Preview: USMNT, Paraguay Set For Winner-Take-All Match in Philly

USMNT Team

by Deny Gallagher

The United States and Paraguay square off on Saturday evening in the all-important final matchup of Group A. With everything on the line, the Americans need a result to go through to the next round.

At the moment, Paraguay sits in third place with one point and a minus one goal differential. On the reverse end of the fixture, the U.S. sits in second with three points and a plus two-goal differential. Barring a Costa Rica victory over Colombia, this matchup will more than likely determine who advances to the quarterfinal of the Copa America Centenario.

Know the Enemy: Paraguay

The South American side has not started off the Copa American Centenario as well as they would have liked, but will be relieved to know that they still have an opportunity to advance in the final match of group play.

After a hard fought 0-0 draw against Costa Rica, Paraguay conceded the first two goals in the second match against Colombia. Late in the second half, a Victor Ayala’s golazo opened the nation’s scoring account, but the side failed to find the equalizer.

Despite just scoring one goal in their first two matches, this side is incredibly dangerous if the U.S. lets its guard down. Paraguay’s defense is as experienced as they come. Team captain Paulo da Silva, who has 134 caps for Paraguay, anchors the Guaraníes defense. In addition, Miguel Samudio and Bruno Valdez of Club America join Iván Piris of Udinese in Serie A to round out the experienced defense.

On the attacking end, Dario Lezcano of Ingolstadt 04 and Édgar Benítez of Querétaro FC will lead the side from the striker position. Lezcano came on the scene for Paraguay in 2015 and has found the back of the net four times in eight appearances, but has yet to score at the Copa America Centenario. In 2016 he made the jump to Ingolstadt from Luzern, where he scored 31 goals in 100 appearances.

On the Home Front 

For the Americans, the message is simple — continue the current run of form.

Jurgen Klinsmann and company have found a formula that worked against Costa Rica by sticking with the 4-3-3, and shifting to a variation of the 4-4-2 as the match progressed. The dynamic attack allowed for Michael Bradley to play the number six position right in front of the American backline. This allowed for the likes of Jermaine Jones, DeAndre Yedlin, and Fabian Johnson to get forward in the attack because the U.S. was covered on defense. With the American attack going through Bradley, it will be crucial for the captain to be in top form against Paraguay.

Up front, it appears as if Clint Dempsey has found a role just beneath Bobby Wood that allows for him to distribute the ball with ease in the final third. On countless occasions against Costa Rica, it was a final pass from Dempsey that opened up Bobby Wood or the flank players to get into threatening areas. If the U.S. is going to have success against Paraguay, it will need similar movement and spacing to what it demonstrated on Tuesday against Costa Rica.

Projected XI

(4-3-3) GUZAN; YEDLIN, BROOKS, CAMERON, JOHNSON; BEDOYA, BRADLEY, JONES; ZARDES, DEMPSEY, WOOD