Monumental Task Ahead for the USMNT

The semi-finals of the Copa America Centenario pits the gritty and hard-working USMNT against the refined and ridiculously talented Argentina squad tonight at 9pm on FS1. Argentina is ranked #1 in the world and for good reason. They have talent and depth at every position on the pitch and can put a few balls in the back of the net before you can turn your head to watch it happen. They are the only team in the tournament to win all 4 games they have played, winning by a combined 14-2.

Argentina has arguably the best player in the world in Lionel Messi, who can beat you in so many different ways. He can make his own space and get his own shot or draw the defenders and dump the ball off to Gonzalo Higuain for the finish. The only chance the USMNT has to beat Argentina is to score first and put a lot of pressure on their back line, while playing an A+ game in their own defensive zone. The Argentinian back line is very good, but can be exploited with an aggressive speed attack (if you can get past the strong midfield).

To make matters worse, Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya and Bobby Wood are all suspended for this match due to yellow card accumulation or a red card (Jones). A monumental task made even more difficult thanks to the suspensions. 

As much as I would LOVE to see a USMNT victory resulting in a huge international statement, I have to take Argentina in this match-up 3-1. If the US can pull off a victory over Argentina, it will be one of the greatest upsets of all time for the USMNT.

USMNT Eyeing a Semi-Final Birth

After an amazing turn of events to close out the group stage in the Copa America Centenario, the US Men’s Soccer team emerged as the group A winner. That gave the US a quarterfinal matchup against the 2nd place finisher in group B, which would help them avoid Brazil. We didn’t know at the time that Brazil would ultimately lose and be eliminated from the Copa America tournament in the group stage for the first time since 1987. As a result, the US gets to play Ecuador in Seattle tonight at 9:30pm ET.

In the group stage, Ecuador played to a nil-nil draw with Brazil, a 2-2 draw with Peru and then beat Haiti 4-0. Ecuador is a formidable opponent, ranked #13 in the FIFA world ranking. They have not had much success in the Copa America, reaching the quarterfinals in 1997 and nothing much since. The World Cup has also not been their friend, reaching the Round of 16 in the 2006 World Cup, reaching the group stage in 2002 and 2014, and not even qualifying in 2010.

On the other side of the pitch, the USMNT hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. After a 2-0 loss to Columbia, they beat Costa Rica 4-0 and then Paraguay 1-0 to advance. Both wins were big for their confidence, but can they translate that into a good game tonight? The last time the US made any headway in the Copa America was a 4th place finish in 1995. In World Cup play the US has had some mild success, reaching the Round of 16 in 1994, 2010 and 2014 and the quarterfinals in 2002.

Tonight should be a tightly contested match and will be a true test of where the USMNT is at this moment. A win could propel them into a matchup with Argentina in the semi-finals, which would likely be where their Copa run ends. Either way, the Copa America tournament has been a good test for this young USMNT as they set their eyes on the 2018 World Cup in Russia.