They didn’t make it easy for themselves but then again they never do. DeAndre Yedlin picked up two yellow cards in the first three minutes of the second half but the 10 man USMNT held on for a 1-0 win against Paraguay.
Clint Dempsey got on the end of a Gyasi Zardes cross in the 26th minute to give the US a 1-0 lead. It was Dempsey’s 51st international goal for the US leaving him just six goals behind Landon Donovan for the most all time.
With the win the US moves to six points in Group A, good enough to secure them a place in the knockout round. When all is said and done, heading into the tournament it always seemed like the plan for the US would be to hope to get a result against Colombia, who are ranked third in the world, followed by defeating Costa Rica and Paraguay. At the end of the day the US accomplished exactly that.
After spending much of the past year facing criticism for constantly juggling his lineup, US manager Jurgen Klinsmann named an unchanged starting XI for the third straight game. It’s the first time a US manager had named an unchanged side in three straight matches since the 1930 World Cup.
Included in that starting XI was right winger Gyasi Zardes, who was the popular choice among fans and media to be dropped should Klinsmann make any changes. Zardes has not had a good tournament and was noticeably bad against Costa Rica, a game where everyone else on the USMNT played particularly well.
Klinsmann’s faith in Zardes paid off. While Zardes once again didn’t have a great game, leading to even more calls from fans and the media to drop him, he did have one moment of brilliance in the first half when he charged down the left side before firing a low cross into the box that found it’s way to Clint Dempsey. One moment of brilliance was enough as Dempsey fired it home to give the US game’s lone goal.
Things turned upside down in the second half when DeAndre Yedlin received two yellow cards in under a minute. While some may say the first yellow card was a harsh decision, Klinsmann agreed with the call.
“I saw the plays briefly, it’s two yellows it’s (the decision) fine.” Klinsmann said after the game. “DeAndre’s reaction comes from inexperience. He got emotional and he lost his head for a second. You have to give him the benefit of the doubt that he will learn from this mistake” continued Klinsmann.
With the US down to 10 men for the final 40 minutes the game shifted to them mostly defending Paraguay’s attack. Despite stepping hard on the gas Paraguay wasn’t able to generate much in terms of scoring chances and large part of that was due to the fantastic play of John Brooks.
For the third game in a row Brooks was the best American player on the field. He led the way with 14 clearances, Geoff Cameron (6) was the only other US player with more than two.
It may have taken a while but Brooks is finally starting to show the same form for the USMNT that he shows for club side Hertha Berlin. He’s become rock at the back that many people thought he would become after the 2014 World Cup.
The US will now turn their attention to the knockout round. They won’t know who they’re playing until Sunday night but Klinsmann is relishing the challenge of whoever they play.
“We know Ecuador because of the friendly we just played.” Klinsmann said. “Brazil you don’t even need to send the scouting team, you already know every player inside out.”
Klinsmann has always said that the knockout round is a new tournament. The expectations are completely different for the US now that they’ve made it out of their group. “It’s such an honor to play these games against these top teams. It’s a chance to just grow grow grow.”