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I am pleased to say that the United States heavily surpassed my expectations against Costa Rica on Tuesday. However, their 4-0 demolition wasn’t good enough to secure them safe passage to the knockout rounds. On the other side, Paraguay fell 2-1 to Colombia, but still have a fighting chance to secure the second spot in the group. For the U.S., anything but a win leaves their fate up to the result of the Colombia/Costa Rica match. For Paraguay, a win still isn’t good enough to get them out of the group if Costa Rica find a way to beat Colombia. In this must-win match, can the hosts steal a second victory?

Starting off with Paraguay, goals have come few and far between. Through their opening two matches, Ramón Díaz’s squad have scored just once and registered only five shots on target (four of those coming against Colombia). To make matters worse, one of their starting attackers will miss through suspension. Óscar Romero earned two yellow cards within a span of two minutes against Colombia and will now have to sit out his nation’s most important game of the tournament. Granted, the 23-year-old winger/striker hadn’t really been too lively for Paraguay, but I’m sure Díaz would have appreciated having a full squad to choose from for this fixture. Without Romero in the starting lineup, look for last match’s goal scorer, Víctor Ayala to step into the squad. How will this re-adjusted attack fair against the United States?

Both of Colombia’s goals against Paraguay came from defensive slip-ups. Poor marking on a corner kick gave Carlos Bacca an almost free header from the center of the box for the first goal. The second goal came after a comedy of errors from Paraguay’s backline as they failed to clear the ball several times and James Rodriguez eventually hammered home into the side netting. Going up against a revitalized U.S. attack, similar errors will almost certainly get punished on Saturday. Their most capped player, Paulo da Silva, will need to give a composed performance from the back and make sure that his compatriots don’t crumble under the pressure.

Now turning to the U.S., I don’t think anyone was ready for them to put four past Costa Rica last match. Credit to Jürgen Klinsmann for ignoring his critics (myself included on that list) and sticking with the same starting 11 that fell against Colombia. The most impressive player of that bunch had to be Jermaine Jones. At 34, I thought that Jones was past his prime and past the time where he could contribute on an international level. Against Costa Rica, Jones got on the score sheet and was unlucky not to add a couple assists to his name as well. Two years ago in Brazil, we saw Jones play hero, scoring a golazo against Portugal in the group stage, and he has a chance to play hero again on Saturday. Can he replicate his inspired performance?

Another player that stood out was veteran striker Clint Dempsey. After the Colombia match, several commentators were talking about how it was time for the Texan to step out of the starting lineup, and boy, did he respond. First, he slotted home the opening goal of the match from the spot after a nifty little stutter step. Then he danced his way past several defenders before laying it off to Jones for the second goal. The spot kick was Dempsey’s 50th goal for the national team. If there’s one thing that you can never question about Dempsey when he’s on the pitch for the national team, it’s his effort. Just look at his battered face, and you’ll see the effort he puts in whenever he suits up in the Stars and Stripes. Look for another gritty performance on Saturday.

I’m hesitant to put my faith in Jürgen Klinsmann and the national team, but it’s time to be patriotic. They couldn’t ask for better form going into this vital match, and hopefully that carries them into the knockout rounds. Go! Go! USA. Final score USA 2-1 Paraguay


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