Well, we’re pretty much right back where we started. Saturday night, the United States will play Colombia in Copa América. This is how the entire tournament started, and now these two nations will battle for a third place finish. In the semifinals, both sides were defeated by last year’s Copa América finalists: Chile and Argentina. The first semi saw Argentina completely and utterly dismantle the US 4-0 in Houston. The second, after being delayed due to biblical rain in Chicago, ended with Chile knocking Colombia out by a score of 2-0. While this isn’t the match that either team really wanted to play in, I’m sure that we’ll still see an exciting game now that neither of them has anything to lose.

Starting off with Colombia, José Pékerman’s squad have failed to replicate the dominant form that eased them past the host nation to start the tournament. Since that 2-0 victory, Colombia’s tournament has been filled with close calls. All of their matches leading up to the semifinals were decided by no more than one goal, and it even took penalties for them to beat Peru. In their last two matches, the attack has struggled to click despite the superstar power they have in the final third. James Rodríguez is currently the team’s leading goal scorer with just two tallies to his name, and none of those goals have come in the last three games. The Real Madrid midfielder will need some reinforcements from players like Carlos Bacca and Juan Cuadrado to repeat their two-goal performance against the United States.

One player from Colombia that I would like to highlight is Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina. Granted, two of his last three games haven’t exactly been highlight reel performances (3-2 loss to Costa Rica, 2-0 loss to Chile), but against Peru, he was unbelievable. You could argue that without his key saves, particularly the one against Christian Ramos’ header in stoppage time, Colombia wouldn’t have even made it into the semis. The 27-year-old even pulled out another pivotal stop during the penalty shootout to pave the way to the final four. While he is undoubtedly Colombia’s first choice keeper, at the club level, he is the second fiddle to Petr Cêch. In what could be his last bit of consistent first team action for a while, look for Ospina to pull out a top quality performance against the Stars and Stripes.

Image: Rex Shutterstock

Let’s just forget about the 4-0 humiliation that took place against Argentina. Before that, Jürgen Klinsmann’s team looked full of promise and potential. Players like John Brooks, and Bobby Wood started to show the flares of talent that have so many fans stateside so excited about the future of US soccer. Against Argentina, every player on the pitch for the US looked scared to mess up and that of course meant that they messed up even more. To put it simply, they played with fear and they paid for it. Now that they’re not playing for a spot in the final, and they’ve exceeded all expectations put on them by the media and fans, I think that we’ll see the bright, positive US side that pushed all the way to the semifinals. If not, I have no idea what happened.

I’m also hoping that this lack of pressure will inspire Klinsmann to give some of the fringe players a chance to make their mark on the tournament. In particular, I’m hoping that Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic play the full 90 minutes. Whenever these two are on the pitch, they seem to inject a much needed creativity and energy into the midfield. Against Argentina, Pulisic, despite being just 17, was arguably the only American on the pitch that actually tried things with the ball. Additionally, the fact that Nagbe hasn’t gotten a start this tournament but Wondolowski has is mind-boggling to me. The Portland Timbers man deserves a spot in the starting 11 and I think he’ll take that chance with both hands and run with it.

I don’t think that I could write a preview for this match and not pick the United States. The Americans will be trying to get the taste of that defeat to Messi out of their mouths and what better way to do that than by smashing Colombia in their final match of the tournament? Final score: USA 2-1 Colombia


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