USA players (pictured) celebrate after scoring against Costa Rica in the Copa America Centenario on June 7, 2016, in Chicago. (Photo: Mexsport)
PHILADELPHIA -- When the United States (1W-0D-1L, 3 points) steps onto the Lincoln Financial Field pitch for its Copa America Centenario match against Paraguay (0-1-1, 1) on Saturday night, managing the Group A finale well from start to finish is crucial to any quarterfinal hopes.
A win would boost the USA into the knockout round, while a draw with Paraguay would just about clinch a spot. Costa Rica (0-1-1, 1) would need to defeat table-topping Colombia (2-0-0, 6) by at least six goals in order to advance on a tiebreaker. For the second straight game, a loss would eliminate the Americans.
So, getting off to a good start is mandatory, especially if form holds. Prior to Friday's matches, teams scoring first have a 13-0-1 mark (there have been two 0-0 draws).
"You want to make sure you're starting on the right foot," said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. "You want to make sure you're not giving anything away in the first half hour."
The host has experienced both sides, surrendering the initial goal in a 2-0 opening defeat to Colombia and connecting for an early score in its 4-0 victory over Costa Rica on Tuesday.
"Teams of that caliber, when they score first, they know exactly how to defend. They know how to throw you off with a counter break," Klinsmann commented. "If you get into that situation, it's very difficult, which we experienced against Colombia. Break them down when they're two-nil up, it's a huge mountain in front of you."
If it is a close encounter, it would be the same in the final 30 minutes.
"You've got to pick and choose your times, when to attack and when to sit back," stressed defender DeAndre Yedlin. "If you're down 2-0 with 20 minutes left, you have to attack. If you're up or you're tied, maybe you sit back a little bit more and try to close out the game."
Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, who took a knock against Costa Rica, is fit for selection.
"The whole squad is ready, ready to rock it," Klinsmann concluded. "Everybody's fit and healthy."