Don’t for a moment think a soccer star at the National Team level is made overnight.
Even if you happen to play one of the best games of your international career in one of the team’s most important matches in years – essentially a knock-out game in one of the world’s biggest tournaments – all the while helping to marshal a team playing a man down for the final 42 minutes (plus six minutes of stoppage time) in a situation where allowing even one goal could be catastrophic.
That said, in a sense one match, even one play, can serve as transformative visual evidence that the countless hours of training and games that came before have helped mold a young player into what everyone hoped he would become.
John Brooks had just that transformative match in the Copa America Centenario Group A finale on June 11 against Paraguay. In front of more than 50,000 fans at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Brooks had, in every positive sense of the word, a “monster” game. He earned Budweiser Man of the Match honors for the second time in three games – an honor that is not afforded to a defender very often.
For the fans dressed in red, white and blue, every big play was met with massive cheers, and for those in the white and red vertical striped jerseys, a groan that equated to, “not that guy again!”
All those fans saw him do what a great center back does:
- Along with fellow center back Geoff Cameron, who is also having a tremendous tournament, make the center of the back line pretty much impenetrable.
- Along with Cameron, organize the USA’s defensive shape with voice and movement, a task that became more difficult when DeAndre Yedlin was sent off.
- Establish a physical presence and set a tone for dominance, and at 6-foot-4 and 172 pounds, he has the physical attributes to do just that.
- Win every single header that came his way.
- Stay locked in even when chaos ensues inside the penalty area, which it inevitably does.
- Make timely tackles and clearances that fly far from danger.
- Recover to nullify chances if there is a defensive breakdown, with no better example of this coming in the 11th minute when he found himself as the “1” in a three-on-one Paraguay break, and showed tremendous athleticism to run down Miguel Almirón and slide to block his close-range shot, keeping the match level at 0-0.
- Keep the ball, connect passes (to the tune of a 93 percent completion rate) and help establish the USA’s attacking rhythm.
USA center back John Brooks makes the imperative tackle to deny Paraguay's Miguel Almiron the chance to gain Paraguay an early lead in the teams' Copa America group finale.
Of course, he did not hold the clever Paraguayans, who were playing for their tournament lives, at bay on his own. It was a phenomenal team win for the Americans who showed grit and determination and did not buckle after Yedlin’s ejection. Clint Dempsey, who as head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said post-game, “did what Clint does,” bagged the 51st goal of his international career in the 27th minute.
The victory, combined with Costa Rica’s surprising 3-2 victory against Colombia, gave the USA the Group A title and a trip to Seattle for the Copa America Quarterfinal on June 16.
As every coach knows, having a solid defense and goalkeeper – Brad Guzan was stellar in the U.S. net and has yet to give up a goal from the run of play in this tournament – will keep you in almost every match. After the game, Klinsmann was extremely pleased with the play of the 23-year-old Brooks.
"I think John Brooks, with a performance like this, I guess all of Europe is watching that," Klinsmann said following the match. "This is a big statement what he did tonight."
Brooks was one of the youngest players on the 2014 World Cup team and of course famously scored one of the most important goals in U.S. history on a towering header in the 86th minute of the USA’s opener against Ghana, which proved to be the game-winner in the 2-1 victory. It was just his fifth cap – he’s now earned a total of 24 – and while he would not play again in the World Cup, his play in the Centenario has shown once again that his roster spot in Brazil was an excellent investment in the future of the U.S. program.
“Everybody was ready to battle for the ball and give everything,” said Brooks. “We did an outstanding job blocking crosses and clearing balls played into the box.”
It’s been an exciting year for Brooks. After some struggles with consistency early in his club career – certainly not uncommon for young players playing in one of the world’s top leagues – he had an excellent year for Hertha Berlin, playing in 23 matches as his hometown club finished in a highly respectable seventh place, just five points out of fourth. In the summer of 2016, Brooks seems to be coming into his own for both club and country.
But for Brooks, it’s the short-term goals that make the long-term ones possible.
“We showed a great mentality,” he said. “Everybody was hungry for second balls, for tackles. We can be very proud. Between the first game and now you see everyone stepping up and the confidence growing.”Read more
PHILADELPHIA (June 11, 2016) – The U.S. Men’s National Team scored early through Clint Dempsey and held on late after DeAndre Yedlin was sent off to defeat Paraguay 1-0 in front of a raucous crowd of 51,041 at Lincoln Financial Field. Following Costa Rica's 3-2 win against Colombia, the U.S. also clinched first place in the group and will return to action against a to-be-determined Group B team on Thursday, June 16 in Seattle for a Quarterfinal match-up.
After John Brooks made a brilliant defensive play in the opening stanza to deny Paraguay a clear cut shot at goal, the USA settled into the match and began to take control. Near the half-hour mark, Gyasi Zardes fed Dempsey for what proved to be the game winner.
In the second half the U.S. team pulled together to record its second consecutive clean sheet in tournament play after Yedlin was ejected two minutes after the break for two bookable offenses in less than two minutes.
The USA (2-1-0, 6pts) is now guaranteed of advancing to the knockout stage and temporarily moves atop Group A based on goal differential. The U.S. would retain that position should Colombia (2-0-0, 6pts) lose to Costa Rica (0-1-1, 1pt) by five or fewer goals in the day’s late game. Paraguay (0-2-1, 1pt) drops to the bottom of the group standings pending the result of the Colombia-Costa Rica match.
