US into Copa quarters as Paraguay downed
The United States battled into the Copa America Centenario quarter-finals here Saturday after a Clint Dempsey goal clinched a 1-0 win over Paraguay.
Dempsey shot the hosts into the lead on 27 minutes at Lincoln Financial Field to guarantee them a place in the last eight from Group A along with Colombia, who play Costa Rica later Saturday.
But Jurgen Klinsmann's side were made to sweat through a nerve-jangling second half after DeAndre Yedlin's rash dismissal left the hosts playing with 10 men for more than 40 minutes.
Paraguay spent long periods in the US half but a backs-to-the-wall defensive display from the Americans saw them hang on for a gritty win.
The victory left the United States on top of Group A, level with Colombia on six points and the same goal difference but leading on goals scored.
Klinsmann hailed his side's discipline after they regrouped to thwart Paraguay after Yedlin's dismissal.
"It was a fantastic performance," the German said. "The way they grinded it out, the way they kept their shape and their discipline and the way they worked for each other was outstanding. They all deserve a huge, huge compliment."
Klinsmann meanwhile refused to criticize Yedlin for the loss of control that led to his two yellow cards and an early shower.
"He just lost his head for a second," Klinsmann said of the 22-year-old.
"He'll learn from that mistake. Next time just cool down for a couple of minutes and slowly find your way back into the game."
The defeat sealed Paraguay's worst Copa America display since 2001, the last time they failed to progress beyond the group stage.
Klinsmann fielded the same starting line-up for the third match running, setting up his side in a conventional 4-4-2 with Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones in the center of midfield shielding the back four.
A confident US opening period saw the hosts probe forward aggressively, although their first shot came from a setpiece, Fabian Johnson curling a free-kick over the wall in the sixth minute.
American adventure almost proved costly in the 11th minute however as Paraguay launched a swift counter-attack to set up a three-on-one scoring opportunity.
Only a superb covering tackle from John Brooks, intercepting Miguel Almiron as he bore down on goal, prevented what looked like being a certain Paraguay goal.
The opening exchanges also had a noticeable edge, with Celso Ortiz earning an early booking for a crude foul on Gyasi Zardes, only moments after he had flattened Johnson with a rough tackle.
Paraguay were the next to threaten however when Dario Lezcano's header was saved well by Brad Guzan at the American keeper's near post.
The breakthrough came on 27 minute when Zardes went clear down the left flank and crossed for Dempsey who drove in his 51st international goal.
The US looked to be firmly in control of the contest leading to half-time, comfortably neutralizing the threat of Paraguay's attack.
Yet the complexion of the game was changed after a moment of madness from Yedlin early in the second half, the US defender picking up two yellow cards within seconds of each other to receive a red card.
It left the US needing to mount a massive rearguard action as Paraguay swarmed forward searching for a win that would see them advance.
However US keeper Guzan proved up to the challenge, producing an incredible double save from Jorge Benitez on 82 minutes to preserve the US lead.
© 2016 AFP