US Rue Missed Chances as Colombia Claim Third at Copa America

Bacca goal

The United States Men’s National Team looked to close out their Copa America campaign on a positive note coming into their third place match with Colombia, as they sought their highest ever finish in the tournament since 1995 where they finished in fourth place, while Colombia looked to achieve their highest finish since 2001 when they won the tournament. The inclusion of previously suspended players Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya, and Bobby Wood allowed coach Jurgen Klinsmann the option of getting a bit creative with his lineup, as he chose to employ a 4-3-3 formation with goalkeeper Tim Howard starting his first match of the tournament and possibly last match in a US jersey. The defense also came out with a new look as center back Geoff Cameron was paired with Michael Orozco-Fiscal getting his first start of the tounrament in the middle while DeAndre Yedlin remained in his typical right back spot and Matt Besler re-implemented at left back. The midfield retained it’s usual Jones-Bradley-Bedoya pairing; however, the attack also received a relatively  new look that saw central striker Bobby Wood flanked on the left by Gyasi Zardes, with Clint Dempsey on the right in the hopes that this would create some offensive firepower that was previously lacking in their match against Argentina.

From the starting whistle, the US played with an aggression and confidence that was refreshing to see for a third place match, as they challenged and looked to get into Colombia’s face in order to set an early tempo. While Colombia controlled a good amount of the possession, two early fouls within the first five minutes and high defensive pressure from the US appeared to be a statement that the US were unafraid and were looking to make a statement. Another positive from early in the match was the good interlinking play of the midfield, which lead to several chances early on for the team. Colombia also possesses an array of high potent offensive weapons; however, as they made their presence felt on the back of captain James Rodriguez dictating their attacks from a central midfield role, while striker Carlos Bacca continually made dangerous runs in behind the deference and constantly stretched the US defense and kept them on their toes.

While Howard made some good saves early on to keep things level, Colombia found their breakthrough in the 31st minute, once again from the dangerous interchanging play of Rodriguez and Bacca. Midfielder Juan Cuadrado started the play from the right-hand side, playing the ball to Rodriguez who made an inch perfect chip to a streaking Santiago Arias who was able to head the ball across goal for an easy tap-in by Bacca, leaving Howard with no chance. This appeared to light a fire under the US as they continued to press, finding good service from the right wing as Yedlin was continually proved a threat by making good runs and providing service, only to be undone by attackers unable to capitalize on the final product. This would become a trend early on as the US continually failed to make the best of their chances, as evident by Colombian goalkeeper and arguably best goalkeeper of the tournament, David Ospina having only a couple of chances to save, while otherwise remaining with nothing to do.

Colombia then began their second half with guns blazing, as midfielder Edwin Cardona barely missed on a chance in the 46th minute, the man who led Colombia in shots all tournament with 13 on goal. Cuadrado also made a significant impact in the second half as he continually made runs at the US defense and constantly proved a threat. The US almost found their breakthrough in the 50th minute as Dempsey won the US a free kick right outside of the box and his inch perfect shot produce arguably the best save of the tournament from Ospina, as he had to be at full stretch to fingertip the ball out of the top right hand corner. As the game wore on; however, the US began to show themselves as a bit too one dimensional through most of their attack coming from the right side, which prompted Klinsmann to bring on Christian Pulisic on the right for Bedoya, while shifting Zardes onto the left in an attempt to even out their attacking capabilities.

With the match wearing on, the two teams continued their solid defensive pressure; however, this began to come to a head as fatigue began to set in leading to more fouls by either side, and a decent amount of time wasting on Colombia’s part. In the dying minutes of the match, Colombia’s play began to slow down even more as they continued to make the most of the fouls on them, wasting time off the clock, leaving US players and fans alike visibly frustrated in their protests for the referee to do something about the obvious time wasting. Then in the 93rd minute, a foul and red card by Arias outside of the Colombian box would give the US their last attack of the game when Orozco-Fiscal got in the face of Arias, shoved him, and earned himself a red card, leaving both teams to finish with ten men. The free kick was easily cleared by the Colombians as they went on to claim third place for the tournament.

While visibly frustrated with their second consecutive loss to Colombia in the tournament; overall, the tournament can be seen as a success by the US who made it their goal from the beginning to reach the quarterfinals of the tournament. Though they had their chances, a loss to third ranked team in the world can still give the team a positive outlook. In a tournament where they were tasked with competing against the 1st, 3rd, and 12th ranked teams in the world,the future looks especially bright for youngsters John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, and Bobby Wood who all had impactful tournaments, and essentially solidified their spots in the starting lineup. While fans will be left to wonder why Klinsmann failed to give more time to players like Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe, we got a glimpse of what they are capable of, as Pulisic proved himself a creative offensive player unafraid to run at defenses despite still being at the ripe age of 17 while Nagbe also showed off some of his pace and creativity in the limited minutes he received. The tournament is set to conclude tonight as Lionel Messi’s Argentina look to dethrone defending Copa America champions, Chile, in their 7 pm ET match in the final of the tournament at MetLife Stadium.

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