Goal Scoring Rundown:
USA – Clint Dempsey (Gyasi Zardes), 27th minute: Michael Bradley collected a pass at the midfield stripe and played the ball out to Zardes on the left wing. Zardes took on two Paraguay defenders and worked his way to the end line inside the Paraguay box before centering the ball on the ground. Dempsey made a late run to the penalty spot and met Zardes’ cross to snap a one-time, left foot shot beneath a defender and diving Paraguay ‘keeper Justo Villar to record the game-winner. USA 1, PAR 0 FINAL
Key Saves and Defensive Stops:
USA – John Brooks, 11th minute: With the USA pushed high into an attack, Paraguay won the ball near midfield and transitioned quickly into a three-on-one break with only U.S. center back John Brooks in position to defend. As the three attackers broke in on the U.S. goal, Brooks ably kept his body between the ball and the U.S. goal before turning and sliding in to deny Miguel Almiron a point-blank shot at goal.
PAR – Justo Villar, 62nd minute: The USA disrupted and then countered a Paraguay possession with a three-on-two break led by Bobby Wood, who drove down the middle of the field to the top of the Paraguay box, drawing the defenders to him before playing in Gyasi Zardes on the left. With only the goalkeeper to beat, Zardes took a touch and tried to get off a quick shot, but Justo Villar got down quick to smother the chance.
USA – Brad Guzan, 82nd minute: Paraguay carved out its best chance of the second half by breaking in through the USA’s left flank. Jorge Benitez scrambled the ball past a Michael Bradley challenge to get off a close range shot on the U.S. goal from the left corner of the six-yard box, but Guzan charged out to cut down the angle and make a kick save. The U.S. ‘keeper then recovered well to deny the follow-up attempt that was put on frame by Miguel Almiron after he collected the initial rebound.
Next on the Schedule: The U.S. MNT continues its 2016 Copa America Centenario in the Quarterfinals on June 16 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle against a yet-to-be determined opponent from Group B that could be any of Brazil, Peru or Ecuador.
- Clint Dempsey scored his 51st goal in his 127th cap for the USA. He is now, only six behind all-time U.S. leader Landon Donovan and has scored the winning goal in each of the USA’s last two games.
- Tonight’s win improves the USA’s all-time record vs. Paraguay to 3-2-2.
- Tonight’s lineup featured an unchanged starting XI from the USA’s opening two games against Colombia and Costa Rica.
- Brad Guzan earned the 17th shutout of his international career. He and the U.S. defense have now posted 228 consecutive scoreless minutes in the 2016 Copa America.
- Michael Bradley and Gyasi Zardes have both played in nine of 10 MNT games in 2016, tied for the team lead.
- Due to his ejection, DeAndre Yedlin will miss the team’s quarterfinal match; however, he will be the only U.S. player unavailable for the next match due to card accumulation.
- U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report –
Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Paraguay
Date: June 11, 2016
Competition: 2016 Copa America Centenario - Group A
Venue: Lincoln Financial Field; Philadelphia, Pa.
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Weather: 88 degrees, cloudy
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 0 1
PAR 0 0 0
USA – Clint Dempsey (Gyasi Zardes) 27th minute
USA: 1-Brad Guzan; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 20-Geoff Cameron, 6-John Brooks, 23-Fabian Johnson; 11-Alejandro Bedoya (19-Graham Zusi, 75), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 13-Jermaine Jones; 9-Gyasi Zardes, 8-Clint Dempsey (14-Michael Orozco, 50), 7-Bobby Wood (15-Kyle Beckerman, 83)
Subs not used: 3-Steve Birnbaum, 5-Matt Besler, 10-Darlington Nagbe, 12-Tim Howard, 16-Perry Kitchen, 17-Christian Pulisic, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 21-Edgar Castillo, 22-Ethan Horvath
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
PAR: 1-Justo Villar; 14-Paulo Da Silva, 3-Gustavo Gomez, 2-Fabian Balbuena (15-Juan Iturbe, 46), 6-Miguel Samudio; 10-Derlis Gonzalez, 20-Victor Ayala, 16-Celso Ortiz (8-Rodrigo Rojas, 55); 17- Miguel Almiron; 9-Antonio Sanabria (7-Jorge Benitez, 63), 19-Dario Lezcano
Subs not used: 4-Ivan Piris, 5-Bruno Valdez, 11-Edgar Benitez, 12-Antony Silva, 13-Blas Riveros, 18-Nelson Haedo Valdez, 22-Diego Barreto, 23-Robert Piris Da Motta
Head Coach: Ramon Diaz
Stats Summary: USA / PAR
Shots: 5 / 9
Shots on Goal: 3 / 7
Saves: 7 / 2
Corner Kicks: 3 / 8
Fouls: 20 / 15
Offside: 1 / 2
PAR - Celso Ortiz (caution) 13th minute
USA - DeAndre Yedlin (caution) 47
USA - DeAndre Yedlin (caution) 48
USA - DeAndre Yedlin (ejection) 48
PAR - Rodrigo Rojas (caution) 71
USA - Bobby Wood (caution) 72
PAR - Victor Ayala (caution) 78
USA - Michael Orozco (caution) 79
USA - Jermaine Jones (caution) 87
Referee: Julio Bascunan (CHI)
Assistant Referee 1: Carlos Astroza (CHI)
Assistant Referee 2: Christian Schliemann (CHI)
4th Official: John Pitti (PAN)
Budweiser Man of the Match: John Brooks