The US national team reached the Copa America semifinals for just the second time thanks to a 2-1 victory over Ecuador that was both solid and extremely nervy near the end.
Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes did the business in attack, giving the red, white and blue boys enough cushion to withstand a furious Ecuador comeback attempt. At times, the home side made things a lot tougher on themselves than they had to be, but they kept following Dempsey's dogged example to the final whistle to earn advancement.
Brad Guzan (7.5) - The netminder came up with three saves, including a big stop near the break. Guzan also made a key cross claim as part of commanding his area.
Fabian Johnson (6.5) - Switched to right back, Johnson definitely had some trouble dealing with Jefferson Montero's dribbling work and crossing. However, he battled all game long, sticking a disruptive foot in on some important occasions. His influence moving forward was limited, but the 'Gladbach star ended up with four tackles among several defensive stops.
Geoff Cameron (6.5) - The Stoke City man was largely solid at the back and on the ball, but got away with a couple of large errors. Cameron was left to wipe his brow in relief after both an early muffed clearance and losing Enner Valencia on a 77th minute cross to the doorstep.
John Anthony Brooks (7.5) - Aside from a hair-raising own goal scare late in the game, Brooks was again the star-wearing marshal at the back for the US. The importance of the Hertha Berlin defender's shot block on Michael Arroyo near the half-hour cannot be over-estimated and he piled up eight area clearances.
Matt Besler (6.5) - Filling in at left back, the Sporting KC got plenty of help dealing with Antonio Valencia and made a couple of big step plays to keep Ecuador from invading his corner. However, he also was let off the hook after badly losing restart mark Enner Valencia shortly after the break. His grade rises above passing for the cross to Zardes that helped set up the winning goal play.
Michael Bradley (6) - It was a strange first half for the midfield general, who had to clean up for himself after making a particularly bad giveaway in the 17th minute. He was better in the second half, and especially down the stretch, but can certainly offer more over 90 minutes.
Jermaine Jones (5) - The Rapids troublemaker's grade is a tale of two halves: the full one and the short one. In the opening frame, he disrupted in the US end and worked possession in Ecuador's until serving a pinpoint cross for Dempsey to nod home the opener. However, Jones went for a highly foolish face slap to see red when Antonio Valencia momentarily handed the hosts a man advantage. The inexcusable lapse in judgment cost him two full points on this report card and his place for the semifinal.
Gyasi Zardes (7) - It took the Galaxy attacker a while to get into the game, in part because of a lack of touches. Zardes kept plugging away, however, and played two parts in the winning goal play. His header kept the ball alive for Dempsey, who eventually returned the favor with the pass Zardes tucked home. He also added a few important help plays on the track-back.
Alejandro Bedoya (6) - The Nantes attacker will again draw some heat for squandering a couple of chances, but that does not tell the entire story of his performance. Bedoya repeatedly linked well in the build and set up a decent chance for Dempsey. He gets docked slightly for picking up the yellow card that will keep him out of the semifinal.
Clint Dempsey (8) - Unsurprisingly, the man they call "Deuce" stepped up in the big game. Dempsey's firm but accurate header opened the scoring and his tenacity on the ball set up Zardes for the decider. He also could have earned an assist for the slip pass near halftime that saw Bedoya's effort saved.
Bobby Wood (7) - Even though he didn't make the score sheet, Wood was always stretching and pulling apart the Ecuador defense with runs across the final third. He also traveled a long way back to pitch in with a couple of important defensive stops in the second half.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (7) - This is a tricky one, as the excellent result might overshadow that the team got away with some things in gaining it. Some of these do not fall on the boss, but his odd refusal to replace the ejected Jones with another midfielder really allowed the visitors to take control and build rally steam. Were it not for a couple of woefully missed Enner Valencia chances, the USMNT could have easily entered the final stage of the match in a tense deadlock with added open space for Ecuador's shifty attackers, or even behind.
Still, Klinsmann has done what he set out to do, guiding the team to the final four. This Ecuador win was the toughest of the bunch so far and he deserves some credit.
Kyle Beckerman (6.5) - The Real Salt Lake bulldog pitched in with three area clearances, including an important intervention 12 minutes from time.
Graham Zusi (6.5) - The Sporting KC ace came on to make four defensive stops in nine minutes to help the team drain the clock.
Steve Birnbaum (-) - Only on for less than a minute.