The United States men's national team kickoff the Copa America Centenario on home soil tonight, taking on Colombia at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The Yanks look to shake off a disappointing showing in last years CONCACAF Gold Cup, falling victim to a semi-final upset at the hands of the "Reggae Boyz" of Jamaica.
The Copa América is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a special edition of the tournament. Traditionally used to determine the continental champion of South America, the Copa América Centenario will see the ten South American national teams battle with six from North and Central America to determine a champion.
This is the first time the Copa América has been contested in the United States, but it is not the first time the U.S. national team has participated in the tournament. Here's their history in the event:
1993: For the first time, CONMEBOL invited guest teams to bring the tournament to 12 teams. Mexico and the US traveled to Ecuador to take part. Mexico escaped the group stage as a third place qualifier, but rolled all the way to the final where they lost to Argentina.
The U.S. did not fare so well. Led by Bora Milutinović, the team was preparing to host the 1994 World Cup. A 1-0 loss to Uruguay followed by a 2-0 loss to the hosts made the final game crucial for a chance to qualify for the quarterfinals. Goals by Chris Henderson, Alexi Lalas, and Dominic Kinnear put the US up 3-0 over Venezuela. An epic collapse saw Venezuela equalize in the 89th minute and eliminate the US.
1995: The second trip to Uruguay to compete in the Copa América is probably where the US national team truly arrived on the world stage. After a player strike nearly resulted in the Olympic team replacing the full national team, the US kicked off the tournament with a 2-1 win over Chile on a brace from Eric Wynalda. A disappointing 1-0 loss to Bolivia meant that a result was needed against Argentina. Frank Klopas, Lalas, and Wynalda led the US to a shocking 3-0 win over Argentina to top the group.
The win placed the US into a quarterfinal match with rivals Mexico. On a night where Brad Friedel took center stage, the U.S. defeated Mexico on penalties. Friedel saved two of Mexico's attempts. An epic semifinal saw the US fall to Brazil in the second straight international tournament by a 1-0 score. Colombia defeated the U.S. in the third place game.
2007: With the U.S. winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup four days before their first game in the Copa América, the decision was made to send an experimental squad to Venezuela to compete. Eddie Johnson's penalty kick gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead early against Argentina in the opening match, but the Argentines went on to score four times on their way to a huge win. Paraguay won the second match 3-1 with Jonesboro's Ricardo Clark scoring the lone US goal. Colombia sent the U.S. home without a point after a 1-0 loss.
How to Watch
Who: USA vs. Colombia
When: Friday, June 3 at 9:30pm
Available TV: FS1, Univision, Univision Deportes
Available Streaming: Fox Sports GO, Univision Deportes, fuboTV (free trial)
What to Watch For:
New blood for the US
It's no secret that the core group of USMNT players for the past two World Cup cycles are ageing. Eight of the U.S.'s 23-man roster will be in their mid-to-late 30's by Russia 2018. And those eight are playing key roles in the Stars and Stripes' Copa campaign, leading many to wonder if Jurgen Klinsmann is taking the "win now" approach rather than focusing on the 2018 World Cup.
As hard as it may be for US supporters to accept, the days of seeing the likes of Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, Tim Howard, and Captain America himself Clint "Deuce" Dempsey, in an U.S. shirt are numbered. If there is one thing American diehards should focus on in this tournament, it's the performance of the youngsters, like DeAndre Yedlin, Darlington Nagbe, and wonderboy Christian Pulisic.
The biggest question will be how the young talent is incorporated into the team. Will we see Nagbe and Pulisic from the start tonight? More likely, they will be used off the bench tonight.
The formation and system is what most people will be waiting to see tonight. The team looked strong recently in a 4-3-3 formation with Bradley as a defensive midfielder. Jones and Bedoya provided box-to-box work. Expect to see this tonight, or perhaps a more conservative 4-2-3-1 with the wide playing sitting deeper.
The U.S opens the tournament with a 2-1 upset.
Colombia Jumps out to an early lead in the first half. But the Red, White, and Blue come out swinging in the second, equalizing in the opening moments. The match stays deadlocked till the end, with Nagbe scoring the late winner off the assist by Pulisic.
Colombia is the toughest opponent the US will face in the group stage. A result is not critical for survival, but it would greatly increase our chances to advance.
Colombia has not looked like the powerhouse from the 2014 World Cup recently. For that reason, plus what feels like a renewed sense of optimism in the US camp, I think a 1-1 draw is the most likely outcome tonight.
I expect the US to score in the first half, with Gyasi Zardes riding his recent good form to a goal. Colombia will eventually find a way to break through and will equalize in the second half.