So it was best for me to not write what I thought about the US’s pathetic attempt at playing soccer vs the #1 Ranked team in Argentina until I waited a few days. Looking back – well lets just say the game was over when the German (Klinsy) rolled out Wondolowsky at forward above Dempsey. I think we all would have loved to have seen a full strength team – but honestly against Argentina and the world’s best player Lionel Messi I am not sure it would have mattered. He is so good as is Argentina. Honestly the best possible matchup for the finals is Argentina vs Chile again. These are the top 2 teams in the America’s and 2 of the top in the World. The Final on Sunday Evening is MUST SEE TV – if you can find the FX Channel. (Side note tirade– Fox Sports has done a fine job with the games and the studio shows for the game – but with the biggest weekend games again being pushed to FX – instead of the Main FOX Network I just don’t understand. I mean seriously 8 million watching the USA vs Argentina is fine – but more people watched our group stage game on ESPN in the World Cup. If Fox is going to cover soccer – THEY HAVE TO PUT AT LEAST THE USA GAMES ON FOX – not FX or FS1 or FS2 – who ½ the country still doesn’t have)
Ok back to the US game – thank goodness Mexico gave us the 7-0 debacle loss to Chile so we can look at our game and say hey we only lost 4-0 look we aren’t so bad. But upon closer inspection – ZERO yes ZERO Shots in 94 minutes of play. I am not sure what Klinsy was trying to do – but to say it didn’t work would be an understatement. How can Messi be wide open at the top of the box all night long? If you are going to put in the Hair – Kyle Beckerman (who despite his past fantastic contributions to our US Team is simply too old to do it now) – if you are going to play him – he has to man match Messi. He didn’t – no one covered Messi – seriously – the best player in the world – lets just leave him uncovered sure. Unbelievable. The US couldn’t decide if they wanted to press or sit back so instead they did neither. They chased the ball and the game and NEVER caught up with it. Seriously I counted no more than 3 US passes completed in a row for 35 minutes in the 2nd half of a game where we should have been pressing to score. We could not complete a pass under pressure – and Bradley our Captain – continued to prove since moving to the US to play professionally – that he no longer has the skills to play against the top 10 teams in the world. I am not sure he completed 20% of his passes and his service on free kicks (lets just say I help coach a U12 girls team that serves better balls than that). The plan was not good but in his defense Klinsy was missing 3 starters and the guys he chose to play instead – 2 of them over 30 – were not on par. I will hold my complete judgement on the state of US Soccer until after I see how we play in the 3rd place game vs Colombia. Listen this is a big game – a 3rd place finish and wins against 2 top 10 teams in Ecuador and Colombia would be quite a statement overall. So Saturday night on FX – yes not Fox Sports and not FOX – find that FX Channel on your TV early – and get ready for the USA vs world third ranked Colombia and Real Madrid star James Rodriguez –that’s Saturday night at 8 pm. And of course Sunday – the COPA America final in a rematch from last year’s COPA – its World #1 Argentina and Messi, GK Bravo and Dmid Macherona vs Chile and stars Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez. That’s 8 pm Sunday night on Fox Sports 1.
Now turning to the Euro’s the addition of 8 more teams has certainly led to some more excitement as Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and tiny island nation Iceland have all advanced to the Round of 16. Wales actually looks like it has a chance to do some damage in the easy bracket, while Ireland faces the host France Sunday at 9 am on ESPN and Iceland looks to continue the dream vs England in Nice on Mon 3 pm ESPN. In what can only be described as odd there is a true GROUP OF DEATH on the HARD SIDE of the BRACKET with 11 World Cup Titles amongst Germany, Spain, Italy, France, England all on that side of the bracket. Wales and Portugal along with Belgium seem to have the best road on the EASY Side of the Bracket. Finally here at home our Spring Season NASL Champions Indy 11 will face the Mexican League Liga MX Champions Pachuca and USMNT defender Omar Gonzales on Sunday at 1 pm at the Mike tickets still available as the Indy 11 will introduce new Mexican superstar player Gerardo Terrado.
GAMES ON TV
COPA AMERICA FINALS
European Championships- Round of 16
Saturday, June 25
Switzerland vs. Poland — Saint-Etienne (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Wales vs. Northern Ireland — Paris (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Croatia vs. Portugal — Lens (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Sunday, June 26
France vs. Ireland — Lyon (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Germany vs. Slovakia — Lille (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Hungary vs. Belgium — Toulouse (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Monday, June 27
Italy vs. Spain — Saint-Denis (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
England vs. Iceland — Nice (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Thursday, June 30 – Match 45
Switzerland/Poland vs. Croatia/Portugal — Marseille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Friday, July 1 – Match 46
Wales/Northern Ireland vs. Hungary/Belgium — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Saturday, July 2 – Match 47
Germany/Slovakia vs. Italy/Spain — Bordeaux (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Sunday, July 3 – Match 48
France/Ireland vs. England/Iceland — Saint-Denis (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
–Wednesday, July 6
W45 vs. W46 — Lyon (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Thursday, July 7
W47 vs. W48 — Marseille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Sunday, July 10
W49 vs. W50 — Saint-Denis (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
MLS TV Schedule ‘ They Are Back
International Champions Cup – ICC – @ Chicago – Bayern Munich vs AC Milan Soldier Field Wed 7/27 @ 8 pm Tix still available $35 to $135
Soccer Camps – Boys and Girls -Ages 6 – 14
Ok so its almost Summer Camp time – below are some nice options for Soccer Camps this summer
Kick in the Grass – 3 v 3 Soccer Tour at Badger Field July 9th
Goal2Gol Soccer Camp
CHS Men’s Head Coach Shane Schmidt, a former U-20 US National Team player, runs his annual camp from 9 am to 2 pm July 11-16. $150 before 6/30 @ River Road Fields.
