Before we get to tonight’s game, one point of order: I’m tired of people – usually fans of teams that just lost and/or have been eliminated – disparaging this year’s “special edition” of Copa America as nothing but a money grab, and thus some sort of second-class competition. These people are idiots.
Is it a money grab? Yes, of course, have you heard of CONCACAF? How about CONMEBOL? Or FIFA?? Everything these shady-ass organizations do is designed to make as much money as possible. Same goes for the World Cup, Gold Cup, every other Copa America, and so on.
Are there thousands of unfilled seats at most games? Also yes, but that’s because the games are being played in 70,000-seat football stadiums and ticket prices are ridiculously expensive (both being symptomatic by-products of organizers’ greediness). However, average attendance at this year’s Copa America is better than either Euro 2016 tournament or last summer’s Copa America in Chile.
In reality, the only thing that matters is the quality (of teams) and effort (of players), and on both those measures this Copa is on par with most any international competition out there. Every country outside of Brazil (which is understandably concerned about the Olympics it is about to host) sent their strongest roster and – El Tri on Sunday aside – guys are out there busting their ass, which is all that matters.
The only difference between this Copa America and every other Copa America – apart from the obvious fact that it’s not being held in South America – is the fact the winner does not get a bid to next year’s Confed Cup (which was awarded to Chile for winning last summer’s Copa).
It’s settled then, we all agree the tournament matters, and thus winning it would be prestigious af. Good, great, GRAND. Now on to the next question: who is gonna be the one to win this sumbatch?
The answer, I’ll hazard to guess, shall be decided tonight.
So let’s take a look at the game…
Quick recap for those of you who just realized the USA is playing soccer tonight:
Sixteen nations were invited and/or qualified to participate in this year’s Copa America, all of which wanted to do well of course, but only three teams needed to do well. Without naming names, one of the three was just bounced from the competition in historically humiliating fashion
meaning there are only two legitimately “hungry” teams left.
And tonight two will become one.
As the host nation, there was a lot of pressure on USMNT coming in, and Klinsmann admitted that anything short of making the semifinals would be a failure. Things looked rather dire after the 0-2 loss to Colombia in the opener, but the team has somewhat quietly reeled off wins over Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ecuador. Arguably as important as the results though have been the performances themselves, which – while the team has had 11 guys on the field anyway – have been muuuuuuuuuuch better than what we saw at the 2014 World Cup, and so much better than the 2015 Gold Cup it’s silly.
But now that we have achieved JK’s initial “goal” by reaching the semis, are we still motivated? That’s an important question, and remains to be seen.
On the other hand, there is no questioning the desire of Argentina or (especially) Messi as they are desperate to lift the trophy to quiet all the haters who are questioning whether they and (especially) he can win a major tournament after a number of disappointments (relatively speaking anyway), including losses in the finals of the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Copa America.
So what exactly are we up against? Let’s lay it out…
– Argentina is the #1 ranked team overall according to FIFA’s world rankings
– Argentina has arguably the best player in history who happens to inarguably be playing as well as he ever has
– USMNT will be without three starters due to suspension, including Bedoya and Wood for yellow card accumulation and Jones for a highly questionable red card. [Note: I have watched the reply a million times and, while I thought at first he did try to tap the Ecuador players face, another angle shows his arm was actually hit and flexed forward… but the appeal was denied so it is what it is.]
Sounds like the recipe for an ass whooping, right? Agreed. Thoughts and prayers, Argentina.
“Soooooooo, um, not to be negative nelly buttttttt… does the US even have a chance to win?”
Abso-fucking-lutely. Argentina is good – really good in fact – but they are far from unbeatable. They have shown plenty of cracks in their defense and their offense… well I’m not gonna lie, their offense is really godam good. Messi’s and Higuain’s and Aguero’s OH MY. However, just a quick reminder about how many goals the US has conceded from open play so far in this tournament (including two long with only 10 men on the field):
Matt Besler stepped in for the suspended DeAndre Yedlin last game at right back and played well, which could give Klinsmann some much needed flexibility when setting up the line-up considering all the key players who are unavailable.
Let’s do this Q&A style…
I’ve seen a million different suggestions. Some people want to clone Kyle Beckerman a bunch of times and/or play a 5-5-0 in the hopes of taking it to penalty kicks (reminder: no extra time this round). Others say we should be only slightly more positive and turtle into a 4-5-1 with Bradley and Beckerman essentially playing dual holding CMs.
Going with a 4-3-3 would be a little overly optimistic and/or naïve (even by my standards), so I’d prefer we go with something more akin to a 4-4-2. Assuming Zardes is next to Dempsey though he will inevitably be playing more of a F/MF hybrid role that makes it almost a 4 – 4.5 – 1.5.
I like the idea of keeping Besler in the line-up and pushing Johnson into the midfield, however, I strongly suspect that Klinsmann is going to revert to the starting backline of Johnson-Brooks-Cameron-Yedlin that worked relatively well for the first few games.
To Beckerman or not to Beckerman?
I say no. I am almost sure that JK will say yes though.
To Pulisic or not to Pulisic?
I say yes. I am almost positive that JK will say no though.
Nagbe or Zusi?
This to me is perhaps the biggest question. It’s possible that JK could go with both, but including neither Nagbe NOR Pulisic in the starting XI would be a huge disappointment. We can’t just sit back and try to wait them out for 90 minutes. Guys like Nagbe and Pulisic can create a moment of genius that could spark a counterattack that could be the difference. Beckerman is a defensive soldier. Bradley has been humdrum the entire tournament. Zusi is fast and works hard but is not known for creativity. Give me at least one of Nagbe/Pulisic to combine with Dempsey while Zardes pushes up one wing – or give me death godamit.
Wait, why not start Jordan Morris up top next to Clint Dempsey?
Because Klinsmann left him and home because, umm, well just because I guess.
Should we start Wondo instead then?
MY BEST GUESS:
DEMPSEY – ZARDES
NAGBE – BRADLEY – BECKERMAN – ZUSI
JOHNSON – BROOKS – CAMERON – YEDLIN
SO ARE WE GONNA WIN?
We have beaten Brazil in a Gold Cup. We beat Spain at the peak of their powers in a Confederations Cup. Shit, a far worse US team than this beat Argentina in a Gold Cup.
There is no reason to be “scared” of Argentina. Respectful of their ridiculous talent? Sure. In need of a lucky bounce here and there? No doubt. But anybody thinking we have no chance of winning tonight is a wuss or a terrorist or more likely both.
Prediction: the US economy will be on substantially firmer footing tomorrow morning than Argentina’s has ever been
There you have it.
Reminder: there’s soccer on all day every day for the next couple weeks, so I’d just like to say…
Sam U. L. Army