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USMNT left disappointed by squandered Copa America opportunity

Photo by Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s Copa America semifinal loss against Argentina, Jurgen Klinsmann and the U.S. Men’s National Team repeatedly discussed the opportunity ahead. A chance to take on one of the world’s best teams on the biggest stage was one valued by the USMNT. It was a chance to test themselves, an opportunity to show the world how far they’ve come.

But, when all was said and done, the USMNT did not look back and see a seized opportunity. Rather, all that was left was a squandered chance at taking the next step.

The USMNT found themselves on the end of a 4-0 drubbing on Tuesday night in what proved to be a letdown performance in one of the team’s biggest games in recent memory. A chance at the Copa America final was gone, as was the opportunity presented by a knockout round clash with one of the world’s best teams.

“I told the guys there’s nothing to be ashamed of after the game. We move forward. We’re very grateful for this Copa America, to be a part of it,” Klinsmann said. “We made it into the final four and there will always be a step back, and then we’ll go two more forward. That will be a part of our process. I told the guys to just swallow it. It’s a special team, Argentina.

“I’m not critical of any player. It’s just a lesson.We hit a wall now after a fantastic run in this tournament. We have to give our opponent compliments and swallow that pill.”

Just three minutes into the game, that pill was shoved down the USMNT’s throat by a vicious Argentine side. Attack after attack followed, while the U.S. struggled to maintain possession, let alone create a chance on goal.

It was a disappointing sight following all of the build-up and talk heading into Tuesday’s game. Throughout the days prior to the match, Klinsmann and the USMNT expressed their desire to take the fight to Argentina, but when the moment came, they fell with little more than a whimper.

“In the moment, it’s still a big disappointment,” said captain Michael Bradley. “You get to this point, nobody has the mentality that all of a sudden just because you get to the semifinal you’re playing with house money. It doesn’t work like that. The idea was to take it another step further and get to ourselves into a final. For that reason, there’s big disappointment.

“Ultimately, as time goes on a little bit, I think we can take a lot of positives from the tournament, but it’s still a little too early for that.”

While Tuesday’s loss signaled the end of their run to the finals, the U.S. is presented with another opportunity, even if it isn’t as prestigious as the one they let slip on Tuesday night.

Either Chile or Colombia await the USMNT in Saturday’s third place game, a match that provides the U.S. another quality opponent to close the tournament. It won’t make up for the disappointment of losing to Argentina, but it could serve as a chance to regain some of the pride lost with Tuesday’s thumping.

Klinsmann says there is “no doubt” that the U.S. should want to play in more Copa Americas going forward. The lessons learned are valuable, even in resounding defeats, as the U.S. looks towards a day where Tuesday’s match is more commonplace than historic.

But until, the U.S. must take their chances when they come, something they failed to do on Tuesday night.

“It was a huge tournament to be a part of. We’re still involved with it. We still have another game. We want to try and finish on a high,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan. “We always knew it was going to be difficult. These are good teams down in South America, so it was going to be a big test for us. To get to a semifinal in a Copa America, it’s a good accomplishment, but at the same time, we wanted to win tonight. It wasn’t the case. We’ll now look to finish on a high.

“They should be proud of themselves with what they did over the last couple of weeks. Really proud of themselves,” added Klinsmann. “They should take that lesson and take that pill, swallow it, take a day off tomorrow and prepare for the third place game… I think we just simply hit a far better team tonight.”

Comments

  1. There is simply no way any national team coach can improve the players at his disposal. The process of becoming a skillful, athletic player capable of understanding and carrying out tactics begins at a very young age and is only accelerated as the players in general all become better and push each other along. For individuals, it is a 15 year-long journey (from age 11 to 26 or so). If things work well, each age cohort will be better than the previous, but the 16 year-olds will not be better than the 20 year-olds at the moment.

    My son and his friends were in the first major wave of US youth soccer in the 90s that extolled skill over athleticism (at least that was what Bob Bradley then preached). (That is still an ongoing issue as local coaches often opt for better athletes rather than more skillful players to win games, simply because below about age 16 or 17, big, strong and fast can usually overcome a deficiency in skill.) It will not be until the children of those 90’s youth players are in their mid 20s before we see the US become close to countries like Germany or Argentina in terms of individual skill.

