John Brooks makes a “big statement” in USMNT win

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER.

by JACK HAZZARD

United States center back John Brooks stood out as the star in Saturday’s 1-0 win against Paraguay.

An amazing one goal margin victory against Paraguay saw a 10-man United States Men’s National Team advance to Copa America’s knockout stage as Group A’s winner.

At the center of the defensive performance was Brooks.

“John Brooks, after a performance like this, I guess all of Europe is watching that. It’s a big statement what he did tonight,” USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “You are just impressed by the learning curve a young player goes through and you are impressed by that process. I mean, a year ago, a lot of people were very critical of him. I said he has to have those experience. He needs to make mistakes in order to grow.

“There is no growth without failure for nobody. He grew. Similar to Yedlin a year ago, to where he is now, Bobby Wood as well.”

The Hertha Berlin defender began his unforgettable performance with an amazing defensive play, stopping a three-on-one opportunity and preserving the U.S. clean sheet.  The 23-year-old continued his thrilling showing even when the U.S. went down to ten men. Following a reckless and unnecessary red card from right back DeAndre Yedlin, the United States had to regroup in the 48′ minute with a man down. With Yedlin out, Brook’s influence grew, winning every aerial duel and completing every tackle. In total, he earned 14 clearances on the night, keeping the U.S. in the match.

Following the match’s final whistle, Klinsmann had nothing but praise for his defender.

“It’s fun to see some players coming through now,” he said. “That performance from John was definitely something special but we have to keep him grounded, please.”

The praise for Brooks didn’t stop with Klinsmann. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan spoke highly of the defender, applauding the 23-year-old’s rocketing development.

“John and the amount of crosses he cut out, balls in the air, tackles, he was huge,” he said. “I don’t think its just his growth in the tournament. Its  his growth over the last 12 months playing week in and week out in Germany.

“He has been great for us. I think you guys are seeing what we see everyday in training.”

More gratitude poured out from teammates Gyasi Zardes and goal scorer Clint Dempsey as well.

“John Brooks had an amazing game,” Zardes said. “He saved us numerous times today. Obviously, he got man of the match. He deserved it.”

“Brooks was a tower out there, clearing everything,” Dempsey added.

If the U.S. want a chance at winning the Copa America, they’ll need more excellent performances out of their 23-year-old center back. The United States are set to play their first knockout match on June 16 at 9:30 PM EST in Seattle, Washington at CenturyLink Field.