Post2Post Soccer Camp
Former Pittsburgh Head Coach Sue-Moy Chin and Former Iowa Coach Carla Baker run their annual field player camp for players of all abilities July 25-28 — 9 am to 3 pm $195 each @ Badger
Carmel High Boys – Youth Soccer Camp –2nd to 6th Graders only
Run by CHS Boys team players – Thurs, Aug 4 (9:30 am till 12 noon) – CHS Practice Fields River Road and 126th . 2nd to 6th Graders only – Cost $35 to CHS –- First 100 players to sign up. Sign Up Here https://www.ticketracker.com/store/item?catalogItemId=8741 Email Shari if you have questions email@example.com.
USA vs. Colombia | Copa America Centenario Third-Place Match Preview
June 23, 20162:46 PM EDTSam StejskalContributor
USA vs. Colombia Copa America Centenario – Third-Place Match
June 25 | 8 pm ET | University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona TV: FX, Univision, UDN
The US and Colombia will meet for the second time in the Copa America Centenario on Saturday, when they’ll face off in the tournament’s third-place game at the University of Phoenix Stadium.Both teams are coming off of disappointing semifinal defeats, with the US getting thoroughly outplayed in a 4-0 loss to Argentina on Tuesday and Colombia falling 2-0 to Chile in a weather-delayed match on Wednesday.
Will the youngsters get the nod?
Much to the consternation of many US fans, Jurgen Klinsmann chose to keep Darlington Nagbeand Christian Pulisic out of the starting lineup for Tuesday’s defeat to Argentina. By the time both players entered in the second half, the US had dug far too deep of a hole for either player to have much effect.With far less on the line in the third-place match, there’s no real reason for Klinsmann to not start both exciting young attackers on Saturday. Giving the two inexperienced internationals some solid run against strong competition will only be beneficial for them and the USMNT, who could certainly use a creative boost heading into their two World Cup qualifiers this fall.
Another chance against high-quality opposition
As has been the case for most of Klinsmann’s tenure, the US in the Copa America have taken care of business against opponents they should’ve beaten (Paraguay, Costa Rica and, to a slightly lesser extent, Ecuador) and lost to more talented sides (Colombia, Argentina).While there’s certainly no shame in dropping a result against Los Cafeteros or La Albiceleste, the manner of the US’s two Copa defeats was plenty concerning. The Americans looked listless against Colombia and outright terrible against Argentina, continuing a trend of poor performances in meaningful games against world-class opposition. They’ll have an opportunity to flip that script a bit on Saturday, albeit in what will likely be a slightly diluted third-place matchup.
Cooled off Colombia
Los Cafeteros looked stylish in group stage wins against the US and Paraguay, but they’ve fallen off since, dropping a 3-2 result to Costa Rica in the Group A finale, surviving against Peru in a penalty kick shootout in the quarters and falling 2-0 to Chile in the semifinals.Head coach Jose Pekerman has drawn some criticism for his tactics during the tournament, while star midfielder James Rodriguez has been quiet since starting his Copa with a pair of solid matches. It’s no sure thing James will play on Saturday (like Klinsmann, Pekerman might want to give some run to a few of his regular reserves), but both will be motivated to end their tournament strongly after their title aspirations were brushed aside in relatively easy fashion on Wednesday.
