No. Plain and simple: No. Let’s put this game in context before we call for the heads of everyone and anyone who has been associated with the USMNT in the past 5 years. Now, if we leave this tournament 0-3 or even 1-2 we will be having a different conversation, but, for now, let’s not lose site of the goal of the next few weeks: a successful showing at Copa America. Currently, that is still possible even with a disheartening loss to Columbia in the opener. Here are three reasons why:
- Columbia is the #3 team in the World
Let us not forget that this was always going to be a difficult match, and Columbia is an extremely talented team capable of winning Copa America.
They have four dynamic players up front all from elite European leagues led by James Rodriguez, they are firmly anchored in the back, and they are aggressive and purposeful on both sides of the ball. I am happy that the expectation is that the United States should have obtained a result from this match, but I am not going to panic because we were beat by a team that reached the semifinals of the most recent World Cup. This is an excellent team and our success in Copa America should not be measure by our performance in one game.
2. Our next two matches give us opportunities for Points, Confidence, and a Clear Path to Advance
On the same vein, our next match is against Costa Rica in heart of America, and the pulse of the American fanbase, Chicago, IL. There will undoubtedly be a significant home field advantage and this is a game the US should be expected to win and must win to advance in this tournament.
Although the Ticas are ranked nine spots above the US in the FIFA Rankings (23), Costa Rica is playing without their star keeper, Keylor Navas, who is resting after his Champions League victory, and they will be without starting center back Kendall Watson who received a red card in the 94th minute first match. We are playing a non-Mexico CONCACAF opponent on our home soil: this is a match we should expect to win. It is as simple as that. After defeating Costa Rica, the US will have their final match against Paraguay, the weakest side in the group, on Saturday, June 11th. At this point, the formula is simple: win to advance. Luckily for the US, the next two games are games where they will be expected to win and build confidence, but there is no margin for error.
3. Young Players on the Rise: Pulisic, Nagbe, and Zardes
In the 66th minute of Friday night’s match, Klinsmann subbed in Christian Pulisic for Bobby Wood at striker and Darlington Nagbe for Jermaine Jones in the center of the pitch. These players have the creativity and flare that our attack currently lacks and could be the keys to propel the US to the next level.
Pulisic is clever with the ball at his feet and shrewd with his decision making in the final third–something we are desperately lacking. Nagbe is a strong, tenacious defender, but also purposeful and confident when carrying the ball forward. Finally, despite the 0-2 loss, the most dangerous moments were when Gyasi Zardes had the ball at his feet. He was able to hold off the strong Columbia defenders, outran them in space, and created chaos in the back. He was a bright spot in an otherwise uninspiring US attack. Although Bedoya has been on the team for what seems like a decade and clearly Klinsmann believes Bobby Wood is the answer to the American’s goal-scoring woes, I do not believe these players are going to get us to the next level where we are expecting to defeat teams like Colombia.
We can no longer rely on Dempsey and Bradley to carry us into the knockout stages of major tournaments, we need other players to step up and help carry the burden.
We can no longer rely on Dempsey and Bradley to carry us into the knockout stages of major tournaments, we need other players to step up and help carry the burden. Luckily, we have talent on the roster, and I hope Klinsmann can see past his own bias, take the risk, and leans on these newcomers in the final group matches.
Would I have liked a result in the first match? Absolutely. Am I still confident that the USMNT will advance out of the group stage? Absolutely. Do not panic. Try to repress your desire to turn on Klinsmann and Bradley. Have faith. We are on our home soil. We are Americans. We will prevail.