USA’s Brooks produces as stakes get higher

USA's John Brooks (blue jersey) holds off a Paraguayan during a Copa America Centenario match on June 11, 2016, in Philadelphia. (Photo: Mexsport)

PHILADELPHIA -- John Brooks could not have timed it any better, playing his most complete game for the United States on Saturday night.

The center back was here, there and seemingly everywhere in the Americans' 1-0 win over Paraguay at Lincoln Financial Field, which sealed a spot in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals.

The victory – plus Costa Rica's 3-2 triumph over Colombia – gave the tournament host the Group A crown. It will play a Group B team -- either Brazil, Ecuador or Peru -- in Seattle on Thursday night for a place in the final four.

The 23-year-old Brooks earned man of the match honors thanks to his intelligent play, vision and a physical presence that kept the South Americans at bay.

"John Brooks, a performance like this, all of Europe is watching that," U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann stated. "This is a big statement that he did tonight."

Brooks made his most memorable statement in the 11th minute. With Paraguay on a 3-on-1 break, he swooped in and tackled the ball away from Miguel Almiron, before he could shoot from point-blank range on the left side of the penalty area.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who recorded his second straight shutout, was so grateful that he congratulated Brooks for his head's up play.

The Hertha Berlin defender's performance was marked the by the consistency the U.S. was hoping he’d demonstrate on a regular basis. Paired with veteran Geoff Cameron in the middle of the backline, the 6-foot-4 Brooks has gained more confidence during Copa.

"You're impressed with the learning curve what a young player goes through," remarked Klinsmann. "You're just happy for him for that process. A year ago a lot of people were very critical of him."

Brooks has learned from his mistakes.

"He has to have those experiences," Klinsmann finished. "He needs to kind of make mistakes in order to grow. There's no growth without failures. Nobody does. He just grew.

"That performance by John was definitely something special, but can we keep him grounded please?"

The U.S. will travel across the country for its next Copa match, it will be awhile before Brooks’ feet actually touch the ground.