Sunil Gulati, on the state of the USMNT: “We’re obviously a long way off”
June 22, 20165:57 PM EDTAndrew WiebeSenior Editor
HOUSTON – Tuesday night’s comprehensive 4-0 dismantling at the hands of Argentina in a much-anticipated the Copa America Centenario semifinal may not have been a referendum on the state of US Soccer, but it did put the program’s progress in perspective.Speaking to reporters following the match, federation president Sunil Gulati admitted the US got “outplayed badly by a very good team,” but also emphasized the positives behind a tournament run that saw the Americans win three straight games, including two against CONMEBOL competition in Paraguay and Ecuador.Still, those results proved little consolation after the US wilted in the face of a juggernaut led by the incomparable talents of Lionel Messi and a laundry list of other world-class talents. Jurgen Klinsmann’s team failed to register a single shot were clearly outclassed on a night that held much promise before a goal just three minutes in set the tone for the rest of the match.“Today is a good day to judge where we are in the program overall as a team,” Gulati told reporters following the loss. “We’re obviously a long way off. We knew that going in, but we knew we were a long way off when we beat Spain back in 2009 or Germany or Holland last year.”Following a tournament-opening defeat to Colombia that put the US on the brink of elimination, Gulati addressed Klinsmann’s performance and recent results that had left much to be desired, for the the first time giving an indication that the German’s job security might not be ironclad.“There are areas where I would have hoped for more progress and other areas where we’ve done well,” Gulati said at the time. “That in many ways reflects recent results …. Results over the last 18 months overall haven’t been what we would have hoped for. We’ll look at everything after the end of this competition.”He stayed true to those words on Tuesday night, emphasizing that the tournament was not over yet and that another world-class team – either Colombia or Chile – await the US on Saturday in the third-place game. All evaluations, certainly publicly, would wait until all parties could review the full the body of work.“Obviously tonight was disappointing. That there’s a gap between the two teams is not a surprise,” Gulati said. “That you can win some of those games is also not a surprise. Today that wasn’t going to happen. It was pretty clear early on. There have been some very good positives out of this [tournament run], but let’s see. We’ve got another game against a team that’s ranked top-five in the world.”Whether the US acquit themselves better in that match remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt the team’s run to the semifinals as CONCACAF’s lone representative in the final four represented a success – even if that was tough to see after a night in which the US were never truly in the game.“We just a lost a game in which we weren’t really in the game after the first three minutes,” Gulati said. “It’s hard to ask me about feelings. Today is a disappointment that it wasn’t a more competitive game. But overall, the performance of the team to get here, absolutely that’s a positive.”
Armchair Analyst: With 2018 looming, where does the US go from here?
June 22, 201611:59 PM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Editor
The US men’s national team has played five games in the Copa America. Two of them were against opponents we should have beaten and did; two were vs. opponents who were favored to beat us and they did; one was against a team that we were slight favorites against, and we gutted out a 2-1 win.So it goes. By those numbers it wasn’t a particularly noteworthy tournament – none of the results were surprising just in W-L-D terms. The scorelines of the win over Costa Rica and Tuesday’s loss to Argentina were, however, shocking. The US fanbase seems absolutely stunned in the wake of last night’s 4-0 drubbing, and I’m right there with you all: I personally think it’s the worst and most embarrassing loss of the modern era (that era beginning with qualifying for the 1990 World Cup, and everything after).But even with that defeat it’s pretty clear that if the US keep up this pattern they will eventually punch a ticket to Russia in 2018. They are once again beating the teams that have less talent than them, which is 1) everybody in CONCACAF except Mexico, and 2) all but about 20 teams in the world. It’s not progress in any sense of the word, but it’s… fine. It’s enough. The rising tide of talent does the job.So this is a functional question rather than a philosophical one:
Functionally, we learned from Copa America what will be enough to help us advance through the Hexagonal and to Russia. However you feel about Michael Bradley at d-mid, John Brooks andGeoff Cameron in central defense, DeAndre Yedlin at right back and Brad Guzan in goal, just remember that they were good enough to put together wins over Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ecuador.
I’m not saying upgrades should be ignored if they present themselves. What I’m saying is that the smarter approach is to build upon a foundation that has a baseline of success – to optimize rather than to tear down and start anew. Use that 4-1-3-2 look that was so solid at the back and find a way to make the rest of it more dangerous.
With that in mind, here are three adjustments I’d like to see Jurgen Klinsmann make over the next six months in order to prep for the US for next year’s Hexagonal:
- Figure out a way to pushFabian Johnsonup to his natural role on the wing
Johnson put in a man’s performance at left back throughout this tournament, and deserves credit for that. But his nous in possession and creativity in the final third were badly missed by a US team that didn’t generate a single shot of any sort against Argentina on Tuesday. Getting him onto the left side of that “3” line in the 4-1-3-2, or on the left wing of a 4-3-3, should be high on Klinsmann’s list of objectives.
Possible solutions: Eric Lichaj, Timmy Chandler or Brandon Vincent
- Lichaj should have been at this Copa America, full stop. He’s played over 12,000 minutes in the Premiership and Championship in England over the last five years, and has 11 solid caps to his name in Red, White & Blue. Plus he’ll be just 29 in 2018. Chandler has been less good with the US and his commitment is rightly questioned by the fanbase, but he’s still a Bundesliga starter. Vincent, meanwhile, got off to a slow start with the Fire this year, but has come into his own over the last six weeks and pretty clearly has an international-level future.
