PHILADELPHIA – The United States almost certainly needs merely a tie against Paraguay on Saturday to reach the Copa America quarterfinals.
That math could muddle the message for some teams, who might be tempted to play conservatively.
"We're going to go for a win, because it's not in our character to just sit back and go for a tie," right back DeAndre Yedlin said Friday. "I think when we're sitting back, we're not as good as when we're attacking."
The Americans (1-1) opened the biggest tournament on home soil since the 1994 World Cup by losing 2-0 to Colombia, then rebounded to rout Costa Rica 4-0. Because of a superior goal difference over Costa Rica, the only way the U.S. could not advance with a draw against Los Guaranies (0-1-1) would be if Costa Rica (0-1-1) defeats Colombia (2-0) by six goals or more in a match played later Saturday.
A loss would eliminate the U.S.
"We have to set the tone. We have to keep a very high level of aggressiveness and determination going from the first second," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "The whole squad is ready to rock it."
For only the second time since Klinsmann became coach in 2011, the Americans have started the same lineup in consecutive games, using eight veterans of 2014 World Cup action plus goalkeeper Brad Guzan, the backup to Tim Howard two years ago. The newcomers have been forwards Gyasi Zardes and Bobby Wood
"It's always good to have stability in any team," U.S. forward Clint Dempsey said. "It gives you confidence and it makes you more comfortable. That's always good to have."
Ranked 31st in the world, the U.S. play a Paraguayan team trying to revive since finishing last in South American qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Paraguay upset Brazil on penalty kicks in last year's Copa America quarterfinals, then was routed 6-1 by Argentina in the semifinals. At this tournament, which marks the 100th anniversary of the first Copa America, Paraguay opened with a 0-0 tie against Costa Rica in Orlando, Florida, then headed west and with just two days' rest lost to Colombia 2-1 in Pasadena, California.
Paraguay coach Ramon Diaz noticed his players were tired for the second match but pointed out they be facing the U.S. with three days' rest.
"Yes, we have the national team that has to travel the most," Diaz said through a translator. "The planes are very comfortable, but it's not the same."
The Group A winner advances to a quarterfinal at Seattle on Thursday against the second-place nation from Group B. The second-place team from Group A meets the Group B winner — likely Brazil — on June 17 at East Rutherford, New Jersey.
In its opener, the U.S. gave up an eighth-minute goal on a corner kick and trailed 2-0 at halftime after conceding a penalty kick. Going into Friday, teams that scored first were 11-0-1 in the tournament.
"Teams of that caliber, when they score first, they know exactly how to defend," Klinsmann said. "They know how to kind of kill you off with a counter break."
Unlike in most soccer tournaments, the final games of each group do not kick off simultaneously, so the U.S. will not know the Colombia-Costa Rica result.
"We're going to look to get forward at chances at certain times, but you also have got to be smart about it," Yedlin said. "If you're down 2-0 with 20 minutes left, you have to attack. But if you're up or you're tied, then maybe you sit back a little bit more."
Notes; Christian Pulisic, the Americans' 17-year-old midfielder, was allowed to leave the team during its training camp ahead of the Copa America to attend the Hershey High School prom on May 27 at the Hershey Hotel in Pennsylvania, then returned for the following day's match against Bolivia in Kansas City, Kansas, became the youngest American goal-scorer of the modern era. He left school to sign with Borussia Dormund in January 2015. ... Diaz said he will make changes to his lineup, inserting defender Fabian Balbuena, midfielders Víctor Ayala and Derlis Gonzalez, and forward Antonio Sanabria. They replace midfielder Oscar Romero, who got a red card against Colombia, and defenders Robert Piris and Bruno Valdez, and forward Edgar Benitez.