No. 1 Argentina proves far to much for Americans in Copa semifinal rout.
By Robert Wagman
(Tuesday, June 21, 2016) -- The United States men were ousted from Copa America Centenario semifinals by world No. 1 Argentina 4-0 tonight in a match that was, as the saying goes, not nearly as close as the final score might indicate. The match was played in front of a sold-out crowd of 75,818 at Houston’s NRG Stadium.
The U.S. will play Chile or Colombia for third place Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast by FX and Spanish-language Univision.
Argentina star striker Lionel Messi showed why he is the considered to be the world’s best player, scoring on a thundering free kick and twice assisting on goals. Forward Gonzalo Higuain scored twice for Argentina.
The Americans started with a great disadvantage with coach Jürgen Klinsmann having to replace three starters. Serving suspensions were midfielder-defender Jermaine Jones (red card), striker Bobby Wood and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (both from yellow-card accumulation). Graham Zusi replaced Bedoya, Kyle Beckerman took the place of Jones and Chris Wondolowski, making his first start in nearly a year, stepped in for Wood.
None of the replacements performed nearly as well as the suspended players. One immediate result was the U.S. conceded the midfield to Argentina.
Jones especially was missed. Without him, the Americans were not able to apply any pressure. At the same time, midfielder Michael Bradley was forced to try to do way too much. The result: he played one of his worst international games ever.
The U.S. got off to a dreadful start. In the third minute, Argentina attacker Ezequiel Lavezzi, left alone on the left side, took a perfect pass from Messi and chipped the ball over advancing goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Messi made it 2-0 in the 32nd minute when he lifted a free kick from the center of the field 27 yards into the very top right corner, a highlight that will be shown over and over for years.
In the second half, Higuain scored twice. In the 50th minute, he took a cross in the center of the box and redirected it on goal. Guzan stopped it, but the ball caromed back to Higuain, he tapped it into the open net.
Higuain converted a perfect pass from Messi in the 86th minute to close the scoring.
Argentina was content to control the ball for long periods, passing the ball from side to side, forward and back., The big question was whether the U.S. would ever have a shot on goal. Argentina keeper Sergio Romero didn’t need to make a save with the ball rarely even making it into his penalty area.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan - 5: On one hand, he could have, and should have, done much more on all four of the Argentine goals, but he really could not be blamed for any. He made five saves, including a beautiful late stop on Messi. One question raised by his performance was how might Tim Howard have done.
Defender Fabian Johnson –5.5: He was generally blameless for the carnage that was going on around him. He made several individual defensive stops, but gave up the ball too frequently with bad passing.
Defender Geoff Cameron - 5.5: He stopped two Argentina shots with strong tackles, while, overall, not playing badly. He does however take the blame for two of the goals in, at best, an inconsistent performance.
Defender John Brooks - 6: Much of the center of the U.S. defense was left to him. He was under constant pressure and, at times, responded almost heroically, while at other times, not so much. Had he played a perfect match the outcome would not have changed.
Defender DeAndre Yedlin - 3: He helped provide what little offense the U.S. showed, while he used his pace to make a couple of good defensive stops. Otherwise, he was largely absent and allowed Argentina to exploit huge gaps in the left side of defense.
Midfielder Graham Zusi - 4: He had a few good moments, but generally seemed overwhelmed. He had to be the one to help push the U.S. forward and to apply pressure to the Argentines, but he couldn’t.
Midfielder Michael Bradley -- 3: In possibly his worst U.S. game, he was clearly asked to do way too much and was not up to the task. It has to be said he had woefully little help.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman – 3: He was asked to replace Jermaine Jones’ high work rate and tenacity. He could do neither and left Bradley in the lurch. Too often, he waved at speedy Argentines as they went past him.
Forward Chris Wondolowski - 2: He has made a name for himself as a high scorer in MLS, poaching goals from around the penalty area. There was no poaching to be had tonight and he simply does not possess the skills to play at this level.
Forward Clint Dempsey – 5: He certainly tried. He ended up doing a lot of defensive work but is really only effective coming out of the midfield when he is given good passes. There were none tonight and he finally ran out of gas with almost nothing offensively to show for the night.
Forward Gyasi Zardes– 5: Definitely high marks for his work rate and his use of his speed. But he was doing it himself and thus had little effect.
Midfielder Christian Pulisic (46th minute for Wondolowski) - 5: He did not seem over-awed facing such a quality opponent. He made several good offensive moves, but without any help, and he had none, he had little effect on the match.
Defender Steve Birnbaum (60th minute for Beckerman) - 4: A very inexperienced defender thrown into the breech, at times he did surprisingly well, but showed his lack of play at this level with an awful error resulting in the last Argentina goal.
Midfielder Darlington Nagbe (78th minute for Dempsey) - 5: He did OK in a generally impossible situation. Look for him to start the third-place match.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: John Brooks.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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