It’s clear that Klinsmann has never valued chance creators and that the US have suffered for it. Neither Nagbe nor Pulisic is, so far, a traditional No. 10, but neither has to be in order to be effective. Pulisic looks plenty comfortable on the wing, and Nagbe’s ability to play both sides of the ball and his comfort in traffic has made him a very, very effective box-to-box player at the MLS level.Plus he’s been pretty good in his few national team looks, too:
Possible solutions: Writing their names down on the team sheet, Nagbe in central midfield and Pulisic on the wing opposite Johnson
- I don’t mean to say that either/both should play every minute of every game, but pushing them further up the rotational ladder alongside the likes ofJermaine Jonesand Alejandro Bedoyamakes sense. Nagbe needs to partner with Bradley in games that mean something; Pulisic needs to show whether his future is as a winger, or perhaps as Dempsey’s replacement underneath a center forward.This process for figuring this stuff out needs to start soon – as in Saturday’s third-place game, and not 65 minutes into a must-win qualifier next spring as an act of desperation.
- Value hold-up play
Starting Chris Wondolowski as a center forward was always going to fail because Wondo does not possess that skillset. Starting Clint Dempsey as a lone center forward in the World Cup was always going to fail because Deuce does not possess that skillset. Starting Bobby Wood there was better, and moving Gyasi Zardes up top in the second half of the Argentina loss at least showed that Klinsmann can recognize the lack of hold-up play is a problem (even if it’s hardly Zardes’s strongest suit).And let’s remember that Jozy Altidore, before his injury this spring, looked really, really good holding the ball up.Possible solutions: C.J. Sapong, Jordan Morris and a returning-to-health Terrence Boyd
- Against the best teams, the US will have to sometimes skip the midfield entirely. We call this “The Brian McBride Gambit,” and obviously Sapong is a monster in that situation.Morris still lacks, but he’s been developing rapidly in his rookie year, and while it remains to be seen what Boyd will look like when he finally returns, he was always a rugged and willing No. 9 who’d allow the attackers around him more time and space in which to work.
Here’s a fact about the United States men’s national team that many people seem to overlook: It’s far from a great squad in the grand scheme of international soccer. This isn’t a shot meant to belittle Jurgen Klinsmann’s group; it’s simply the truth.Pick a metric. The Americans are 31st in the latest FIFA ranking, sandwiched between the Czech Republic and Algeria. They sit 23rd in ESPN’s Soccer Power Index; better, yes, but still behind six South American teams, 12 from Europe and, of course, Mexico. (Also: Algeria, Japan and Senegal for the completists out there.)While the Americans are one of seven countries to qualify for every World Cup since 1990 — Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy, South Korea and Spain are the others — that’s at least partially due to the relative ease of CONCACAF qualifying. There’s no real reason to think that the U.S. should be able to stay with Argentina, an excellent team desperate to hoist a trophy led by the world’s best player.So when we talk about the Americans’ performance at the Copa America Centenario, set aside Tuesday night’s 4-0 shellacking in Houston, what’s left? A first-place finish in a difficult Group A, a nice run to the semifinals and a feeling that there’s hope for the future. The victory against Ecuador, the first knockout stage win in a major tournament since the 2009 Confederations Cup, was peak positivity, a moment when the promises of the Klinsmann era finally met, or at least approached, reality.Except none of that is true.Against Ecuador, the U.S. were out-possessed 58-42, 74-26 in the final third. They were out-passed 390-263. Offensive third touches were 248-86 in favor of Ecuador. One of the best attacking players, Fabian Johnson, was more or less minimized, with just 12 touches in the offensive third.Bobby Wood managed a game-low 33 total touches. The U.S. was about six inches from John Brooks tying the game on an own goal. A close corollary in style and substance is the win against Spain at the 2009 Confederations Cup, in which possession was 56-44 in favor of the European team. That’s a game most fans remember as one in which the U.S. barely hung on.Against Ecuador, the Americans did hang on. There’s value in doing so because the result is the single-most important outcome of an individual soccer game. But Klinsmann and his team also talk about the process, the idea of slow improvement over time, the concept of making progress. We didn’t see that much evidence at Copa America that the Stars and Stripes are making significant moves forward. They were middle of the pack in many stats, made to look better by a remarkably high (and totally unsustainable) 50 percent conversion rate in shots on goal.In the first four games of Copa America, the Americans had just 43.4 percent of possession. The Colombia match was the only game they had more of the ball. The way the U.S. found success during the group stage and quarterfinal was through working harder than the other team, which had been missing from some Klinsmann teams during the past five years, but it’s also not exactly a revelation. It’s how the U.S. has always succeeded.Across the balance of four games, Wood was dangerous at times, but is Geoff Cameron passing it over the top to Wood really that different from Oguchi Onyewu or Jay DeMerit trying to pick out a streaking Charlie Davies in 2009?Clint Dempsey, who led the team in scoring at the 2006 World Cup, remains the only player who can finish on a consistent basis. Too often, Gyasi Zardes’ disastrous first touches undid promising attacking forays. Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic, the two players with the most pre-tournament hype, barely figured. When the quarterfinal vs. Ecuador got tight, Klinsmann turned to Kyle Beckerman and Graham Zusi rather than the younger players he has praised so effusively, and then to Chris Wondolowski as well in the semifinal. The Copa run wasn’t a revolution; it was simply more of the same.If anything, it offered the unusual picture of Klinsmann as a conservative manager. After half a decade of zigging when he could (or should?) have zagged — leaving Landon Donovan off the World Cup roster, refusing to start the same lineup twice, playing players out of position, throwing young guys into the fire to see if they survived, basically never being predictable — his choices during the past few weeks were downright staid. Some of them, like sticking with a uniform back four, mostly worked; others didn’t, like the starting XI vs. Argentina.At the Copa, Klinsmann set up his team to do something he hasn’t done much of during his tenure: play pragmatic soccer. The Americans ground out wins, working hard and doing just enough. If he had a choice to go for it or pull back, he picked the latter option, the safer one that carried lower risk but also less potential reward. He has never been quite so nakedly after results. Was he worried about his job security, concerned that if wins didn’t come this summer, he wouldn’t be around to reap the benefits of having taken a chance by playing younger guys with higher ceilings?We’ll look back at the 2016 Copa America as a success. And we should. The Americans reached the semifinal, Klinsmann’s stated goal, and a result that the vast majority of fans would have accepted before the tournament began. And yet, the way they got there was disappointing. The hope of the Klinsmann era was that he would somehow blend the hard-working American mentality of past teams with the skill sets of young, exciting, emerging players, developing some sort of hybrid style. That’s why he was hired. During the past fortnight, that ambition was abandoned. We’ll see if it returns.”You have to take risks,” Klinsmann said before the semifinal. He didn’t, and he hadn’t. But there’s always tomorrow.Noah Davis is a Brooklyn-based correspondent for ESPN FC and deputy editor at American Soccer Now. Twitter: @Noahedavis.
U.S. progression under Klinsmann in spotlight after Argentina humbling
At major tournaments, what constitutes success can be a moving target. A pre-tournament goal can be reached, but how a team achieves that objective and the manner of its exit can do plenty to alter perceptions.So it goes for the U.S. men’s national team.In the 2014 World Cup, the U.S. emerged from a difficult group to reach the round of 16, where it was bounced from the tournament in extra time by a talented Belgium side. That was enough for manager Jurgen Klinsmann to declare victory, even though the U.S. was outplayed for the vast majority of that World Cup and stylistically didn’t look much different from previous American sides.The 2016 Copa America Centenario — pending Saturday’s third-place match against Colombia or Chile — witnessed some similarities, although the team can glean a few more positives. It met Klinsmann’s pre-tournament goal of progressing to the semifinals. Excluding CONCACAF Gold Cups, the U.S. won three matches at a major tournament for the first time in its history. (For those pointing to the 1995 Copa America, the U.S.’s penalty shootout win over Mexico in the quarterfinals goes into the books as a draw.)Along the way, Klinsmann collected encouraging data points with regard to some of his most vexing personnel questions. John Brooks and Geoff Cameron emerged as a stable and consistent center-back pairing. Bobby Wood’s play up top means the absence of a Jozy Altidore needn’t result in a tactical conundrum for Klinsmann or a wringing of hands for fans. DeAndre Yedlin has staked his claim to the right-back spot for years to come, and Gyasi Zardes more than repaid Klinsmann’s faith and patience by delivering some highly effective performances in a wide midfield role.Clint Dempsey, while very much a known quantity, reinforced his value to the U.S., scoring three goals and benefiting greatly from Klinsmann’s decision to send out his team in a 4-4-2.But impressions — be they first, last or otherwise — matter, and the manner of the Americans’ start and elimination will be burned into memory. The tournament-opening 2-0 loss to Colombia, and especially the 4-0 semifinal defeat to Argentina on Tuesday, serve as reminders of the gap between the U.S. and the world’s best. It was as if the U.S. arrived at Everest base camp in the middle of the night only to wake up the following morning and behold the magnitude of the task that climbing that mountain entails.To be clear, the U.S. played well in spurts earlier in the tournament, but there were some warning signs. Much like in the last World Cup, the U.S. was outshot by a heavy margin at the Copa America. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the total shots ratio (the percentage of total shots in a game that a team takes) for the U.S. was 36.7, the third-lowest in the tournament, and the lowest of any team that progressed from the group stage. The stat was influenced in part by the fact that the U.S. played a man down for nearly half of the 1-0 win against Paraguay, but looked at another way, only in the 4-0 win over Costa Rica did the U.S. outshoot its opponent.The U.S.’s task was undermined on a couple of fronts that were evident throughout the tournament: a weakness in defending set pieces and a lack of discipline. The U.S. conceded five set-piece goals over the first five games. One was a penalty against Colombia, and another was an otherworldly free kick from Lionel Messi. Neither of those can be pinned on the whole defense, but the other three were instances where the U.S. was outworked, outthought or both. That doesn’t bode well for the World Cup qualifying games to come.In terms of