FROM ONE EXTREME TO THE OTHER Dempsey leads USA to 4-0 rout of Costa Rica to avoid elimination from Copa
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
CHICAGO -- The United States lived to play another day in another important Copa America Centenario match Tuesday night.
Clint Dempsey scored one goal and set up two others in the first half to spark the United States to a 4-0 Group A victory over Costa Rica at Soldier Field.
Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Graham Zusi also found the net for the Americans.
The hosts entered the match needing a result after a disappointing opening performance in the 2-0 defeat to Colombia Friday. A draw would have sufficed as a lifeline. Instead, they played their best half of soccer in a long time, surging to a 3-0 halftime advantage in a lively first half.
The victory boosted the USA (1-1-0, 3 points) into the group lead because it had more goals (4 to 2) at least until Colombia (1-0-0, 3) took on Paraguay (0-0-1, 1) at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. later Tuesday night.
A win over Paraguay in the final group stage match Philadelphia Saturday night would propel the Americans into the quarterfinals.
USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided to use the same Starting XI he deployed in the opener and as it turned out, he made the correct decision.
Los Ticos forced the early action as Joel Campbell fired a 17-yard shot wide right in the fifth minute, but it was the USA, looking much more confident, that drew first blood four minutes later.
While trying for a right-wing cross, Cristian Gamboa knocked down Wood in the penalty area as the Americans were awarded a spot kick.
A focused Dempsey stepped up and drilled a shot into the lower right corner while goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton dove the other way for his 50th career goal and a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute.
Dempsey became only the second USA player to reach that milestone, joining Landon Donovan, who is the Americans' all-time scoring lead with 57 goals.
The Costa Ricans did not look fazed at all by the goal as they continued to push forward, now trying to score the equalizer. Christian Bolanos took a shot that traveled right to goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the 15th minute.
The Americans did not take their feet off the pedal and further established their momentum later in the half.
In fact, Jones created his own goal in the 37th minute. Jones took the ball away from a Costa Rican player and found Dempsey in the middle. Dempsey ran toward the box, lost control for a second and managed to slid the ball to an unmarked Jones, who had tons of space on the left side to curl the ball into the lower right corner for a two-goal lead.
Wood wrote his name onto the scoresheet just before the half as Dempsey fed him at the top left of the penalty area. The forward turned and powered a left-footed shot from 17 yards past a diving Pemberton into the near post for a stunning 3-0 lead the USA took into the half.
The USA did not go full throttle in the second half as the Costa Ricans at times laid siege to its goal in its goal in the early stages.
Still, the Ticos could not find the range.
Ten minutes in, Celso Borges had a great opportunity but he sent his attempt over the crossbar.
Costa Rican captain Bryan Ruiz came as close as he could in the 68th minute as he headed a ball off the left post, but he was called for being offside.
Zusi, who came on for Alejandro Bedoya in the 83rd minute, put an exclamation point on the rout two minutes later as he beat Pemberton straight on some 16 yards away for a 4-0 lead.