USA vs. Argentina was billed as the biggest match the United States Men’s National Team has ever played. While this may not be far from the truth, the squad was far from ready for a match of this magnitude. Let alone a competitive one against the number one ranked team in the world.
The clear gap in skill wasn’t the only thing working against the USA. They were facing several more obstacles that would make a match against anyone difficult. Bobby Wood, Jermaine Jones, and Alejandro Bedoya were all missing with yellow or red card suspensions. Adding just one of these guys to the lineup would have helped the cause immensely. Having all three of them out was a recipe for disaster.
USA vs. Argentina Recap
The match started just about as poorly as it could for the Americans. Within three minutes of the opening whistle, the Fabian Johnson sent a clearance straight to Lionel Messi. Messi would chip a pass for Ezequiel Lavezzi for a well placed header goal. That would only be the beginning of the Argentine dominance. They bossed possession and were simply too quick for the Americans to defend. When the USA did get the ball, they weren’t nearly creative enough to break down the defense.
In the 32nd minute, Argentina grabbed their second goal of the match from none other then Messi. He did what he does best on free kicks after Chris Wondolowski committed a silly yellow card foul in a dangerous spot. Messi delivered on the opportunity by bending a free kick to the one spot in the goal that Brad Guzan could not reach.
The American’s were never able to get anything going with the ball either. They failed to take a single shot in the opening 45 minutes. Because of this, Wondolowski was subbed off for Christian Pulisic at halftime in hopes of finding a little more power up front.
The move wouldn’t matter much.
Argentina’s lead swelled in the 50th minute when Gonzalo Higuain got behind the American line and, after getting stoned by Guzan at first, followed the save up with a simple tap in. La Albiceleste were plenty content to sit back and defend against the lifeless USA attack at that point. Yet they still had more possession. Not that they needed it, but Higuain added a fourth goal for Argentina thanks to a turnover in the USA’s defensive end and a great seeing eye pass by Messi.
Lifeless is probably the best word to describe what the USA was doing with the ball. In the entire 90 minutes, they never even took a shot. On the rare occasions they got to move the ball up the pitch, their attack was that impotent going forward.
Suspended players hurt USA
Not having Jones, Wood, and Bedoya was certainly evident for the USMNT. Chris Wondolowski was useless in Wood’s stead. The most impact he had on the game was was the ridiculous foul that led to Messi’s free kick goal. Kyle Beckerman, who played for Jones, looked completely out of his element in defensive midfield. His passing was garbage. He was lazy on defense to the point where he wasn’t attacking Ezequiel Lavezzi on his goal. This move also forced Michael Bradley into a more forward role with Beckerman in the game. He was clearly uncomfortable playing further up front.
The only replacement who didn’t do anything negative was Graham Zusi for Bedoya.
Would any of these regulars have made a real difference tonight? Probably not. Argentina was simply too good in every aspect of the game. The USA’s regular lineup would not have faired any better.
Was Copa America a success?
Absolutely. Jurgen Klinsmann set the ambitious goal of making the semi-finals before ht e tournament began. They accomplished that goal against the expectations of most logical pundits before getting pounded by the number one team in the world. This is an accomplishment regardless of how this game played out.
Yes, you would have liked to see a little more of a fight against Argentina, but they are number one in the world for a reason. The USA looked like they didn’t belong in the same stadium as Argentina because they don’t. Outside of one match against Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup, the United States has never played well against the world’s best. Today was no exception.
Tonight’s match cannot be looked on as a knock on where the USA sits in the soccering world. It should simply be seen as a sign that they are not ready for the highest stages in the world. This is nothing we don’t know. At least they didn’t lose 7-0 in the quarterfinals like their arch rivals did.
As a result of tonight, Argentina will move on to face the winner of Colombia–Chile in Sunday night’s final at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The USA will take on the loser of that match on Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Main Photo: Omar Vega/STR, Getty Images