The US national team is on the verge of qualifying for the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals. All that’s left to do: Take care of business against Paraguay.
The US will clinch a berth in the knockout rounds with a win on Saturday against Paraguay. They’ll more than likely advance with a draw, as well. Paraguay’s hopes are a bit bleaker. They need a win against the US and a Colombia win/draw against Costa Rica to go through to the next round.
Here are three things we’re looking at in advance of Saturday’s match:
Can the US Clinch?
As mentioned above, the US will qualify for the quarters with a win on Saturday. A victory coupled with a Colombia loss against Costa Rica would give the US the Group A title.
There are also several scenarios that would see the Americans advance with a draw on Saturday. They’d finish alone in second-place with a draw and a Colombia win/draw against Costa Rica. They could even advance with a Colombia loss, provided Costa Rica doesn’t make up six goals on the US in goal difference.
A US loss, on the other hand, would spell doom. Paraguay would vault ahead of the US with a win, eliminating the Americans from the tournament. I’m sure we’d all handle that well.
Continuity for Klinsmann?
Jurgen Klinsmann, man of many surprises, dealt us all a big one on Tuesday, when he started the same lineup in back-to-back matches for the first time since the 2014 World Cup. Widely panned before the game, the continuity paid off pretty well, with the US looking solid in the 4-0 win against Costa Rica.
Perhaps the main beneficiary of the stable starting XI was the back four. They mostly held firm in the face of some serious Costa Rica pressure in the early going, then put the shackles on after Klinsmann switched from a 4-3-3 to a two-forward setup about halfway through the first-half. They really locked up Joel Campbell, severely limiting the Arsenal forward before he was subbed off at halftime.
We’ll see if we see the quartet of DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson start again on Saturday. Another game together would only add to their developing understanding with each other, something they’ll need if the US does reach the Knockout Rounds.
No Rest for the Weary
The downside of that lineup continuity? Potentially tired legs for some of the USMNT’s more senior players.
Jermaine Jones, 34, has played every minute at the Copa America, and will likely be needed for the full 90 again on Saturday. Clint Dempsey, 33, got a bit of a blow towards the end of Tuesday’s match, but he’ll be on his third game (in three different time zones) in eight days on Saturday, too. That’s a tough ask for any player, let alone one with Dempsey’s mileage.
Klinsmann said earlier this week that he expects both Jones and Dempsey to be able to push through any fatigue on Saturday. Still, it’s something to keep an eye on, especially if the US make it through to the quarterfinals.