June 11, 2016
TAKING CENTER (BACK) STAGE
U.S. center back dominates when he has to, including a big time, goal-saving tackle
By Michael Lewis
|John Brooks could not have planned the timing in playing his best international game.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
PHILADELPHIA -- For the past year or so, John Brooks probably made more than his share of mistakes and inconsistent performances for the U.S. national team.
A badly timed foul here, a missed tackle there.
On Saturday night the 6-4 center back put together his best all-around performance for the United States in its 1-0 Group A win over Paraguay, a result that clinched a spot in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals at Lincoln Financial Field.
It could not have come at a better moment.
Brooks seemed to be just about everywhere when he was needed on the field, including a key tackle that denied the South American side a goal in the 19th minute and helped goalkeeper Brad Guzan register his second consecutive clean sheet.
Not surprisingly, the 23-year-old Brooks was voted man of the match. And that obviously did not go unnoticed by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
"John Brooks, a performance like this, all of Europe is watching that," he said. "This is a big statement that he did tonight."
Well, there is a good chance that a good part of Berlin was watching. Brooks plays for Hertha BSC in Germany.
Unfortunately, he did not make himself available to the media as he walked through the mixed from the USA locker room to the team bus.
Too bad because he could have explained how he turned in a turning point in the match.
That signature moment came in the 11th minute when he tackled the ball away from Miguel Almiron, trying to convert a 3-on-1 break with the game still scoreless.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan was so ecstatic that Brooks made the defensive stop of the night by a field player that he came out of the goal to congratulate him on that headís up play.
"You're impressed with the learning curve what a young player goes through," Klinsmann said. "You're just happy for him for that process. A year ago a lot of people were very critical of him."
Klinsmann felt that Brooks' struggles made him a much better player.
"Well, he has to have those experiences," he said. "He needs to kind of make mistakes in order to grow. There's no growth without failures. Nobody does. He just grew.
"That performance by John was definitely something special. We'll keep him."
The Americans better. They will need him in the quarterfinal in Seattle, whether the opponent will be Brazil, Ecuador or Peru.
Indeed, they will need him big time.