USA-Ecuador: U.S. Player Ratings
The victory in Seattle sends the USA into a Copa America Centenario semifinal on Tuesday against the winner of Friday’s Argentina-Venezuela game.
Here are three takeaways from the Seattle showdown.
1. Clint Dempsey is world-class
In the opening loss against Colombia, only Dempsey caused problems for Los Cafeteros. In the win over Costa Rica, he buried a penalty kick and set up two goals. He scored the gamewinner against Paraguay.
In the win over Ecuador, currently tied with Uruguay in first place of the South American World Cup qualifying standings, Dempsey got the ball in midfield in the 21st minute. As he sent a pass to Bobby Wood, Dempsey was sliced down by Christian Noboa. Dempsey got back to his feet and got to the penalty spot in time to receive Jermaine Jones chip to head powerfully into the net.
After each was reduced to 10 men and Ecuador seemed much better exploited the extra space, Dempsey received the ball near the edge of the goal area, and while getting knocked down from behind by Fernando Gaibor slid the ball to Zardes for an easy tap-in.
Only one goal at this tournament, the fourth against Costa Rica by Graham Zusi, didn’t involved Dempsey.
2. Consistency pays off
After the USA was outplayed in its 2-0 opening loss to Colombia, Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, instead of tinkering, allowed his men to fine-tune. He used the same starting lineups for the next two games, a 4-0 win over Costa Rica and a 1-0 win over Paraguay.
And the only change he made against Ecuador was forced by the red-card suspension of right back DeAndre Yedlin. In came Matt Besler, who took the left-back role while Fabian Johnson shifted to the right.
Besler, who sent in the cross that led to the second goal, meshed in smoothly with a backline whose central partnership of John Brooks and Geoff Cameron, with midfielder Michael Bradley sweeping in front of it, is starting to look like the USA’s best ever.
Cohesion also marked the offensive play, especially between Dempsey, Zardes and Bobby Wood, supported by Bedoya and Jermaine Jones, who delivered the cross that Dempsey headed home for the opening goal.
3. USA has a discipline problem
You’ll see different lineup in the semifinal. Bedoya, Wood and Jones are suspended. Bedoya and Wood for yellow-card accumulation, and Jones for a red card after a left-jab to the face of Michael Arroyo.
Jones, who last year was suspended for six games after shoving MLS referee Mark Geiger and served a two-month suspension while still in the Bundesliga for stomping on Marco Reus’ foot, ruined a chance for the USA to play a man-up for the last 38 minutes. Jones lashed out after Antonio Valencia was red-carded for a foul on Bedoya and picked up his first red card for the USA.
The two ejections, two games in a row -- Yedlin for a pair lethal fouls within two minutes against Paraguay – and the foolish yellow cards by Wood and Bedoya didn’t cost the USA, as they prevailed in both games.
The loss of Bedoya shouldn’t hurt too much, as Yedlin will return, so Johnson can move into Bedoya's place in midfield, where he plays for Borussia Moenchengladbach, assuming Besler stays at left back.
Kyle Beckerman is a seasoned defensive midfielder, but doesn’t provide the attacking spark or cover as much ground as Jones.
What really hurts, however, is the loss of Wood, who helped set up both goals against Ecuador, scored against Costa Rica, and has been a perfect partner for Dempsey. Wood got his yellow for inexplicably delivering a flying tackle near the midfield sideline on Jaime Ayovi when even a tame tackle wasn’t needed.
Klinsmann will likely move Zardes up front, where he plays for LA Galaxy, in place of Wood, and start Graham Zusi, an adequate option on the other wing in place of Zardes.
Reaching the semifinals is a tremendous achievement. But the USA should have been able to get there without 12 yellow cards and two red cards.