discipline, the U.S. received two send-offs and 10 yellow cards (not including the two that led to Yedlin’s dismissal) during the Copa. The suspensions of Alejandro Bedoya, Wood and Jermaine Jones for the semifinal cut deep, each in their own unique way. Granted, it’s unlikely that their availability would have changed the outcome, but at least their presence would have given the U.S. more of a chance. Given the vagaries of CONCACAF refereeing, that penchant for cards is something the U.S. needs to clean up before World Cup qualifying resumes in September.The suspensions indirectly pointed to the biggest question the U.S. faces as it exits the tournament: the future of the midfield. Both the good and the bad of Jones were on display in this Copa. When he’s on, the Americans’ ability to carry the game to their opponent increases considerably. His assist on Dempsey’s goal against Ecuador was impressive. But his occasional trips to the dark side create some doubt as to his dependability. Yes, his send-off against Ecuador was controversial. The contact he made with Antonio Valencia’s face appeared minimal at worst. But it goes back to the adage that if you leave yourself open to the whims of a referee, don’t be surprised when he rules against you. Jones should know better than to take that chance.Michael Bradley deserves some scrutiny as well. Overall, he seemed to benefit from the move to a holding role that he filled for the majority of the tournament, especially in terms of his defense. But following an exceptional performance against Costa Rica, his distribution eroded to the point where he struggled mightily against Argentina. Granted, it was a night when no one played well, and Jones was missed. But Bradley has historically been a player Klinsmann could count on to take care of the ball under pressure. That wasn’t the case in either of the two U.S. defeats.Of course, when it comes to the U.S. midfield, it’s evident that Klinsmann has scant confidence — especially on defense — in anyone beyond Jones, Bradley, Zardes and Bedoya. Why else start Chris Wondolowski against Argentina instead of moving Zardes up top and having one of Christian Pulisic or Darlington Nagbe fill in? And the problem remains of where the creativity will come from. Finding a left-back to free up Fabian Johnson to move back to midfield would help, and that ought to be a priority in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Pulisic’s continued development will necessitate watching, and he remains in the mix, but one wonders what exactly Nagbe’s future is. He would seem to have a skill set that would help the U.S., but his limited minutes, even with the team hit hard by suspensions, hints that Klinsmann has lost a bit of faith in him.So it’s worth asking: Just how much progress has been made under Klinsmann? Compared to last summer, when the U.S. exited the Gold Cup in the semifinals, it has been considerable, but that failure back in 2015 also represented perhaps the lowest point the U.S. men’s program has experienced since it last failed to qualify for a World Cup back in 1985. If the beginning of this World Cup cycle is the reference point, then the U.S. seems stuck in largely the same place it was before, even with the pluses this Copa revealed. Klinsmann remains heavily reliant on veterans from the 2014 cycle. Of the consistent starters in this tournament, only Zardes and Wood can be considered newcomers.Yet for Klinsmann, the U.S. performance in the Copa America practically guarantees he will last for the remainder of this cycle, meaning there are two years left to scour the player pool for reinforcements. His ability to introduce a few new faces into the side will determine to what extent the U.S. improves for Russia 2018.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.
United States fail to perform on the Copa America big stage
The United States fell 4-0 to the top ranked team in the world on Tuesday night in Houston, and it wasn’t much of a surprise.The Americans were outclassed by their Argentine opponents all over the field, nearly from the opening whistle.Lacking a clear plan on how to slow down Lionel Messi & Co., and with a number of players making simple mistakes, there was no way around a rout.The player ratings reflect that difficult reality.Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Brad Guzan, 4 — At fault for the opening Argentina goal, when he failed to come off his line to challenge for a looping ball into the box. The saves he made were cancelled out by too many slow reactions. Can’t be faulted on Messi’s goal.
DF DeAndre Yedlin, 6 — Provided some of the only danger the U.S. was able to create by combining up the flank.
DF Geoff Cameron, 6 — As guilty as his teammates for giving Argentina an easy path to goal. Spent much of the night backpedaling with Argentina attackers running at him. Part of the failure on the opening goal.
DF John Brooks, 5.5 — Forced to make errors for the first time in the tournament, giving the ball away in bad areas and stepping late on an offside trap. Slipped by Gonzalo Higuain for the third goal. Made important tackles and was otherwise competent.
DF Fabian Johnson, 5 — Spent most of the evening uninvolved, but did make a few goal-saving defensive runs.
MF Gyasi Zardes, 7 — Did more to give the U.S. a chance at a goal than anyone else on the field. Played a few promising passes that led to nothing at the feet of teammates. Tracked back to good effect.
MF Kyle Beckerman, 4 — Simply unable to handle the pace of the game, struggling to keep up with Argentina. Misplayed several passes and turned the ball over. Subbed off at the 60-minute mark.
DF Michael Bradley, 3.5 — Sloppy with the ball, turning over possession quite a bit across 90 minutes. Set piece service was poor.
DF Graham Zusi, 4.5 — Provided industry, but little more. Failed to provide any meaningful service and conspired with the rest of the midfield to struggle with simple passes.
