U.S. targets knockout as Copa group stage nears end

Graham Zusi (pictured) celebrates after scoring in the USA's Copa America Centenario win over Costa Rica on June 7, 2016, in Chicago. (Photo: Mexsport) 

PHILADELPHIA -- On the official Copa America Centenario schedule, it is the final Group A match for the United States and Paraguay.

U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann sees Saturday's encounter at Lincoln Financial Field as much more than that.

"This is already a knockout game," he said Thursday.

Simply put, the USA (1W-0D-1L, 3 points) will progress to the quarterfinals with a win against the Paraguayans (0-1-1, 1). If the match ends in a draw, advancement hopes would hinge on the result of the match between Colombia (2-0-0, 6) and Costa Rica (0-1-1, 1) later in the evening. A loss would eliminate the five-time CONCACAF Gold Cup champion.

"We are not playing for one point. We cannot do that," Klinsmann commented. "It is not our character to go for one. We got for the win or otherwise we might punish ourselves there.

"So, it’s a one-off. It's our goal to go through Saturday and then play the next one-off and then learn how to win those one-off games to mature in our own way towards a World Cup, where we want to go further."

In both the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, the USA was eliminated in the Round of 16.

Klinsmann expects Paraguay to throw everything at his side, especially since it can only move on with a win.

"This is a very unpredictable team," remarked the 51-year-old. "This is a team that has individual players that can hurt you in a split second."

As an example, he used Colombia's 2-1 win over Paraguay on Tuesday, when Victor Ayala halved the winner's lead in the 71st minute.

"Colombia's experienced," Klinsmann explained. "They thought the job was almost done and vroom, they score that one goal. If they don't go down to 10 men, they were right on the verge to equalize. They're fearless. That's their nature. But I think we're very well prepared and we are definitely capable of beating them."

The record in six all-time games between them is even at 2-2-2, but Paraguay has won the last two meetings, albeit each more than five years ago: 1-0 on March 29, 2011, and 3-1 in the 2007 Copa America.