    That is simply because the number of US parents who recognize the importance of skill over pure athleticism will continue to grow. Like it or not, parents have a lot more influence over their 10 to 14 year-olds, when skills are first learned and honed, than any national team coach ever will.

    In fact Klinsmann’s rhetoric about toughness and bite are probably counter-productive to encouraging a more skillful and creative soccer culture in the US and may be more damaging than helpful in developing skillful players 10 years down the road.

    Reply
    • Dennis I see your point and agree from my experience with youth soccer. But I also saw zero athletes, minus Yedlin, in that lineup. The time will come when skill and athleticism become the fabric of US football. BTW Argentina, with all their superior skill, had better athletes on the field and their bench than JKs squad. At least our past teams had athletes and speed that kept us in matches. Colombia, Uruguay, Chile, and the majority of the European nations have more speed and athletes on their benches than we do so it’s more than just nurturing skill at a young age.

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  2. I hear all this talk about lack of depth, inferior talent, etc. Venezuela, a baseballling nation played with Argentina for a long stretch and was creating multiple chances and gave their back line all they could handle. If it were not for a couple of great saves from Romero, bad goal-keeping from their guy, clear missed shots on goal, and that ridiculous penalty shot the score would have been much different. In the end Argentina still wins that game but Venezuela had a plan and attacked smartly and weren’t anywhere close as outclassed as we were last night. So you’re telling Venezuela has better player for player talent and greater depth than the United States? I’m almost positive both had 11 shots, while we could’t muster ONE half chance to their 11?! That lineup was garbage. Zero plan, and while Bradley played like shite are we that poor of a team that we can’t change things on the fly, make earlier subs, or start the guys with skill, speed to give them a fighter’s chance. That Mexican dude that played for Seattle had it right…”the US’s advancement into the semi’s was an illusion and not a clear representation of how they played.” It was shameful and nothing to be proud of. Zardes wasn’t BSing when asked just two days before the game if he knew what his role would be and that of his teammates. JK is delusional and a bit of an insecure narcissist

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  3. Klinsmann, if you don’t think there was anything to be ashamed of last night, you are either in complete denial, unwilling to take any personal responsibility, or just a bold-faced liar.

    Yes, making it to the semis was good, and a loss is not necessarily shameful. However, with so many eyes upon us, YOU chose a gutless approach with your lineup, YOU failed to adequately prepare the team tactically, YOU failed to inspire the team, and YOU failed to make timely, effectual adjustments.

    On the biggest stage and under the brightest lights we’ve had in a long time, you and this team gave us nothing to feel good about. It was the WAY you lost, not the loss itself, so get your sunshine blowing mouth away from my bunghole. Clown.

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  4. The biggest difference between our team and a team like Argentina in a tournament like this, aside from talent of course, is depth of roster. Maybe it’s the same thing. It’s clear now that we may be able to put together one good squad, but we don’t have Di Maria or Aguero waiting on the bench in case of injury or red cards, which is assured to happen in a tournament. I’m not saying that Jones, Wood, Bedoya would have won that game, but even our first team would get whooped by their bench. How do you compete against that?

    Reply
    • Depth of roster also comes into play in terms of rest. The US looked tired. Argentina had played many more players than the US, because the dropoff in talent is lower. Bradley looked off, I don’t know how much was played bad vs. exhausted.
      Argentina brought an A game with an A team, we brought a C game with a B team.

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  5. We got the tactics wrong. We got the player selection wrong. Our young players didn’t get much playing time. This was a missed opportunity from the minute that lineup was announced.

    Reply
    • I would rather look at the bigger issues that selection and tactics — we do not have the depth of talent anywhere close to Argentina. Until we bridge that gap, all we have is grit and determination.
      And that can only get you so far. Hopefully in the next two years we will see more talented and technical players coming into group. JK needs to start the rebuilding process starting Saturday.

      Reply

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