Jurgen Klinsmann's goal of advancing to the Copa America Centenario semifinals has been accomplished.
The U.S. Men's National Team put in a gutsy performance, topping Ecuador 2-1 before a raucous crowd in downtown Seattle Thursday night.
Here is the #USMNT Starting XI for #USAvECU. @MattBesler makes his #CopaAmerica debut: https://t.co/0Nry5hhsB2 pic.twitter.com/ZgW3ZbRuJU— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) June 17, 2016
Fab Johnson was moved to right back while Matt Besler earned his first start at left back.
Bobby Wood was a bright spot for U.S. attack early, getting behind the Ecuadorian defense and causing plenty of problems. And in the 22nd minute, the Americans capitalized on their pressure with a beautiful team goal. Bobby Wood charged up the field while keeping possession, then laid the ball off for Jermaine Jones who popped a one-time cross in the air, and Clint Dempsey rose majestically to guide a header into the right corner of the net.
Clint Dempsey scores his 3rd goal at #CopaAmerica Centenario to put the #USMNT ahead. #USAvECU #MyCopaColors https://t.co/DtNKqz8iLE— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 17, 2016
Dempsey was feeling it, laying the ball off to Bedoya moments later, and the Nantes attacker sent in a hard shot from close distance that required the full attention of goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez.
Ecuador almost got on the board minutes into the second half when Antonio Valencia flicked a header off a corner kick and Jefferson Montero was open from point-blank range, but the service was a bit too high for Montero to properly connect.
All hell broke loose in the 52nd minute when Antonio Valencia was issued a second yellow for kicking out at Alejandro Bedoya and players from both sides erupted in a scuffle. It appeared the U.S. had the upper hand, but the referee shockingly gave Jermaine Jones a straight red, who replays showed clenched his fist in someone's face during the fracas.
After a brief spell of pressure from Ecuador, the U.S. padded their lead when Clint Dempsey muscled off a defender in the box and squared a perfect pass across the box, giving Gyasi Zardes the easiest of tap-ins.
Gyasi Zardes, off the feed from Clint Dempsey, gives the #USMNT some breathing room. #USAvECU #MyCopaColors https://t.co/SxKajJCeJS— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 17, 2016
But the match wasn't over. In the 74th minute, Michael Orroyo was first to a short corner kick, powerfully striking a low zinger that no U.S. defender could reach before snuggling past Guzan.
However, the USA stood tall late, and with the crowd cheering the Americans on, the Yanks delivered a historic victory.