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USMNT seeks knockout round place against Paraguay

Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports
Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports

The U.S. Men’s National Team is well aware that a tie on Saturday night will all but certainly get them through to the Copa America knockout stages. However, in the second of what Jurgen Klinsmann hopes is a series of do-or-die games, the USMNT coach expects much, much more.

After battering Costa Rica on Saturday night, the USMNT enters Saturday’s Group A finale against Paraguay very much in the driver’s seat. A win will see the U.S. through to the group stages with the potential of topping the group should Colombia fall to Costa Rica. A tie, meanwhile, would force Costa Rica to win by at least six to smash the USMNT with one of the most improbable tournament eliminations in recent memory.

A loss, on the other hand, would be catastrophic. Defeat ends the USMNT’s Copa America run, giving Klinsmann’s side incentive to attack the game against a very capable Paraguay side.

“A point would take you into the quarters, but you cannot speculate on that one,” Klinsmann said. “Like I’ve said, we don’t have the character to now sit back and come and just hope for a counter break. This is not us. We have to be really involved in the game. We have to set the tone. We have to have a high level of aggressiveness and determination going from the first second into this game. This is a very, very good opponent. It’s a very tough team to play. We knew that once the draw was out. We knew it was going to get down to the wire with the third game. I love that type of situation.

“I don’t think we’re looking at the game saying we’re looking for a tie. It’s not in our character to sit back and go for a tie,” added DeAndre Yedlin. “I think when we sit back we aren’t as good as when we are attacking. I think that obviously whoever is playing the outside back position is going to be looking to be looking to get forward at times, but you have to be smart about it. Just like we did in the Costa Rica game, they pushed a lot of guys forward and we countered them well. We have to see if Paraguay decides to do that and then our front four can work just like they did last game.”

The last game, a 4-0 thumping of Los Ticos, was a display of the USMNT at their best. Defensively, a backline led by John Brooks and Geoff Cameron proved sound, allowing Yedlin and fellow fullback Fabian Johnson the freedom to jet forward. The midfield trio of Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya and Jermaine Jones proved menacing, with the latter in particular shining in a Man of the Match performance.

But it was the performance of the forward line that truly kicked the game into gear. An early penalty drawn by Bobby Wood and scored by Clint Dempsey set an immediate tone that the USMNT was in a position to control. It served in stark contrast to the Colombia loss just days before, a game which saw the USMNT pushed onto the back foot when they conceded an early goal of their own.

“Teams of that caliber, when they score first, they know exactly how to defend. They know how to kill you off with a counter break,” Klinsmann said. “If you get in that situation, it’s very difficult, which we experienced with Colombia. To break down when they’re 2-0 up, it’s a huge mountain. It’s still doable. I think we played a very, very good second half against them, but in the end, it’s the goals that really matter.

“Similar to the Colombia approach, which we said was kind of like a Ghana situation from a few years ago, you want to make sure that you start on the right foot. You want to make sure that you’re not giving anything away in the first half an hour. You keep on grinding this game until, like we experienced with Ecuador in the friendly, until you hit minute 65 or 70 and then I think we’re hungry, determined, to decide that game in the last 20 minutes if necessary. You have to be very careful, rightfully, not to go a goal down.”

Klinsmann says his side is 100 percent heading into Friday’s match, and he expects each and every of his 23 players to be fit and ready to contribute from the opening whistle. Paraguay will, however, be a bit shorthanded, as Oscar Romero serves a suspension after earning a red card last time out.

Still, Klinsmann is certainly wary of what Paraguay brings to the table. Dario Lezcano remains a danger atop the Paraguay attack, while veteran centerback Paulo Da Silva anchors the backline. Add in veteran goalkeeper Justo Villar, and Paraguay has the experience and ability to end the USMNT’s Copa America prematurely.

“Ramon Diaz is a very experienced coach. He’s a good friend of mine,” Klinsmann said. “They’re not gambling. They have players, three or four and even a fifth coming out of the midfield, attacking players, that can hurt you at any second. That’s in their typical formation that they field. If there are one or two changes, we are prepared for that. They will come out and they will take the game to us as well. Obviously, they want to badly win this game.

“It’s everything to play for tomorrow. It’s a whole 90 minutes plus where both teams go at each other. They deserve a lot of respect from our end. We don’t fear them. We know that we are in the driver’s seat. We’re going to do everything possible to get in the quarters now.”


