For the first time in just over three years, CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA hosted a United States national team game. This time, it was ever more important than the one back in 2013. The United States hosted Ecuador in the first Copa America Centenario quarterfinal match on Thursday night in front of 47,322.
Led by goals from Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes, the United States were able to defeat Ecuador and move on to the semifinals next Tuesday in Houston, TX. They will take on the winner fo the game between Argentina and Venezuela.
Changes in the United States starting XI
For the first time in this Copa America, Jürgen Klinsmann had to make a change to his starting XI because of the double yellow DeAndre Yedlin received against Paraguay. Klinsmann decided to move Fabian Johnson from the left back spot and slide him over to Yedlin’s spot on the right. Matt Besler made his first start of the tournament at left back. Klinsmann decided to keep the center back pairing of Geoff Cameron and John Anthony Brooks together and not risk a chance at breaking up the chemistry the two have.
The United States scores first
Playing in front of his home crowd, Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey opened the scoring in the 22nd minute for the U.S. Bobby Wood made a great run into the box and laid it off to Jermaine Jones. Jones then played a lovely ball as he softly floated it to the center of the box. Dempsey was there to head it back across goal and into the side netting.
Dempsey almost made it two in the 27th minute. Michael Bradley sent in a free kick that found the head of Cameron. Cameron was able to flick it on to Dempsey, but his shot was saved by Alexander Dominguez. The U.S. had another chance late in the first half. Dempsey laid the ball off to Alejandro Bedoya who took his shot at goal, but it was directly at the Dominguez. Wood was wide open at the penalty spot if Bedoya would have seen it.
Ecuador’s best chance was during first half stoppage time. After a horrible turnover in the midfield, Ecuador was off to the races. Brad Guzan found himself one on one with an attacker but was able to make the save to keep the United States in front 1-0 heading into halftime.
Second half starts off chippy
The first five minutes of the game virtually belonged to Ecuador. Things got real interesting in the 52nd minute. Luis Valencia kicked out at Bedoya and took his legs out from underneath him as the ball was going out. The referee gave Valencia his second yellow card of the match to give him his marching orders.
During the ensuing madness, Jermaine Jones lost his head and shoved Michael Arroyo. The referee and 4th official both saw it and gave Jones a straight red. For the final 38 minutes, both teams would be down to ten men.
Before the game could be restarted, Wood received a yellow card after taking out a player when he thought the ball was back in play. Since he received a yellow card in his last game, Wood will miss the semifinal.
Gyasi Zardes put the U.S. up by two
After ten minutes of back and forth, wide open soccer, the United States got on the board again. After Zardes laid the ball off to Dempsey in the box, Dempsey's shot beat Dominguez and found the foot of Zardes for an easy tap-in goal to extend the U.S. lead to 2-0 in the 65th minute.
Ecuador gets one back
The two-goal lead would not last long, though. In the 74th minute, Michael Arroyo would get Ecuador on the board. After a foul was called on the far right of the U.S. goal, Ecuador took the free kick and played the ball on the ground to the top of the box. Arroyo would not miss as he fired his shot past Guzan and gave Ecuador some hope with 16 minutes to play.
Two minutes later, Enner Valencia almost tied things up for Ecuador. He was virtually unmarked just outside the six-yard box but was not able to get his header on frame.
In the 90th minute, Ecuador head coach Gustavo Quinteros got his marching orders from the referee. The bench and Quinteros were mad about a foul being called on Zardes and water bottles were seen being thrown onto the field from the Ecuadorian bench.
Somehow the U.S. holds on and survives
Somehow the United States was able to hold on and beat a very feisty Ecuadorian team. The U.S. will face the winner of the Argentina-Venezuela match on Tuesday, June 21 at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX.