It is hard to remember a more one-sided loss the USA has suffered in a major tournament or a more disastrous result for the image of the national team program than its 4-0 loss to Argentina in the
semifinals of the Copa Centenario.
This is a special Albiceleste
and a special Lionel Messi -- two goals and four assists in two starts at the Copa Centenario, plus a hat trick in 19 minutes off the bench -- but the match exposed the huge gulf between the
USA and the top teams of the world.
Argentina had a 625-191 edge in completed passes and held the USA without a shot, let alone a shot on goal. But the stats tell only part of the story.
The USA looked hapless as it chased the Argentines in vain and sprayed passes to no one in particular.
1. USA suffers worst defeat in Klinsmann era.
The result was the
USA's worst defeat in the Jurgen Klinsmann era and the worst defeat in the finals of a major competition in the modern era when it fielded its full national team.
The USA lost to
Mexico, 5-0, in the final of the 2009 Gold Cup, but it was playing with a "B" team drafted after the USA finished second at the Confederations Cup. You have to go all the way back to the 1934 World
Cup when the USA lost to host Italy, 7-1, in the first round to find a worst loss.
Worst U.S. Defeats, Major Competitions: 1-7 Italy (1934 World Cup) 1-6 Argentina (1930 World Cup) *0-5 Mexico (2009 Gold Cup) 1-5 Czechoslovakia (1990 World Cup) 0-4
Argentina (2016 Copa Centenario) 0-4 Mexico (1993 Gold Cup) *USA fielded a "B" team.
The USA exited the 2014 World Cup after being badly dominated by
Belgium, but at least it took that game to overtime, put on a furious comeback in the second overtime period and got a memorable game in goal from Tim Howard, all allowing the U.S. performance
to be labeled as heroic.
There are no redeeming qualities to be taken from Tuesday's game -- which makes the performance that much more stinging.
2. Argentines are simply
The suspensions of Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya and Bobby Wood forced Klinsmann to make four changes in the U.S. starting
In addition to DeAndre Yedlin, who returned to the starting lineup in place of Matt Besler, Klinsmann started Kyle Beckerman,
Chris Wondolowski and Graham Zusi for the first time at the Copa Centenario. Beckerman, Wondolowski and Zusi are all players
who go back with Klinsmann to the 2014 World Cup.
The Wondo pick, in particular, was derided, but all three players were badly outmatched in what might be their last competitive matches
with the national team.
Even if Jones, Bedoya and Wood had been available, though, or even if younger players like Christian Pulisic or Darlington Nagbe had started, it is
hard to imagine the result being any different.
“At every position on the field, they were just better than us,” Klinsmann said afterward.
The defeat follows a string of wins over Costa Rica (4-0), Paraguay (1-0) and Ecuador (2-1) that marked the first time the USA had won three or more games in a row
in a major competition other than the Gold Cup.
The USA had played confidently throughout the tournament, but it had a huge home-field advantage set up by the tournament organizers -- an
extra day of rest on Costa Rica and Ecuador and a far easier travel schedule than Paraguay had.
Argentina played Venezuela on Saturday -- two days after the USA played Ecuador -- and had
to travel from Boston to Houston, but it was the far fresher and stronger team. From the opening moments, the Americans looked timid and confused, unable to make up for the huge difference in skills
and savvy between them and their opponents.
Probably the last game as one-sided as Tuesday's loss was the USA's 4-0 defeat to Spain in June 2011. It was only a friendly game but against
the reigning World Cup (and European) champions. Two months later, Bob Bradley was out as national team coach.
Will Klinsmann suffer the same fate after an equally humiliating
defeat but on a bigger stage? If the USA had not advanced to the knockout stage, he'd have likely been fired. Those three victories against Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ecuador might have inoculated him,
but the manner of the Argentina defeat -- not the defeat itself -- will again raise serious questions about the direction of the program.
Klinsmann's boss, Sunil Gulati, said after
the 2-0 loss to Colombia he didn't want to get too high or too low based on one game, but it will be hard for him to ignore the depths of the Houston debacle.