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Final four! USA knocks off Ecuador, 2-1, to reach Copa America semis

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The U.S. national team has achieved Jurgen Klinsmann’s pre-stated goal of reaching the semifinals of the 2016 Copa America Centenario.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | Copa America 2016 ]

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.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from USA 2-1 Ecuador | Player ratings ]

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.

[ MORE: Morris leads USMNT fan march to stadium before game ]

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.

LIVE — USMNT seeks ‘payback’ v. Canada in CONCACAF Nations League

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The USMNT’s CONCACAF Nations League hopes are on the line when it meets Canada in Orlando at 7 p.m. ET on Friday.

[ FOLLOW: USMNT on Twitter ]

The Yanks seek to avenge a 2-0 loss to the Canucks in Toronto last month, one that heaped pressure on coach Gregg Berhalter.

If the USMNT fails to win on Friday, a match Canada also needs for its World Cup qualifying hopes, it will bow out of the tournament before the semifinal round.

There’s no place for DeAndre Yedlin in the back line, as Tim Ream‘s been chosen to play right back with a center back pairing of John Brooks and Aaron Long. Sergino Dest starts on the right.

The midfield will have Jackson Yueill lying deep, with Weston McKennie and Sebastian Lletget also getting the call.

Gyasi Zardes starts at center forward with Jordan Morris and Paul Arriola on the wings.

EURO qualifying wrap: Sweden joins Finland in qualifying

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Finland and Sweden have qualified for EURO 2020 after posting big wins on Friday, the former doing it at home to relative minnows Liechtenstein while the latter scored an impressive win away to Romania.

[ WATCH: G. Jesus’ comical penalty miss ]


Romania 0-2 Sweden

Marcus Berg and Robin Quaison scored first half goals as Sweden qualified for its sixth-straight EURO. Both are having decent starts to the club season. The veteran Berg has scored five times for Krasnodar, while the 26-year-old Quaison has scored four times for Mainz this season.

Spain 7-0 Malta

The Spanish had seven different goal scorers beginning with Alvaro Morata and Santi Cazorla providing a 2-0 halftime lead. Spain out shot Malta 25-1, with Pau Torres, Pablo Sarabia, Dani Olmo, and Gerard Moreno also scoring for an experimental squad.

And what if we told you Jesus Navas scored? Cause he did.

Denmark 6-0 Gibraltar

Christian Eriksen scored twice in the final five minutes after Robert Skov’s brace came sandwiched around Christian Gytkjaer and Martin Braithwaite goals. The Danes climbed to the top of Group D, one point better than the Swiss and three better than Republic of Ireland (who it meets on the last match day).

Switzerland 1-0 Georgia

Granit Xhaka went 90 minutes and Cedric Itten scored the game’s lone goal as the Swiss joined the Danes in climbing above Republic of Ireland.

Bosnia and Herzegovina 0-3 Italy

The Azzurri were clinical on Friday, with Francesco Acerbi, Lorenzo Insigne, and Andrea Belotti bagging

Elsewhere
Norway 4-0 Faroe Islands
Finland 3-0 Liechtenstein — RECAP
Armenia 0-1 Greece

WATCH: Gabriel Jesus comically misses penalty; Messi pots winner on Argentina return

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As long as Lionel Messi is on the field, Argentina and Brazil is going to be must-watch no matter the location.

Messi converted a rebound of his own won and saved penalty to score his 69th international goal in Argentina’s 1-0 win in a Saudi Arabia-hosted friendly on Friday.

[ MORE: Finland makes history ]

It was Messi’s first match with Argentina since the summer, when he was banned three months for claiming the 2019 Copa America tournament was fixed for hosts Brazil.

Let’s be real, though: You should be here for this terrible penalty miss from Gabriel Jesus.

The Brazilian also won his penalty, but his miss was a dreadful dribble wide of the frame. It clicked three boxes of terrible: no direction, no conviction, no technique.

Pique: Griezmann growing into Barca role “little by little”

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This summer, there was plenty of talk that Barcelona’s players wanted Neymar in town and quite the opposite regarding Antoine Griezmann.

The Atletico Madrid star was the player purchased by Barcelona.

[ MORE: Finland makes history ]

Griezmann, 28, has four goals and three assists in 15 matches, but the bulk of that outlay came in two matches and he’s without a goal or assist in the UEFA Champions League.

A bit different from his 21 goals and 10 assists in 48 matches last season, at least on the goals end, but the Frenchman is settling into a new club and city.

While it’s not like his new teammates think he’s garbage, they aren’t sugarcoating their opinion of his transition nor downplaying their lofty opinion of Barca.

Here’s Gerard Pique, via AS.com:

“Real Sociedad and Atlético were teams who played for Griezmann. That’s not the case at Barca, because the level is higher and he has to find his place in the side. Little by little he’s finding it. He’s got the quality and talent for it.”

Pique also blew off Barca’s extra rest before the new El Clasico date, and talked about Leo Messi’scontract talks as well as his relationship with Sergio Ramos. It’s all here.