SEATTLE – The US national team couldn’t ask for much friendlier confines for their Copa America Centenario quarterfinal matchup with Ecuador on Thursday (9:30 pm ET; FS1, UniMás, UDN).
With Costa Rica’s surprising 3-2 group stage win over Colombia on Saturday, the USMNT’s quarterfinal destination was changed from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey to Seattle’s CenturyLink Field – a venue that perennially dominates MLS attendance numbers in a city widely considered one of the top soccer markets in the country.
It was a twist of fate that US coach Jurgen Klinsmann says could very well give his side a tangible boost as they gear up for Thursday’s massive quarterfinal fixture.
“To play this game in front of Seattle is huge for us,” Klinsmann told reporters at his team’s Tuesday training session at Seattle University. “It’s a 50-50 game. Every little small piece can make the difference. It’s huge for us to know that we have the crowd behind us and have a crowd that understands that.”
USMNT and Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey knows firsthand about the advantages a CenturyLink crowd can provide. He echoed Klinsmann, noting that he expects the buzz on Thursday to exceed what it might have been in another location.
“I expect a packed stadium and a passionate crowd. That’s what we get week in, week out here,” Dempsey said. “It’s awesome being able to play here with 40,000-plus fans every home game. It’s top 20 in the world. I love playing here and it’s definitely a good soccer culture.”
Thursday will mark Seattle’s first time hosting a competitive match featuring the USMNT since a 2-0 World Cup qualifier victory over Panama in 2013. Crediting Seattle with a lead role in facilitating the growth of the sport in the US since then, Klinsmann hopes Thursday’s crowd can amplify his side’s home-field advantage against Ecuador.
“In the last years you’ve seen the interest in soccer is just growing and getting bigger and bigger,” Klinsmann said. “Seattle is kind of leading that whole development. It’s a place where we know the fans are going to be 1,000 percent behind us and going to push us.”