Finishing pointless in the standings is also how the entire exercise of taking a young, largely inexperienced team to so prestigious a competition will be deemed: pointless. Still, in this match Charlie Davies and Lee Nguyen displayed verve and skill, Sacha Kljestan, Drew Moor and Bobby Boswell weren't overwhelmed, and Braz Guzan saved a penalty kick after committing the foul that yielded it. All came into the game with fewer than three caps.
But a sputtering, wheezing U.S. attack - with forwards Eddie Johnson and Herculez Gomez wandering aimlessly -- blighted the first hour of the match. Davies and Nguyen arrived and clicked with Kljestan, Ricardo Clark and Kyle Beckerman, but attempts to establish tempo often died in a morass of midfield collisions. Eddie Gaven replaced Gomez at halftime and did virtually nothing of consequence.
The teams combined for 32 fouls and seven cautions, though two were for time-wasting by keeper Robinson Zapata (how's that for a name). His dismissal in the 87th minute forced striker Hugo Rodellega to don the keeper's jersey and gloves, as Colombia has used its three subs.
Jaime Castrillon overpowered Moor to head Camillo Zuniga's cross for the only goal, but Moor blunted other dangerous situations with bad-ass tackles in the penalty area despite having been cautioned in the second minute. He and left back Heath Pearce tried to get forward but not until Davies and Nguyen cranked up the energy and opened up some space were they able to contribute offensively.
Nguyen also supplied the best defensive play of the night, save for Guzan's penalty save. After taking a free kick in the attacking third, Nguyen raced back as Colombia counterattacked and repelled a Andres Chitiva centering pass over the crossbar with a sliding clearance at the edge of the six-yard box. A world-class play, all the way.
Kljestan conjured up the best U.S. scoring chance by clipping a clever ball first-time over the Colombian back line for Davies to race onto. The bounce escaped Davies yet he tracked the ball down as Zapata scrambled out and fed it to Johnson on the left flank. With the keeper out, Johnson dawdled before looping a cross or shot a yard or two past the far post. Same old, same old.
Guzan dove to his right to block Rodellega's penalty kick that the Colombian had earned after racing onto a through ball and being tripped by Guzan's lunge.
Several U.S. set plays presented opportunities but yielded only a Kljestan header over the crossbar, and nothing of real danger.
Beckerman put the ball in the net with a few minutes remaining after a loose ball had been poked to him past three defenders by Davies, but properly, up went the flag for offside.
Rodellega had no trouble preserving the shutout despite the whirlwind work of Davies and Nguyen. In stoppage time, Moor heroically fended off a determined effort by Mario Yepez as the powerful left back tried to muscle in a second Colombian goal.
GROUP C SUMMARIES:
July 5 in Barquisimeto
Colombia 1 USA 0. Goal: Castrillon 15.
Colombia -- Zapata, Yepes, L.Perea, Arizala, Zuniga, Banguero, Castrillon, Viafara (Marin, 55), Torres (Ferreira, 85), Rodallega, Valoyes (Chitiva, 78)
USA -- Guzan, Moor, Boswell, Pearce, Califf, Clark, Mapp (Davies, 64), Beckerman, Kljestan, Johnson (Nguyen, 71), Gomez (Gaven, 46).
Yellow cards: USA -- Moor 2, Kljestan 32, Mapp 55; Colombia -- L.Perea 42, Zapata 71, Valoyes 78, Zapata 87.
Red card: Colombia -- Zapata 86.
Referee: Manuel Andarcia (Venezuela).
July 5 in Barquisimeto
Argentina 1 Paraguay 0. Goal: Mascherano 79.
Argentina -- Abbondanzieri, Ibarra, Burdisso, Diaz, Zanetti, L.Gonzalez (Mascherano, 67), Gago, Cambiasso (Messi, 67), Aimar (Ayala, 85), Palacio, Tevez.
Paraguay -- Bobadilla, Veron, Caceres, Manzur, Vera, Torres, Santana (Santa Cruz, 81), E.Gonzalez, Dos Santos (Barreto, 69), Cuevas (Lopez, 58), Cabanas
Referee: Jorge Larrionda (Uruguay)