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United States vs. Ecuador recap: Close 2-1 win sends the Yanks to the semis

Clint Dempsey named man of the match after his goal and assist to lead the US into the semifinals

Mike Russell Foto

The United States came into Thursday's quarterfinal matchup with Ecuador hoping to continue the form they attained in the latter parts of the group stages, and Jurgen Klinsmann only made one change to the lineup he'd been using all tournament. Matt Besler replaced former Sounder DeAndre Yedlin, whose red card against Paraguay meant he was suspended for the match held in his hometown.

It was clear from the opening minutes that this would be a tight match, as both teams refused to cede space to each other. While Ecuador had a few chances (mostly due to defensive errors), the US had the most significant chances throughout the half—especially through forward Bobby Wood. It was one such chance in the 22nd minute, when Wood dribbled his way into the box but was unable to find an opening in the defense. He passed it backwards to Jermaine Jones, who crossed the ball with a vengeance, right to the head of Sounders forward Clint Dempsey. Deuce made no mistake with the chance, and headed the ball powerfully past Ecuador goalkeeper Dominguez to score the match’s opening goal.

Wood dealt with the Ecuador defense well throughout the half, but he was unable to find any solid scoring chances for himself. Alejandro Bedoya nearly made it 2-0 after some excellent skill and passing by his teammates, but his shot wasn’t good enough and went right to Dominguez. The match’s first half stats were telling, and look more like that of a 0-0 scoreline rather than the 1-0 it ended with: possession was only 53/47 in favor of the Americans, and both teams had similar numbers in both passes and shots on goal. But Dempsey’s goal was the difference heading into halftime at CenturyLink Field.

The second half started similar to the first, but the action picked up a few minutes into it. Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia made a particularly dirty foul on Alejandro Bedoya, which led to handbags between both sides, including a subtle tap to an opponent’s face by Jermaine Jones. After the scrum settled, the referee sent off two players: Jermaine Jones for his hand to the face of an opponent, and Antonio Valencia for the tackle on Bedoya. Both teams would have to go on with just 10 players each. Bobby Wood was given a yellow card for a suspect tackle shortly after, which means he would be suspended if the US makes it to the semi-finals.

Despite the loss of Jones, the USA continued to attack well, which paid off in the 66th minute when Clint Dempsey pass (or maybe it was a shot), was poked into the net by Gyasi Zardes to make it 2-0. Not too long after, Ecuador took full advantage of an attacking free kick when Michael Arroyo drilled it through the box and into the net to make it 2-1. Ecuador continued to push for another goal, coming close a couple times as the Americans tried to regain their hold on the match.

The USMNT worked very hard to keep their opponents from scoring, and Klinsmann’s substituting in of Kyle Beckerman and Graham Zusi helped steady the ship in the last 20 minutes or so. Ecuador continued to attack, but the combination of great defensive work, goalkeeping, and the awesome Seattle crowd helped keep Ecuador at bay. After the referee whistled for a foul on Ecuador outside Seattle’s box, the Ecuador coaches threw water bottles onto the pitch—Ecuador head coach Gustavo Quinteros was subsequently ejected by the referee. Ecuador continued to push for a goal, but the United States defense, led by the revelatory John Brooks, held strong and held onto for a 2-1 win.

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