Copa America 2016 | USA edge past Ecuador to make first semi-final since 1995

Copa America 2016 | USA edge past Ecuador to make first semi-final since 1995

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The United States beat Ecuador 2-1 in their quarter-final clash of the Copa America Centenario at Seattle to reach the last four of the tournament. Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes netted for Jurgen Klinsmann’s side before Ecuador’s late fightback following Michael Arroyo’s goal failed to materialise.

Starting Line-ups

United States: Guzan, Johnson, Cameron, Brooks, Besler, Bedoya, Bradley, Jones, Zardes, Dempsey, Wood

Ecuador: Dominguez, Erazo, Meza, Ayovi, Paredes, Arroyo, Gruezo, Noboa, E. Valencia, Montero, A. Valencia

The USA arrived in Seattle with a slight psychological advantage over Ecuador, having beaten them 1-0 in a friendly in Dallas a few weeks ago. But they were without their first-choice right back DeAndre Yedlin-suspended after picking up a red card in their last match, against Paraguay. Jurgen Klinsmann decided to play Matt Besler at left-back and moved Fabian Johnson to the right. Ecuador were on a good run of form, enjoying an unbeaten streak in the tournament. They had drawn with Brazil and Peru before breezing past Haiti in the group stages. Both teams were looking to create history.

The teams seemed evenly matched in the initial stages, with the USA having the slightly better possession, but Ecuador looking more dangerous on the ball. But, it was the host nation that broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute, with some good team play allowing veteran Clint Dempsey to head home his third goal in the tournament. Dempsey very nearly added a second five minutes later, with a powerful shot from the edge of the area, but it was saved by Dominguez . USA’s defense held firm even as Ecuador’s quick counter-attacks seemed threatening. Both teams went into the break with the score at 1-0, with Antonio Valencia earning the only booking of the half in the 37th minute.

The second-half began with both sides unchanged, and Ecuador equalized almost immediately through Valencia. The Manchester United winger tried to head the ball into the goal from a chipped pass, but failed to make proper contact. Dramatic scenes followed as Antonio Valencia picked up a second yellow for a rash tackle on Bedoya before getting into a touchline tussle with Jones. Jones was then shown a straight red for putting a fist in Arroyo’s face, taking both teams down to 10-men. Two minutes later, Bobby Wood picked up a yellow card, meaning he would miss the semi-final. Both teams pushed hard, one looking for an equaliser, the other for a two-goal advantage, with some long-range shots. The USA found their second in the 65th minute after Dempsey found Gyasi Zardes with a wonderful cross. Zardes poked the ball into an empty net to give the USA their second goal and Dempsey his third assist of the tournament.

The match was far from over though, with an Ecuadorian free-kick finding Arroyo who put the ball past Guzan to end the American goalkeeper's scoreless streak of 301 minutes. The home team looked tired as Ecuador found themselves with more chances in front of the goal, but squandered them. The USA held on for their life in the closing minutes, with Brad Guzan having to come into play repeatedly to save the match from going to penalties. A last-minute corner seemed like the lifeline Ecuador needed, but it was put wide of the target. Klinsmann decided to eat up the final few seconds with a substitution, and the USA held on to win 2-1 to progress to the semi-final.

They will now await the winner of the quarter-final between Argentina and Venezuela to meet them in Houston. Unfortunately, they will be without Bedoya, Jones and Wood with all of them suspended.

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