U.S. Battles Colombia in Copa Opener

Today, the 100th Copa América kicks off as the United States play Colombia at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco. This is the first time in nine years that the Stars and Stripes will take place in this storied tournament, and with Jürgen Klinsmann on the hot seat, fans will be expecting from the host nation, otherwise this could be the German’s last tournament in charge. Their first match of the tournament will be no easy task as they face a Colombian that is currently third in the FIFA rankings. Can the U.S. pull off the upset and get off to a dream start?

Colombia’s attack is nothing short of frightening. AC Milan’s Carlos Bacca, Juventus’ Juan Cuadrado and let’s not forget the star of the show, Real Madrid’s James Rodríguez. Going up against a shaky and unproven American backline could prove to be a field day for this trio, and I expect that they’ll start out with a high press from the jump. James will pull the strings from behind the strikers, while Cuadrado whips in crosses from the wings. Look for Bacca to be the target man in the penalty area. This could be a very long day for the U.S. defense.

If there’s one thing that the U.S. could exploit on Colombia, it would be their, at times, shaky defense. Through last year’s World Cup qualifying matches, the Colombians managed to keep just a single clean sheet, and even let Bolivia score twice against them. Only three defenders on the roster have more than 10 caps, and four of the eight have fewer than five. The key figures have to be Cristián Zapata, and Jeison Murillo. These two give Colombia an experienced and composed pairing in defense, and Zapata’s pace can help neutralize the speed that the U.S. has in the attack.

Image: Sean Pokorny

In their last couple of friendlies, the U.S. have introduced a new and improved 4-3-3 formation. Under this more attacking and open style of play, the Americans have won three straight matches against Puerto Rico, Ecuador and Bolivia. Granted, these aren’t powerhouse teams, but these results showed fans what their team is capable of when given freedom on the ball. Should Klinsmann decide to stick with this formation, I think that we’ll see a very open match with lots of scoring chances for either side. However, knowing the German’s track record, I could see him fielding a more defensive lineup with the hope of shutting down Colombia’s attack.

One big question that American fans will have about the starting lineup tonight is whether or not Christian Pulisic will be on the pitch. The Borussia Dortmund midfielder looked promising against Ecuador and Bolivia, and even scored his first international goal against the latter. His strike against Bolivia made him the youngest goal scorer for the United States in the modern era. His performances in the Bundesliga and with the national team have, as expected, revved up the hype train amongst the American fan base. He’s not the first, and he certainly won’t be the last young player to be touted as the savior of American soccer, but Klinsmann will be hoping to shield him from the same type of pressure that saw the other potential saviors crumble. I think that Pulisic’s role this tournament will be primarily off the bench, but he could provide the U.S. with a key creative spark in the center of midfield.

As much as I want to believe that Klinsmann and the U.S. can pull off a stunning upset tonight, I don’t see them replicating their 1994 defeat of Colombia this time around. Colombia have just too much talent on the roster for the U.S. to handle, and I think that the Americans will be playing for a draw. Sadly, my final score prediction is Colombia 2-0 U.S.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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