HOUSTON, WE HAVE A SEMIFINALIST Dempsey leads USA to a 2-1 quarterfinal win over Ecuador in gutsy performance
Clint Dempsey was in the middle of all the vital attacking action for the USA once again in its 2-1 win over Ecuador in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
SEATTLE -- If the citizens of this Pacific Northwest City had any say, they probably would vote Seattle Sounders striker Clint Dempsey mayor by a landslide.
Heck, they might elect the rest of the U.S. national team to the city council.
Dempsey scored the first goal and helped set up Gyasi Zardes' tally as the USA held off Ecuador to register a 2-1 quarterfinal victory in Copa America Centenario at CenturyLink Field Thursday night.
The Americans will play the winner of the Argentina-Venezuela match in Houston Tuesday.
"Showed a lot of heart," Dempsey said. "Hopefully we'll keep going. We're in the semifinals of a major competition."
The victory came at a great cost for the Americans, who won't have midfielder Jermaine Jones (straight red card), Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya (both second yellow cards of the tournament) in the semis. Ecuador coach Gustavo Quinteros was asked to leave the field by referee Wilmar Roldán after reportedly uttering curse words to game officials in the 90th minute.
Despite that negative news, the USA put on a gutty performance, especially in the second half, after playing an excellent opening half.
Both teams had near misses in the early going before Dempsey put the Americans on the board in the 22nd minute in a loud and raucous atmosphere.
Bobby Wood, who was a headache down the right flank for the entire half, penetrated deep into the right side of the penalty area, cut back the ball to Jermaine Jones, who crossed it to Dempsey. The veteran forward jumped to head the ball from 10 yards into the upper right corner for a 1-0 advantage and his 52nd international goal in his 128th game for the USA.
Dempsey has scored in three successive matches -- all USA wins.
As the half wore on, the Americans got stronger and more confident as they started to create more dangerous chances.
Five minutes after he scored, Dempsey tried for a brace firing a shot that goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez saved.
Bedoya sent a left-footed effort toward the net in the 42nd minute, but Dominguez dove to make the save.
The scariest moment for the host side came in the 33rd minute when center back John Brooks landed on his right elbow and appeared to have issues with it. He finished out the half as team doctors examined it at halftime.
The South Americans' best opportunity came a minute into first-half stoppage. Michael Arroyo got a step on Brooks on the left flank and motored toward the net as keeper Brad Guzan made a save with his knee to keep Ecuador off the scoreboard.
Brooks, who was in pain, started the second half, but the second half did not start well for the USA as it lost the influential Jermaine Jones to a red card for tapping the face of an Ecuador player after Antonio Valencia was awarded his second yellow card of the match.
That forced both teams to play the rest of the match with 10 men. That eventually gave Ecuador the advantage because there was more room on the field.
As it turned out, the USA struck first for a vital insurance goal in the 65th minute. After a series of quick, pin-point passes, Dempsey managed to shuffle a pass from left of the net to an unmarked Zardes, who tapped it home from close range and a 2-0 advantage.
Bedoya was awarded a yellow card in the 73rd minute.
The Americans needed that goal because Ecuador sliced the lead in half on Arroyo's goal in the 74th minute. The South American side took advantage of some open space on Walter Ayovi's free kick as Arroyo launched a hard, 22-yard shot into the lower left corner. The goal also ended the USA's Copa shutout streak at 302 minutes.
Ecuador continued to push forward, but the Americans continued to thwart their foes through four minutes of added time before the final whistle.