  1. Is it just me, or do we seem to always (at least in recent memory) be the chameleon team? We change our lineup and formation throughout a tournament, never sticking to “our gameplan” we always want to morph into what we think is needed to beat this opponent. In my mind this lead to awful showings in the knockout rounds because we are almost always the underdog and never can impose our game because we have not solidified what that might be.

    I thought we were getting past that with a set lineup in the first few games and a new attack minded formation, but when I hear JK talk, he seems to always want to tweak things to match the other team. Why can’t we go out with the same formation, maybe a few new faces to rest some starters and use as subs later in the game, and bring the game to them?

    The answer is about JK and his job security, and not about the team concept growing in a major tournament to push the team in preparation for 2018. If we are going to be a possession team then lets be that, and not “grind it out” for 70 minutes. That may be pragmatic, but I feel this is a timid way to play when we are a good team in front of our home fans. We should win this game if we come out and play our best, telling the guys to be careful is the wrong message in my opinion.

    • We’re good but take away our drive and athleticism and we’d be rather bad. Tactically and technically we are often even with or second best to our opponent. It is hard to take to the game to a team that is better than you. That may not be true tonight, but it was true for the first few minutes of Costa Rica, most of Colombia, and would be against Brazil, if we play them next for example. Even for the good teams, recognize that this is very high level and one can’t always unlock the other team in the manner they’re used to. Last night, France was hardly allowed to play their game by a pesky Romanian team, which pressed every ball and player, and Russia played similarly tonight, frustrating England, and I think peskiness will become a theme in these Euros.

      You’re favoring a sort of hard-headedness that may win some games but will lose a lot of others. This sport is constantly evolving not to mention that, historically, we can talk about major tournaments as tactical milestones. The best teams come out and try to impose a certain will on the game, maybe a way of playing that nobody has seen before, surprising the others. And if the others don’t adapt they’re out.

    • Normally yes, but this isn’t a really good Brazil team. They very easily could have lost to Ecuador since the linesman blew a call that disallowed a goal. I’m not saying we’ll beat them, but I think we will have a decent chance.

  2. Paraguay is known for playing conservative,and using the counter, much like he US does(and still does, but to a lesser extent) Having these two teams play that way will lead to a boring game and head to a draw, although a draw will do no good for Paraguay.

    I think the US will come of aggressive, and use the 433 but will need to defend aggressively .

    Sunil Gulati recently said that (in his off handed way) the USSF will evaluate it’s coaching agreement following this tournament. I might be Klinsmann’s swansong should the US exit at the group stage. He might stay on though, even if they lose in the quarters (likely opponent: Brazil) and if they get to the semi’s, as promised, most likely JK will stay til the WC.

    So this game has a lot more riding on it than most think.

    • I hope they come out looking to push the game, but I worry that they will come out thinking defense first, and that might slow us down. Our possession game looks good when people are moving quickly and with confidence, not cautiously worried about the counter.

  3. I think a lot depends on how they play the game. Do they sit back or attack? I think we should play a controlled attack, keeping the fullbacks in during the first half, trying to create through short passes and make them chase the ball if we can. I think they will probably be more tired and we can wear them down so by the 65th or 70th minute the game will open up and we can be more forceful in our attacks and throw more players forward.

  4. I love when the USA scores on the counter, and I love when the USA does a nice job of defending. Cha Ching!!! Is it not easier to control a game this way?

      • Bryan, it’s a rhetorical question. We know the answer is yes. Just ask Leicster city, or atletico Madrid, or Italy. It’s the reason LC can win the EPL, and so far, it looks like Southampton and their 4-3-3 proactive approach can’t.

  5. “Like I’ve said, we don’t have the character to now sit back and come and just hope for a counter break. This is not us.”
    WTF? Doe he even think before opening his mouth?

    • “we don’t have the character to now sit back and come and just hope for a counter break” this has been USA’s M.O. for years. We all know this is just talk. JK will play for the tie.

    • Pretty sure this is non-native speaker mistake. If he had phrased it as “It’s not in our character” instead of “We don’t have the character”, then it reads smoothly:

      Like I’ve said, it’s not in our character to now sit back and come and just hope for a counter break. This is not us.

      • i’d still disagree. although our pool has improved to the point that we don’t have to play bunker ball anymore, i think we’re still better playing on the counter than we are playing a measured possession-centered game.

        this “not in our character” stuff just sounds like some idealogical bullsh!t (and yes, i know he’s just talking). we should use the system that will best help us win, full stop.

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