Clint Dempsey, John Brooks lead U.S. into Copa America semifinals
It took every ounce of effort it could muster, and the team lost several players to suspensions in the process, but the United States managed to squeak by Ecuador 2-1 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle and earn its way into the Copa America Centenario semifinals.
Jurgen Klinsmann's gamble to start Matt Besler at left back worked, just barely. The Americans held on down the stretch under severe pressure from Ecuador and prevailed thanks to big nights from a number of players at both ends of the pitch.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Brad Guzan, 7.5 -- Made several important saves and got off his line quickly in the closing stages when the U.S. defense was being tested by Ecuador's direct balls.
DF Fabian Johnson, 7 -- Solid defensively in the face of the very difficult task of stopping Jefferson Montero. Got forward in a limited capacity and gave the attack a wide outlet.
DF Geoff Cameron, 7 -- Responsible for numerous crucial clearances, though there were a few obvious errors during his night. Bailed out on a missed clearance when Ecuador failed to take advantage.
DF John Brooks, 9 -- Another immense performance by a player who has now put in an entire tournament of them. Provided last-ditch defense over and over down the stretch of a game that threatened to get away from the U.S. Provided a few good balls forward as well.
DF Matt Besler, 6.5 -- Handled his unfamiliar role well enough, mostly in a stay-at-home capacity. Looked a little lost at times.
MF Alejandro Bedoya, 7 -- Excellent as a buffer on the left side of the field, covering for the inexperience and relative immobility of Besler. Made mistakes in the final third, and wasted one golden chance that might have made things easier for the U.S.
MF Michael Bradley, 7 -- "Quiet" in the sense that he didn't impact the game dramatically in the attacking end, but that doesn't mean his efforts weren't effective. Did good work in distribution minus a few turnovers.
MF Jermaine Jones, 5.5 -- Ruined an otherwise effective performance with a silly reaction that earned him a red card early in the second half. Defended well before his dismissal. Played the cross that Dempsey headed home for the opening goal.
FW Gyasi Zardes, 7 -- Scored what would ultimately prove to be the winning goal, in part because of his effort to win a cross in the air. Gave excellent two-way coverage on the flank. Had his usual frustrating moments but made up for them.
FW Clint Dempsey, 8.5 -- Did his thing as only he can do. Scored the U.S. opener with his head and set up the second American goal for Zardes. Refused to be eliminated as a factor and forced himself into the game.
FW Bobby Wood, 8 -- Instrumental to the American effort to get forward thanks to his willingness to run the channels and latch onto long balls. Directly responsible for starting the move that turned into the first American goal. Sullied his performance with a late yellow that will see him suspended for the semifinal.
MF Kyle Beckerman, NR -- A little to eager to lump the ball forward with the Americans under pressure in the last 15 minutes, but otherwise brought the type of bite and energy the team needed as a late substitute.
MF Graham Zusi, NR -- Made two massive recoveries in his limited time, and stretched out possession when desperately needed with long runs up the sideline.
DF Steve Birnbaum, NR -- Entered the game in the final few seconds.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.