In front of a sellout crowd of 67,439 crazed soccer fans, the United States hosted Colombia in the opening match of the Copa America Centenario. Levi’s Stadium was covered in what looked like a yellow ocean as Los Cafeteros overwhelmingly filled the venue with their support as No. 3 rated (according to FIFA) Colombia defeated the stars and stripes 2-0 handily with goals from AC Milan’s Cristian Zapata in a fantastic corner kick set piece and Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez from the penalty spot.
The U.S. was very unimpressive in their outing falling to the Colombians for the third time in Copa America history and only mustering up two shots on goal despite holding the majority of ball possession (53%). Clint Dempsey had three of the most clear opportunities for the Americans including a free kick that was denied by Arsenal keeper David Ospina. Unfortunately ball possession doesn’t win games and changes will need to be made if the USMNT is going to get out of group stage.
Highly-rated 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund player Christian Pulisic surprisingly started on the bench and could have been a difference maker on the pitch to counter Colombia’s speed on the wings. Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones had trouble containing Juan Cuadrado on the wings and clearly his pace disrupted the American defense. The South American’s are known to be one of the best counter-attacking teams in the world and used it well.
“We always were maybe a step or two too late,” Jones to reporters.
The USMNT were very shaky at the back with Geoff Cameron and John Brooks as the center backs. Cameron was the culprit in the first goal, losing Zapata during the set piece. DeAndre Yedlin looked nervous at right-back mistiming numerous balls and was called for an unfortunate hand ball in the box that led to Rodriguez’s goal for Colombia and Johnson had his hands full with Cuadrado.
“It’s obviously disappointing and frustrating because I think they were there for the taking,” Cameron told reporters. “You want to get into the tournament with some momentum.”
The USMNT have little time to regroup as CONCACAF foes Costa Rica are up next followed by a gritty Paraguay squad which could be a potential do-or-die match up in order to qualify to the next round. Jurgen Klinsmann’s troops will need to play much better in their next two games if they are to move out of what is being called the infamous group of death.
It would be a shame to see the U.S. get bounced early from this tournament which is celebrating it’s 100-year anniversary and arguably the biggest event since the 1994 World Cup. Hope still remains for the USMNT with Paraguay and Los Ticos playing to a draw on Saturday afternoon.
In addition Klinsmann remains optimistic, “I think the players coming out of that game see that ‘Wow, that was the No 3 in the world. We can play with them. We can damage them’. That didn’t happen today. But hopefully next time.”