taking advantage of the USMNT’s lack of an extra man defending on set pieces. Walter Ayovi played a simple free kick from the end line to Michael Arroyo at the top of the 18-yard-box, and Arroyo hit a low blazer that made its way through traffic and snuck inside Guzan’s right-hand post.
The USMNT will face the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal between Argentina and Venezuela (7 p.m. ET), Tuesday night (9 p.m. ET) in Houston, Tex.