US 1, Venezuela 0: Highlights and Quick Hits

The United States squeaked out a 1-0 win over Venezuela on Saturday night, thanks to Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Ricardo Clark’s 97th-minute header off a Jermaine Jones corner kick.

The two midfielders involved in the goal were the only non-MLS players in the U.S. lineup, which featured four players making their international debuts, and eight guys with fewer than 10 caps.

Venezuela, which is currently tied for first in COMNEBOL World Cup qualifying, also sent a second-choice squad, and the U.S. B team clearly dominated the game, creating multiple chances while giving up very few. The Americans’ 21-year-old keeper, Bill Hamid, was hardly tested in his international debut, while his counterpart, Jose Morales, was arguably the man of the match.


Four quick hits:

• As Bob Bradley noted late in his term as U.S. coach, Chris Wondolowski always gets in good spots. He hasn’t finished one yet, but he’s had several golden opportunities in his U.S. appearances, most of them due to his own wiles in the box. Against Venezuela he flashed a header just wide, had one brilliantly saved off the line by Morales, and did well to create a volley for himself, which Morales also stopped. Look for him to break his duck on Wednesday night against Panama, and redeem his missed sitter against Los Canaleros in last summer’s Gold Cup.

Geoff Cameron could stick at centerback. As many observers pointed out before the game, Cameron’s combination of athleticism, size and skill on the ball seemed a good fit for Jurgen Klinsmann’s system, which calls for a central defender who can pass out of the back with skill and confidence. All of the Houston Dynamo man’s qualities were on display against Venezuela, and he looked like an experienced international, not a man picking up his first U.S. start and second cap.

Jermaine Jones is not all he was cracked up to be. In the long wait for German-American Jones to complete both his U.S.-eligibility paperwork and his recovery from a long-term leg injury, American fanatics were already penciling him into the starting XI, essentially sight unseen. Now that he’s made 15 appearances for the U.S., our reaction is … eh. Against Venezuela, he actually had one of his better games, yet to us, he’s full of energy but light on purpose and skill. He’s also a hothead, as his current eight-game suspension from the Bundesliga attests. He stomped on an opponent’s leg in Germany, and Saturday night, after getting the captain’s armband from Klinsmann (odd decision, that), he looked determined to hurt someone out there.

•  Brek Shea needs to translate his flashes into flourishes. The rangy 21-year-old winger had a breakout season in 2011, contending for the MLS MVP award and establishing himself on the national team. On Saturday, he squandered a great chance after being sent in beautifully by Benny Feilhaber, and had a header well saved by Morales. We’ll know he’s at the next level when those chances start going in.

That “Beep! Beep!” You’re Hearing is Paraguay Backing Into the Copa America Final

Despite not winning a game in regulation or extra time during the entire tournament, and being outplayed last night, Paraguay advanced to the final of the Copa America with a penalty-shootout win over Venezuela after the teams played to a scoreless draw.

Venezuela had a goal called back when a shot bound for the back of the net deflected off a player in an offside position, and they hit the woodwork three times. In the end, though, one missed penalty cost them a trip to the final to face Uruguay, 2-0 winners over Peru in Tuesday’s semifinal.

Here are the highlights (and enjoy how the commentary switches from Spanish to English midway through):

While Paraguay’s trip to Sunday’s final may have been dubiously earned, there is of course, a silver lining.

We don’t need to remind you, do we? Okay, okay twist our arms:

Venezuela Stuns Paraguay with Stoppage-Time Comeback, Endangers Dream of Larissa Riquelme, World

Venezuela, wearing their Colorado Rapids–style uniforms, staged a shocking two-goal comeback in the dying moments to tie Paraguay 3-3 in the Copa America last night.

Nicolas Fedor scored in the 90th minute to make it 3-2, and three minutes later, Grenddy Perozo bagged the dramatic equalizer.

Here are the highlights (note the audacious piece of skill that opens the clip):

The result bounced bounced Paraguay from second to third place in the group, but not out of the tournament. Yet.

The third-place finish lands La Albirroj in a quarterfinal meeting with defending champions Brazil. That matchup, of course, all but amounts to elimination and will most likely defer, yet again, the dream of Paraguayan supporter Larissa Riquelme.

You may remember Ms. Riquelme from last summer’s World Cup.

Here she is:

And here she is again:

As she did in South Africa, Riquelme has made a pledge concerning her beloved Paraguay:

“If Paraguay wins the Copa America, I’ll pose naked right there on the field” of Santa Fe’s Brigadier Stadium, she said, according to news agency AFP.

Alas, barring a monumental upset on Sunday (2:55 p.m. ET, Univision), Riquelme will once again be denied the chance to fulfill her pledge.

We trust she’ll keep trying in future tournaments.

Here are the other quarterfinal matchups:

Colombia vs. Peru, 2:55 p.m. ET, Univision
Argentina vs. Uruguay, 6:00 p.m. ET, Univision

Chile vs. Venezuela, 6:00 p.m. ET, Univision