Americans Were Ferocious During Copa Quarterfinal Win Over Ecuador, But Adjustments Now Necessary

By Sean Hartnett
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The United States delivered a spirited Copa America quarterfinal victory over Ecuador on Thursday night in Seattle.

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The 2-1 win was the kind of full-blooded performance every American soccer fan should be proud of. The match was about substance over panache.

Every U.S. player emptied his tank for the cause, never allowing Ecuador a shred of comfort in possession. Two, sometimes three Americans pressed whenever “La Tricolor” was in possession. It was dogged, in a beautifully savage kind of way. Most of all, it was full-blown red, white and blue pride on display.

All the talk of manager Jurgen Klinsmann needing to resurrect attractive, possession-based soccer suddenly didn’t matter. His managerial hot seat has now been extinguished. In a tournament where bottom line results mean everything, Klinsmann has dodged calls for his dismissal by instilling total team belief.

No player has embodied that mantra more than veteran forward Clint Dempsey, who provided a goal and assisted on fellow attacker Gyasi Zardes’ winning goal. “Deuce” has not been contained in this tournament. It’s not just about the goals as his ceaseless work ethic has willed teammates to follow his lead. Dempsey now shares the Copa America Centenario lead with three goals and no player has bettered his three assists. The 33-year-old striker has now scored in 13 of his last 18 international appearances.

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Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya have started every game in this tournament, but the trio will miss next Tuesday’s semifinal at Houston’s NRG Stadium. Jones received a 51st minute straight red card for raising his hand to the face of Ecuador midfielder Michael Arroyo, while Wood and Bedoya will miss out due to yellow card accumulation.

A boost will come in the form of DeAndre Yedlin returning to his usual place at right back after serving his suspension. Kyle Beckerman is the logical choice to fill in for Jones as holding midfielder. How to combat Wood’s absence will be a little more tricky and could include a number of moving parts.

USA now awaits the winner of Saturday’s Argentina-Venezuela matchup. Argentina is the heavy favorites to advance. A semifinal matchup against iconic world stars Lionel Messi, Kun Aguero and Javier Mascherano is a mouth-watering prospect for American soccer.

Regardless of who the Americans face next, the absence of Jones, Wood and Bedoya from the starting XI will loom large. That said, U.S. soccer fans can have full confidence in a totally wholehearted effort from Klinsmann’s men for the full 90 minutes.

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Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey