With three goals, the USA's Clint Dempsey (pictured) is the joint-top scorer in the Copa America Centenario. (Photo: Mexsport)
SEATTLE, Washington -- At an age where many forwards are on the downward side of their careers, Clint Dempsey continues to soar to new heights.
The 33-year-old striker wrote yet another chapter in his storied international career as he was the centerpiece of both United States' goals in its 2-1 victory over Ecuador in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals on Thursday night.
To make it sweeter, Dempsey accomplished that feat in the same stadium -- CenturyLink Field -- where he has starred for the Seattle Sounders.
His 22nd minute header gave the host a 1-0 lead and then he set up what proved to be Gysai Zardes’ game-winner as the Americans reached the Copa America semifinals for only the second time, duplicating their 1995 accomplishment in Uruguay.
"It's always a great to do it when you're at home," Dempsey said. "It's always great to do it for the states. It's what you dream about as a kid, so I'm blessed."
The USA will face the winner of Saturday's quarterfinal between Argentina and Venezuela on Tuesday in Houston. The Americans' objective is to play in the final in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on June 26.
"We're going to keep wishing,” remarked Dempsey, who was the top scorer in last year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup with seven goals. "We're going to give it everything we can. We're trying to get to the final, We're trying to win it.
"You don't have a lot of opportunities in major competitions to go all the way, so that's what we're trying to do."
Dempsey has notched 52 goals -- second only to team record-holder Landon Donovan’s 57 -- in 128 international appearances. He has netted in three consecutive Copa matches -- all wins.
"Clint is special and he showed that tonight. He showed it the last couple weeks. He showed it his entire career," commented U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. "He was right there where he should be. This performance tonight from him was unbelievable."
Ahead 2-0, the Americans’ shutout streak was snapped at 302 minutes, when Ecuador halved the deficit in the 74th minute through Michael Arroyo. In the immediate aftermath, the U.S. dodged a series of bullets, but held on to record another impressive result.
After losing the tournament opener to Colombia, Klinsmann’s side has grown, flashing a healthy level of confidence.
Dempsey is impressed by his teammates’ character and maturity.
"These last two games, they showed it," he concluded. "Showed a lot of heart, really."