June 11, 2016
By Charles Cuttone
Man down USA squeaks past Paraguay
PHILADELPHIA---The United States National Team did not get the performance they wanted, but still managed to get the result they needed, narrowly defeating Paraguay 1-0 in front of an announced crowd of 51,041 at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday night.
|Clutch play by goalkeeper Brad Guzan helped the US Men advance to the knockout phase of the Copa America Centenario with a shorthanded 1-0 win over Paraguay Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Needing a win or a tie to get through to the next round of the Copa America Centenario, the U.S. put on a less than stellar performance in narrowly getting past the South American side, a task made more difficult by some questionable officiating and having to play a man down for almost the entire second half after DeAndre Yedlin was shown two yellow cards in the span of a minute.
The Americans' goal came in the 27th minute on a clinical finish by Clint Dempsey, his third in the last two games.
After a series of one-touch passes near midfield, Michael Bradley sprung Gyasi Zardes down the left side. Zardes beat a pair of defenders to the end line and sent a ball across the area where Dempsey was waiting to sweep it under goalkeeper Justo Villar.
After the goal it was all Paraguay, as they created several chances, the most dangerous of which came in the 45th minute. Dario Lezcano ran onto a ball into the area from Antonio Sanabria. Guzan came out to challenge the attacker, and made a two-footed save.
After that, the pressure was really on the U.S., with the loss of Yedlin. After committing a foul in the 47th minute and receiving a yellow card, the U.S. defender received a second yellow less than a minute later for going in high on Miguel Samudio.
With the man down, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided to make a defensive substitution, sending in Michael Orozco to replace Dempsey.
The U.S. could have doubled their lead in the 62nd minute on a breakaway. Bobby Wood carried the ball down the right side, with Zardes trailing in the center. Wood sent Zardes a perfect ball, but the forward took too many touches as he maneuvered his way toward goal, allowing Villar the chance to come out and make the save.
In the 70th minute, Rodrigo Rojas was shown a yellow card for a foul on Wood, but Wood was also shown a card for pushing the Paraguayan defender. Earlier, Michael Bradley had been given a yellow by referee Julio Bascunan, who was busy pulling cards out of his pocket the entire half. Orozco also was show a card in the 79th minute, as was Jermaine Jones in the 87th minute. Paraguay’s Victor Ayala also got a yellow in the 78th.
Guzan came up with a pair of back-to-back saves in the 81st minute, stopping point blank shots by Jorge Benitez and Miguel Almiron.
The United States dodged a bullet in the 88th minute, when a Paraguay goal was called back for a clear offside, which, given the one-sidedness of the officiating, was not necessarily an automatic call. To make matters worse, Bascunan himself suffered an injury and needed treatment in the second half, causing six minutes of stoppage time to be added to the game.
The first half was highlighted by a pair of defensive plays, one on either side of the pitch. In the 11th minute, Yedlin made a long run down the right side that resulted in a shot being blocked by Panama goalkeeper, Justo Villar.
But the big defensive play, which was perhaps a game-changer came from John Brooks on the ensuing play, a 3-1 breakaway led by Miguel Almiron. Almiron was breaking in on goal and Brooks chased him down, tackling the ball away just before he had an opportunity to score.