The USA had to work for it but it paid off in the end as they beat Paraguay 1-0 to secure passage to the next round of the Copa America Centenario.
They had to sweat for it. Particularly after DeAndre Yedlin’s red card—he was idiotically booked twice in the space of a minute early in the second half.
Jurgen Klinsmann insisted his men had to go out there and ‘rock it’ and while this was anything but an emphatic victory, it was a deserved triumph against adversity, even if it was adversity of their own creation.
The USA coach refused to make any changes, meaning he picked the same team for all three group games. It was what was expected; he kept faith in his men after a poor showing in their 2-0 defeat by Colombia and they paid him back with a 4-0 win over Costa Rica, and then this clash.
Despite progression being on the line for both teams, it had been a relatively quiet opening period, with Clint Dempsey’s strike eventually kicking the game into a higher gear.
Before the former Fulham and Tottenham man found the net the only clear chance had been created by Paraguay, when Miguel Almiron raced through on goal with the ball, and two team-mates in support.
Only John Brooks stood between him and Brad Guzan’s goal, but the centre-back made a brilliant tackle to shut down an attack which should have produced the game’s first goal.
That came when Jermaine Jones fed Gyasi Zardes down the left, who zipped past Paulo da Silva and fired in a low cross, which Dempsey drilled home to widespread delight in Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field.
It should have been an easier night from there on out for Klinsmann and his men, but the game soon became complicated.
Guzan made a superb save after Dario Lezcano reached Antonio Sanabria’s fine through-ball, he drifted in towards goal but his effort was saved by the onrushing goalkeeper.