By Staff Writer,
LOS ANGELES – The United States Men’s National Team had one final chance to stamp their authority on the Copa America Centenario in Sunday night’s third-place game against Colombia. Unfortunately, they missed that chance. Although admittedly, not by much.
Colombia nearly opened the scoring early, but Tim Howard, making his first start of the tournament, showed his sharpness in stopping a James Rodriguez effort from the edge of the box.
The U.S. had some chances of their own early on, with Dempsey missing a couple of opportunities and DeAndre Yedlin forcing a save from Colombia keeper David Ospina.
It was just past the half hour mark when Colombia’s Carlos Bacca scored what proved the only goal of the match, deflecting in a cross from Santiago Arias after Rodriguez had lobbed a ball over the U.S. back line.
But the U.S. responded well to giving up a goal and dominated the remaining period of the first half. Jermaine Jones – who along with Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya was returned from suspension – nearly found the equalizer in the 37th minute, but his shot was blocked by Cristian Zapata.
Jones came close again when his cross deflected off Arias, missing the target by mere inches.
The U.S. won a free kick early in the second half. Dempsey stepped up and forced a spectacular save from Ospina with a long-range effort that would have curled its way into the top corner without the keeper’s intervention.
Colombia for their part, were largely content to sit back on their one goal and absorb pressure. However, they nearly doubled their lead on the hour mark through Juan Cuadrado who chipped a shot off the crossbar past Howard who looked frozen to the spot.
Wood, who endured something of a frustrating evening, banged an effort off the bar at the other end a few moments later.
As the U.S. quest for a goal continued, Jurgen Klinsmann subbed Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe on for Bedoya and Michael Bradley. But it would be a Colombian substitute who would get the final opportunity of the match, with Marlos Moreno putting a shot wide in the 87th minute.
Eventually both sides were reduced to 10 men when U.S. defender Michael Orozco and Arias were sent off in stoppage time. Awarded a free kick, the U.S. had one final chance to equalize, only for Nagbe to direct his free kick straight as Ospina.
In the end, in spite of playing some captivating football at times and meeting Klinsmann’s stated goal of making the semis, the U.S. failed to improve upon its previous best run in the Copa, and finished fourth, as they had back in 1995. So while this Copa was far from a failure for Klinsmann’s team, it’s unclear just how much genuine progress was made.
One thing that is clear however, is the gulf in quality that remains between CONCACAF sides like the U.S. and Mexico, and South American powers like Colombia and the Copa’s two finalists, Chile and Argentina.
Photos courtesy of ISI.