Friday, June 17, 2016

Copa America Centenario Day 13: USA knocks down Ecuador to head to semi-finals

United States 2-1 Ecuador
After becoming surprise winners of Group A thanks to Costa Rica's upset of Colombia, the United States was presented with an opponent they had beaten in the run of friendlies before Copa America. It helped that Ecuador would have to travel to Seattle, lone a bastion of American success, to take on a suddenly favored USA.

While Ecuador opened the match with a short spell of possession, the Americans quickly took thinks over and were rewarded with a wonderful team goal 22 minutes in. Clint Dempsey sprung a pass to Bobby Wood down the middle of the pitch, and the Hawaiian was able to work it down to the low corner of the penalty area. Instead of cutting back and shooting, the kid dropped a pass for Jermaine Jones at the top of the box, who lofted a short cross for the waiting head of Dempsey for the thunderous opening goal.

The USA probably should have made it two a couple of minutes before halftime when Alejandro Bedoya led a two on one break with Wood. Instead of playing the pass, Bedoya took a weak shot that was rather simple for Alexander Dominguez to handle in the Ecuadorian net.

The teams came out for the second half with a little more fire. In the 52nd minute, a harmless looking incident sparked into the moment that flipped the match on its side. It started as Antonio Valencia picked up a deserved second yellow card for a cynical foul along the touchline. That should have been the end of it with Ecuador down to ten men, but Jones had to fly in for a final say. He got in Valencia's face, made a sort of punching move towards him, and was sent off for his trouble, The match would have to finish at ten on ten, a prospect that didn't exactly thrill the Americans.

They would bag a second goal without allowing too much more time to tick away. Clint Dempsey turned provider this time, but his assist was set up by a long pass and collection by Bobby Wood. Wood's work along the wing led to a cross that was knocked down for Dempsey. Deuce took a weak shot that was likely destined for the far post, but Gyasi Zardes was their to hammer home the ball from the doorstep to make it 2-0.

It was all hands on deck for Ecuador at this point. They picked up could of nice chances, but poor shooting failed them until a well constructed set piece in the 74th minute lead to a low shot from Michael Arroyo sneaking through the USA defense and Brad Guzan in goal.

The American defense successfully tighten up at that point. They were able to hold on and save the 2-1 result with only a couple of half chances, including the slight threat of an own goal near the final whistle, before ultimately hanging on and qualifying for the semi-finals.

The USA will have to handle a semi-final match, likely agaisnt Argentina, without Jermaine Jones and Ale Bedoya. Jones will miss out thanks to his silly red card and Bedoya picked up his second yellow card of the tournament and picked up a suspension. While they will likely fall in that match, the team has accomplished Jurgen Klinsmann's lofty goal of the semis after winning Group A. They have exceeded most people's expectations already, but expect the fire to still be there on Tuesday night when they try and blast their way into the final.

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