FW Clint Dempsey, 5 — Limited in his influence by the lack of possession available to the Americans. Did little more than drop deep and attempt to connect a few passes.
FW Chris Wondolowski, 3 — Isolated entirely because of Argentina’s dominance of the ball. Turned the ball over and then committed the foul that set up Messi’s free kick goal. A nonfactor in the attacking half.
MF Christian Pulisic, 4.5 — Entered a game already lost and never got settled. Missed a chance to put a shot on target, something the U.S. failed to accomplish.
DF Steve Birnbaum, 3 — Comported himself fairly well until a late turnover that led directly to Argentina’s fourth goal.
MF Darlington Nagbe, NR — Energetic, had a few decent touches in his 15 minutes on the field.
Jason Davis is a writer from Virginia covering American soccer. He also hosts a daily soccer podcast that covers the beautiful game. Follow him @davisjsn.
Mexico, U.S. experience reality check in Copa America Centenario
HOUSTON — In the Copa America Centenario, the U.S. men’s national team finished among the final four; Mexico’s national team didn’t. However when both teams played against their toughest opponents in the tournament — Mexico vs. Chile in the quarterfinals and the U.S. vs. Argentina in the semifinals — both teams failed significantly.Argentina scored four goals against Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT, while Chile tallied seven against Juan Carlos Osorio’s El Tri. CONCACAFs main sides conceded 11 goals against last summer’s Copa America finalists.The losses, which make the U.S. and Mexico seem as if they still have a long way to go to match the top CONMEBOL teams, come at a time when both are still trying to define their playing styles.When Klinsmann took over as U.S. manager in 2011, he talked a lot about defining the way the side should execute the game. “Will the U.S. team be more proactive or reactive?” was one of the questions asked during his first news conference. He pointed out that against CONCACAF opposition, the U.S. should be more proactive, taking initiative in most of its games; but if the opponent was Brazil or Argentina, the team would probably have to sit back and wait for the right moment to attack.Against Argentina at NRG Stadium, the U.S. were unable to react as Lionel Messi, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Mascherano and Ever Banega took possession of the ball. Klinsmann’s men were unable to muster a single shot on goal.Indeed, there was no point in the match where it seemed like the U.S. would score.Mexico’s display against Chile was not far off from the one the U.S. had against Argentina. Mexico only had one shot on goal against La Roja, though the final result was of course more brutal.Just as the U.S. is under Klinsmann, Mexico is still trying to define its style. In his reign between 2002-06, Ricardo La Volpe was the manager that first made the 5-3-2 tactical formation into one that the Mexico could use against opponents like Argentina, Germany or Brazil. His way of playing the game was then integrated by Miguel Herrera during his time as manager from Nov. 2013 until July 2015.Now, with the arrival of Osorio, who is taking his first steps as national team manager, Mexico aspires to strengthen the style that La Volpe first implemented, and Herrera tried to expand. However, the historic 7-0 loss will make it extremely difficult for Osorio to peacefully work in this environment; he will be questioned every time he fails to get a win.What the two thumping losses proved is that the U.S. and Mexico are in a region of the world where they’re almost guaranteed to earn a World Cup place; the lack of competitiveness seen in CONCACAF hinders the progression of its two main teams.There’s no doubt that when the U.S. and Mexico play against each other, expectation among Mexicans and Americans is at an all-time high, but the neutral spectator doesn’t really pay attention to the CONCACAF rivalry for footballing reasons.The neutral spectator will observe a Chile vs. Argentina for footballing reasons because these two are at a level that permits them to compete against the world’s best. It’s even possible to suggest that Chile’s intense and proactive style is more attractive than Argentina’s — most of which highly depends on what Messi does.It would be healthy for the U.S. and Mexico to find ways to play more often against sides that are close to the level of Argentina and Chile, as opposed to playing against each other. Those games between the U.S. and Mexico should only happen in World Cup qualifiers, in the Gold Cup, or even a World Cup, not in friendlies. Both national teams should be looking to use their friendly games to play against an opponent that could make them progress.Fusing CONMEBOL and CONCACAF into one big confederation might not be on the cards just yet, but Mexico and the U.S. need to learn their lessons from the heavy defeats inflicted by their South American opponnets and ensure they grow as a result.
Armchair Analyst: No plan & plenty of pain as Argentina throttle US 4-0
June 22, 20165:25 AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Editor
There was no magic lineup that would put the US on even footing with Argentina. We’re hoping to get lucky either way. But this is still bad.
