USA-Colombia: Hosts dig themselves a hole

U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann said the USA-Colombia game to open the Copa Centenario was “a totally even game.” Fair enough. The USA did have an 11-8 edge in shots and possession (54 percent). But Klinsmann went on to add, "We didn’t give them anything.” Except the little matter of the two goals that gave the Cafeteros a 2-0 win. Here are three takeaways from the opener.

1. USA didn't deserve more than what it got.

First things first: Colombia is a better team than the USA, probably two goals better, so the result is no shame for the USA. But the Cafeteros didn't exactly run the USA off the field. They did what they needed -- open up a 2-0 lead at the half -- and got out with three points. They'd have also liked to get out without any injuries, but unfortunately, James Rodriguez injured his shoulder.

That being said, the USA didn't deserve more than what it got. You probably have to go back to the first two games of the 2014 World Cup to say that the USA has played above itself in a competitive match. Not against Germany or Belgium in Brazil. Not at the Gold Cup (the 6-0 win over Cuba doesn't count). Not in the Concacaf Cup. Not in World Cup 2018 qualifying (Guatemala was so bad in the second game, that 4-0 win hardly fits the bill).

The USA got itself bogged down trying to contain the Colombian attack -- particularly, Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones on Juan Cuadrado -- and found itself a reactive mode that left it unable to mount any sustained pressure on Colombia. The midfield was a muddle and wing play was largely nonexistent. Besides Clint Dempsey and Geoff Cameron (except for the first goal), who could you have at least been satisfied with?

Michael Bradley had one of the most costly turnovers of his national team career, and Jones was a shadow of the player he was at the 2014 World Cup.

2. Set piece haunts the USA again.

Much of the pregame talk was about how Colombia is vulnerable on set pieces, but everyone seemed to forget the USA's problems in similar situations. Goals off set pieces were the difference when Jamaica beat the USA, 2-1, in the semifinals of the 2015 Gold Cup (goals off a throw-in and directly from a free kick) and Guatemala stunned the USA, 2-0, in March (goals off a corner kick and goal kick).

It took only eight minutes for the Colombians to score off a corner kick. Edwin Cardona served a ball into area, where the Cafeteros employed a pick on Cameron, who was unable to catch up to Cristian Zapata. The AC Milan defender met Cardona's cross and fired a low volley past the helpless Brad Guzan.

The USA's best chances came off set pieces -- Dempsey's header that was cleared off the line by Sebastian Perez in the 60th minute and his free kick that keeper David Ospina pushed away four minutes later -- but that was only after it wasted three free kicks in dangerous positions in the first half.

3. Opening loss is bad omen.

The USA dug itself a big hole with the loss to Colombia. Only once has the USA played in a major tournament and advanced out of the group stage after losing its opening game. And in that case -- the 2009 Confederations Cup -- it lost its first two games -- 3-1 to Italy and 3-0 to Brazil -- before beating Egypt, 3-0, and miraculously advancing when it got help from Brazil, a 3-0 winner over Italy.

At the World Cup in 1950, 1990, 1998 and 2006, Confederation Cup in 2003 and Copa America in 1993 and 2007, the USA lost its opening game and failed to advance. Indeed, it only won one game in those seven tournaments -- the 1-0 win over England in Belo Horizonte in 1950.

The good news for the USA is that its two next games -- Costa Rica on Tuesday in Chicago and then Paraguay on Saturday in in Philadelphia -- are eminently winnable. It would be a debacle if the USA failed to win at least one of those games.

6 comments about "USA-Colombia: Hosts dig themselves a hole".
  1. John Soares, June 6, 2016 at 2:01 p.m.

    This was not a "bad" game. The USA got beat by a better team...particularly in the first thirty minutes. One major problem was playing (perhaps by design) overly defensive. This was not a game to feel shame or embarrassment about. You could argue the USA was the better team in the second half. As for Brady, mistakes happen in every game. Sometimes made by the best players. Once in a while you get punished... part of the game.

  2. Allan Lindh, June 6, 2016 at 2:23 p.m.

    I don't see Cameron at fault or first goal. Perfect service, perfect run, perfect finish. Cameron was only inches behind -- sometimes they just beat you.

    Real problem was inability of mids to hold ball or complete passes. Please dear God start Palisic and Nagbe and Bedoya.

  3. John Soares, June 6, 2016 at 4:24 p.m.

    Allan I agree with your Cameron assessment. Every goal in every game could have been stopped "if only", but then all games would be 0-0. Not much fun!

  4. Kevin Leahy, June 6, 2016 at 4:51 p.m.

    Cameron was slow to move & lost his man! Let me know the next time you see someone foot volley of a corner from that part of the field.

  5. Andrew Kear, June 7, 2016 at 7:23 a.m.

    Bradley and Arena did so much more with less talented USMNT sides. Did anyone think Klinsmann would be such a bust!

  6. beautiful game replied, June 7, 2016 at 7:58 p.m.

    Arena in particular related better to his squad and got 110% effort on the pitch. As for JK being a bust...Sunil and the USSF did a very poor job in vetting JK. The lineup changes at every contest is surreal.

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