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USA 4-0 Costa Rica: USMNT lives to fight another day at Copa America 2016

United States v Costa Rica: Group A - Copa America Centenario

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 07: Clint Dempsey #8 of the United States scores a goal on a penalty kick against Patrick Pemberton #18 of Costa Rica during a match in the 2016 Copa America Centenario at Soldier Field on June 7, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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The U.S. national team’s 2016 Copa America Centenario clash with Costa Rica was billed a must-win by and for everyone under the sun — most notably, USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann — and win emphatically, they did Tuesday night at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill.

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Three first-half goals propelled Klinsmann’s side to victory over Los Ticos, their CONCACAF equals now more than ever, and more importantly three points to move the Yanks top of Group A (for the time being - Colombia play Paraguay later on Tuesday), two points clear of Costa Rica in third.

The USMNT jumped out to an early lead through a penalty kick converted by Clint Dempsey, the 50th goal of his international career. Bobby Wood was the one who earned the penalty for the U.S., when he was shoved from behind by Cristian Gamboa. The shove was undeniable, but Wood did a good job of exaggerating the contact without over-embellishing.

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Jermaine Jones made it 2-0 with a well-placed, low finish from the edge of the penalty area in the 37th minute. Clint Dempsey danced around a couple of defenders but took a wayward touch that found the feet of Jones with more than a hint of good fortune, and the Colorado Rapids no. 10 (that’s a beautiful phrase to write, honestly) took his goal extremely well.

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It took all of five minutes for Wood to make it a three-goal lead for the world-beating Yanks. Moved into a more central role as a striker, the newly-signed Hamburg man received the ball from Clint Dempsey at the top of the 18-yard box, created the space he needed to fire a shot on goal and took his goal with ease.

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Graham Zusi, who replaced Wood as a 70th-minute substitute, finished off a quick counter-attacking chance in the 87th minute to put the emphatic exclamation point on a goal differential-inflating 4-0 rout.

With three points now in hand, the USMNT will turn its focus to Paraguay on Saturday (7 p.m. ET), where they could potentially advance to the quarterfinals with any result, or be eliminated with anything short of a win. Costa Rica will finish Group A play against the current leaders and no. 3 team in the world, Colombia.

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