SEATTLE — Clint Dempsey scored for the third straight game and set up Gyasi Zardes for a tap-in goal, boosting the United States into the Copa America semifinals with a 2-1 win over Ecuador on Thursday night.
Playing before a boisterous and almost completely partisan home crowd in the soccer-mad Pacific Northwest, the U.S. won a knockout game against a nation outside its region for only the second time and will play Argentina or Venezuela on Tuesday in Houston.
Dempsey’s 52nd international goal, five behind Landon Donovan’s American record, put the U.S. ahead in the 22nd minute. Zardes guided Dempsey’s cross into the net in the 65th for his sixth goal and a 2-0 lead.
Michael Arroyo scored for Ecuador in the 74th minute, making for a tense ending, and Enner Valencia missed a pair of great chances moment later on a pair of headers.
A chippy game was costly for the U.S. American midfielder Jermaine Jones was shown a red card during a 52nd-minute confrontation that also saw Ecuador winger Antonio Valencia sent off after a second yellow card for a harsh tackle on Alejando Bedoya along the sideline .
U.S. players immediately rushed in to the scrum after Valencia’s tackle, and Jones raised an arm at Arroyo. Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan immediately showed a red card to Jones.
Jones will be suspended for the semifinal along with U.S. midfielder Alejandro Bedoya and Bobby Wood, who both got their second yellow cards of the tournament.
Ecuador coach Gustavo Quinteros also appeared to be sent off late in the match.
The only previous knockout win for the U.S. over a non-CONCACAF team was against Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup semifinal. The only other U.S. appearance in the Copa semifinals was in 1995, when it advanced to the final four by beating Mexico, then was eliminated by Brazil.
Dempsey appeared energized playing in the home stadium of his Seattle Sounders, and his header provided the U.S. a chance to relax after a tense opening. Wood was tremendous all night getting behind the defense and holding the ball up to provide chances on the attack and did so for both American goals.
On the first goal, Dempsey played the ball ahead to Wood, who dribbled and then passed to Jones. He crossed into the penalty area, where Dempsey had completed his run from midfield and beat Juan Paredes to the ball, directing it to the corner of the net past goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez from 8 yards.
The second goal was also a result of Wood playing the ball back. Brooks played a long ball to Wood, and his pass to Matt Besler was crossed to Gyasi Zardes in the area. His headed pass found Dempsey, who was able to slide a pass across the mouth of the goal for Zardes to poke in.
After that, the Americans tired and Ecuador turned up the pressure. Arroyo’s goal came off Walter Ayovi’s free kick from a flank. Enner Valencia had two great chances in the 76th and 77th minutes, and Brooks nearly had an own goal in the first minute of stoppage time, only to see the ball deflected wide by goalkeeper Guzan.
The U.S. made two changes to the lineup it used for the first three games of the tournament due to the red card picked up by right back DeAndre Yedlin in the final group game against Paraguay that caused the speedy youngster to miss a chance to play back in his hometown. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann inserted Besler into the lineup at left back and flopped Fabian Johnson to fill Yedlin’s spot on the right side.
U.S. captain Michael Bradley wore a rainbow armband in honor of those killed in the Orlando, Florida, nighclub shooting last weekend.