By Staff Writer
The United State Men’s National Team bounced back from its opening loss to Colombia in the Copa America Centenario by putting four unanswered goals past Costa Rica on Tuesday night.
A ninth-minute penalty converted by Clint Dempsey – his 50th goal in a USMNT jersey – opened a floodgate as the U.S. unloaded on the Ticos with goals from Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Graham Zusi. The result saw Jurgen Klinsmann’s team move up to second in Group A behind Colombia.
With the team now well poised to follow the heavily-favored Colombians out of the group, it’s tempting to look beyond Saturday’s final group stage clash with Paraguay at possible scenarios the U.S. could face should it indeed advance.
A win, or even a draw with Paraguay, would guarantee the U.S. a place in the knockout stage, where it would face the winner of Group B; most likely Brazil, although Peru currently tops the group and Ecuador remains a favorite to progress.
However, based on what we’ve seen in the Copa so far, none of the Group B contenders look unbeatable from a U.S. perspective.
Brazil is of course, the most talented team in the group. However, it struggled in its Copa opener and despite an impressive performance from Chelsea winger Willian, was unable to break the deadlock in a 0-0 draw with Ecuador.
Meanwhile, Ecuador was narrowly beaten by the U.S. in a pre-tournament friendly, thanks to a single goal from Darlington Nagbe. However, La Tricolor – which currently sits atop South American World Cup qualifying, tied on points with Uruguay – proved stiff opposition for Brazil and arguably, could have won, had it not had a goal ruled out on a questionable call.
Next up for Ecuador is Peru, which leads the group, thanks to Paolo Guerrero’s goal lone against Haiti. Although beating Ecuador is not out of the question for Peru, finishing above Brazil would be a tall order.
A win for Ecuador on the other hand, could set it on course for a relatively straightforward shot at topping the group, provided it can win its final group stage match against Haiti.
While Brazil hasn’t quite been itself lately, it’s still Brazil and if the U.S. is to make it into the semis, Ecuador would obviously be the more favorable draw.
There is also the possibility, however unlikely, of Costa Rica pulling off an upset against Colombia. In which case, the U.S. could top Group A.
Either way, should the Americans progress to the knockout stages, they will almost certainly have to go through Brazil or Ecuador to make the semifinals. And this is of course provided that Jurgen Klinsmann’s team can get a result against a Paraguay team that played Colombia – the no. 3 ranked team in the world – to within an inch of its life at the Rose Bowl on Tuesday.
You can catch the USMNT in its final Copa America Centenario group stage encounter, this Saturday June 11 at 7:00 p.m. EST.
Photos courtesy of ISI Photos, John Dorton, and Celso Bayo.