“They know exactly how to sort of organize themselves behind the ball quickly,” Jurgen Klinsmann said in the postgame press conference. “They high pressure right away when you are in possession of the ball. That’s why we pretty much didn’t have any chance to score.”Klinsmann was talking about Argentina in the wake of their 4-0 win over the US men’s national team in the Copa America semifinals on Tuesday night, and he was right. Argentina were supremely organized and absolutely ruthless, and clearly the better team for the full 90 minutes. Even under the best of circumstances the US wouldn’t be expected to take them to the wire when they’re playing this well. There’s a quality gap.Fine. But… there’s always been a quality gap. Why, now, is there an organization gap? Why is there a high pressure gap? Why, after five years in charge, is Klinsmann’s US team no more organized than it was when he took over? Why have previous managers all been able to produce teams notable for their ability to stay compact and defend as a unit, while this one fell apart within three minutes against the La Albiceleste?Please understand, the US have faced teams as good as this version of Argentina before and come out on top. Each of the previous three managers — Bob Bradley, Bruce Arena and Steve Sampson — have coached the US to at least one win over a team ranked in the top 10 of the Elo Ratings in an official competition:
This performance was an outlier in the last 30 years of US soccer. But it also felt like an inevitability for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on. As Alexi Lalas said on the FS1 postgame, “The US didn’t press, but they didn’t absorb pressure. When they did try to press it was disjointed.”In lieu of a complete breakdown (which would be, just what, a GIF of a hammer hitting a nail for infinity?) I’m just going to string some brief thoughts together:
- The numbers kind of explain how disorganized the US were: They generated zero shots of any type (on goal or off), and Argentina generated 10 shots. That’s not a high number, but the kicker is that they put nine of the 10 on target.That doesn’t happen by accident. That happens when a defense is pulled apart and the attacking group is able to find every seam:
Argentina generated tap-ins. The US made it easy, and while Klinsmann talked about showing Argentina “too much respect” in the postgame, at least part of it has to be chalked up to a team that came in with a questionable (charitably) gameplan.Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain need more than a “questionable” gameplan. You need a rock solid gameplan in which every single player knows what his role is at all times.
- The US came out in a 4-4-2 that Argentina unspooledalmost immediately. The 4-4-2 mostly went out of style over the last decade (a recent resurgence from Atletico Madrid and Leicester City notwithstanding) because teams that play a three-man central midfield can swamp that part of the pitch, get on the ball, dictate the rhythm and force tempo.Javier Mascherano and Ever Banegathoroughly outclassed their counterparts, Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman, and so even if the US backline was heroic, the Yanks were gonna take an L in this one.
- Beckerman and Bradley did not have a good partnershipin this one as dual pivots, and pretty constantly left space in between the central midfield and central defense:
This is the danger of breaking up that triangle of Bradley and central defenders John Brooks &Geoff Cameron. The US could’ve survived a bad outing from Bradley, but not a bad and disorganized outing from that CB/D-mid triangle. Adding Beckerman, a good defensive midfielder and a smart player, actually made the US worse defensively and infinitely more reactive.
- Taking the occasional beating is inevitableno matter who you are. What makes those beatings bearable for the fanbase is knowing that A) young players got meaningful minutes, and B)the coach will learn from his mistakes.
I’ll leave the rest of that thought unsaid.
- Ok, maybe not entirely unsaid:Darlington Nagbe‘sevents map (passes and recoveries) from his 12 minutes. He didn’t get on the ball much, but when he did he was reliable and solid. And he did plenty of work tracking back:
- I don’t understand why anybody would ever thinkaClint Dempsey/Chris Wondolowskipartnership would work up top. The US weren’t all that much better in the second half with Gyasi Zardes up top — and what little improvement there was can probably be chalked up to game states — but starting two second forwards, neither of whom has any speed to push the defenders deep and keep them honest, was never going to work against any decent & decently prepared team.It’s a basic mistake Klinsmann keeps making. He doesn’t seem to be able to assess which players’ strengths complement each other, and which make each other worse.
- Here’s the highlight of the night for the US:
Christian Pulisic could have done better with that final touch — Opta initially credited him with a shot, but it was pretty clearly a pass. He could have been more selfish.But he, like Nagbe, never looked out of his depth. Certainly US fans should hope that those two and Jordan Morris are given more high-leverage minutes in the near future. They bring skills other members of the player pool don’t have.• Messi is impossibly great. His free-kick goal is one that folks will replay for a hundred years, and was a worthy record-breaker. I think that, no matter what happens in the final, he is the greatest who has ever played this game.That said, I hope that Argentina win because I don’t think he’ll get all that many more opportunities to win a major title with his country.
- Higuain’s movement was/is so good.He was the first striker this tournament to force Brooks into multiple errors. No shame in Brooks’s game, though — it happens. And if there’s anything the last 12 months shows us, he’s able to learn from his mistakes and improve.
- Fabian Johnsonhad a mostly invisible day, which is better than most of his teammates can say. I still think that it’s a mistake to play him in the back since the US badly need his creativity and smarts in attack — without that sort of thing you can end up with zero shot attempts — but he deserves credit for the defensive effort he put in. He was much better on that side of the ball this summer than he was in the previous two.
- The third-place game will be on Saturday(8 pm ET; FS1 | Univision | UDN) against either Colombia or Chile, either of whom would be favorites against the US. We’ll see what Klinsmann & Co. are able to learn between now and then.
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