PHILADELPHIA—The look on DeAndre Yedlin’s face said it all: Dismissal. Disbelief. Dismay.
With the US national team holding holding a 1-0 lead against Paraguay, a scoreline that would eventually send them to the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario, Yedlin had steamed into consecutive challenges to start the second half. The result was back-to-back yellow cards and an inevitable red that meant the US would be forced to close out a make-or-break match with 10 men.
On the sideline, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann threw up his hands in frustration, both with the referee and his 22-year-old left back. After the game, Klinsmann said he’d initially felt the first tackle, a full-blooded challenge near midfield following a turnover, had been judged harshly. A closer look after the match confirmed the referee’s decision.
“The first reaction is inexperience,” Klinsmann said. “He got emotional.”
Yedlin was visibly upset by the first caution. He appeared to get the ball with his left foot, but felled Miguel Almiron with the force of the tackle and a trailing leg. Referee Julio Bascuñan didn’t hesitate to show yellow, and Yedlin immediately expressed his disagreement and pulled at his shorts in frustration. The second yellow and subsequent ejection came on the very next play, when he cleared out Miguel Samudio from behind on the sideline near midfield.
“He makes the first tackle because he has to make that recovery run. I was not sure about the first one; I thought the first one he played the ball,” Klinsmann said. “Seeing it [later], it was a foul. You can give that yellow. Then he just lost his head for a second. This is why you are young. You’ve got to give him that benefit of the doubt. You’ve got to give him that credit. He will learn from that mistake. Just cool down for a couple minutes and find your path in the game again.”
“It was difficult situation,” said Clint Dempsey, who was replaced by Michael Orozco in the wake of the ejection in order to bolster the US backline. “The first one I didn’t think was a foul. The second one was, but the first one I thought DeAndre got the ball. Any time you go a man down it’s always difficult but, man, I’m happy we responded.”
Indeed, the US buckled down and made life difficult for Paraguay, closing out a 1-0 win that saw them seal a place in the quarterfinals and, following Costa Rica’s surprising win against Colombia in the nightcap, win Group A to set up a match against the runner-up from Group B – one of Brazil, Peru or Ecuador – in Seattle.
By virtue of the red card, Yedlin will be suspended for that game. He did not speak to the media following the match. Alejandro Bedoya, John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Orozco are one caution away from a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation. Should they avoid a caution in the quarterfinals, their record will be cleared heading into the semifinals.
“I thought we didn’t get calls,” Wood said. “I thought the ref was making a lot of calls against us. But that’s how it is sometimes, and I’m just happy we got the result.”