Rodriguez, Dempsey Top Options as Copa America Quarterfinals Begin

The first set of quarterfinal matches at the Copa America Centenario feature three teams that should be there _ the host United States, Colombia and Ecuador _ and one outsider in Peru, which stunned Brazil on a goal that should have been chalked off for a handball that also sent the Selecao packing and cost their manager Dunga his job.

The matchups are also somewhat odd as Colombia, arguably the best team of the four, dropped to second in Group A after losing to Costa Rica but also got a more favorable matchup in the upstart La Blainquirroja. But Los Cafeteros should beware, for Peru has claimed third place in each of the last two Copa tournaments in 2011 and 2015.

That leaves the U.S. hosting Ecuador in Seattle, a venue where it will have a decided home-field advantage in turns of fan support. The Yanks have been carried by John Brooks on the back line and Clint Dempsey in attack, though goalkeeper Brad Guzan is a primary reason they reached the round of eight after a superb shutout of Paraguay. Ecuador grinded out draws against Peru and Brazil around a victory over Haiti, and while the U.S. did post a 1-0 victory in a pre-tournament friendly, both teams had large portions of their starting lineups absent in order to get their reserves some play.

These picks cover the quarterfinal matches for June 16-17, using a 4-4-2 formation and salary cap of $90,000 as part of Fan XT’s Daily Fantasy rules for the Copa America tournament.

Goalkeeper: David Ospina, Colombia ($7,500). In choosing between Ospina and U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan, this stood out: In his last five matches versus Peru, Ospina has three wins, two draws and four shutouts while conceding only one goal. And that goal came in a friendly with nothing at stake.

Defenders: John Brooks, United States ($7,580). The Copa America has been a breakout venue for Brooks, who has seemingly improved with each contest and was named Man of the Match for his stellar effort against Paraguay. And he remains a threat to score on set pieces when the Yanks get forward.

Geoff Cameron, United States ($7,190). Brooks’ partner in central defense, Cameron’s play has been lifted by Brooks _ remember, the U.S. has not conceded a goal in the run of play at this tournament _ only a corner kick and a penalty. And like Brooks, Cameron is a dangerous player on corner kicks and set pieces offensively.

Jeison Murillo, Colombia ($8.130). Murillo was left out of Colombia’s 3-2 loss to Costa Rica since he was sitting on a yellow card. Fully rested and with plenty of cap flexibility with only two matches being played, Murillo is a nice luxury pick to anchor a back line.

Walter Ayovi, Ecuador ($7,060). The Monterrey man has yet to notch a goal or an assist, but he has been steady in the back for Ecuador. With U.S. back DeAndre Yedlin out through a red card suspension, there may be spots where Ayovi can push forward and pump a cross or two into the box to create scoring chances.

Midfielders: James Rodriguez, Colombia ($11,380). The best offensive threat in either quarterfinal match, the Real Madrid man is simply a must-play and the player to build around in a DFS lineup. Rodriguez leads Colombia with two goals and has put five of his 10 shots on target. Additionally, he leads the team in crosses and corner kicks taken, which means he’s doing a little bit of everything offensively.

Antonio Valencia, Ecuador ($7,500). In debating among Valencia, and the U.S. tandem of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, Bradley might not get as forward as Jones in the 4-4-2 formation the side has been using, and this is a match where Jones could cost a fantasy player points with a yellow card off a crunching tackle. Valencia has more potential to go forward and create goal-scoring chances.

Juan Cuadrado, Colombia ($8,560). Cuadrado did pick up an assist in his 24 minutes of work off the bench in Colombia’s loss to Costa Rica, so the Juve midfielder may have a little spark to him after two largely anonymous games in group play. Both he and Rodriguez had solid games in a 0-0 draw against Peru in last year’s Copa, so the hedge here is they replicate those efforts.

Edwin Cardona, Colombia ($7,340). Given how much Cardona has gotten forward and found room to shoot thus far for Los Cafeteros, he is a low-cost, high-value pick here to round out the midfield. He has a team-high 13 shots and two assists and also suffered a team-high seven fouls. Cardona is going to see plenty of the ball against Peru, against whom he scored in a World Cup qualifier last October.

Forwards: Clint Dempsey, United States ($7,280). The best attacking option for the United States, Dempsey’s first-half goal proved to be the match-winner against Paraguay and vaulted his team to the top of Group A after Colombia’s surprising loss. Dempsey played 64 minutes in the pre-Copa friendly against Ecuador, but his form has been so much better in this tournament there’s no reason to believe he can’t bag a goal for a third consecutive contest.

Carlos Bacca, Colombia ($8,560). Also left out of the Costa Rica contest by coach Jose Pekerman, a well-rested Bacca makes for a dangerous Bacca to Peru. The AC Milan man had a goal and an assist versus Paraguay and would have had a second goal if not for denting the crossbar late against the U.S. Bacca’s high workrate and nose for the ball means Peru’s backline will have its hands full trying to contain him.

By Chris Altruda

Contributing Writer