A Message to USMNT Fans Before Copa America Game 2

R-E-L-A-X.

Fine, that was Aaron Rodgers, but the message applies all the same.

When the whistle blew on the United States’ first Copa America game, a 2–0 defeat to Colombia, the interwebs exploded with anti-Klinsmann sentiment. I began to notice a damning article about Klinsmann’s reign atop US Soccer circulating on Twitter and Facebook. The piece — a well-reasoned breakdown of the German coach’s failures written by Aaron Timms for The Guardian — argues that Klinsmann’s successes in the past have come in spite of his leadership, not because of it.

That article was posted 24 hours before kickoff.

I missed the live broadcast of the Copa America opener but was able to follow along to an extent through social media. As is usually the case, my Twitter feed implied a coaching debacle for the ages, the worst call a referee has made in the modern era, and a bloodbath like we haven’t seen since Season Three.

In hindsight, that last one was probably about Game of Thrones. Or the NBA Finals.

When I finally sat down and watch the match, I braced for a disastrous performance, something on par with Guatemala: Round One back in March. I had a stiff drink nearby just in case I needed to wipe my memory clean. I settled onto the couch with my notepad and pen (because I’m a weirdo) wearing my custom 2010 World Cup-era USMNT jersey (again, weirdo) and pressed play. And, against all odds, it was…

…a pretty even game?

Look, I get it. Really I do. Fabian Johnson is not a fullback. Jermaine Jones is just an older, less talented version of Michael Bradley, who somehow looked like an older, less talented version of Jermaine Jones. I don’t understand the Bedoya appeal, and I’m not totally sure what Dempsey brings to the table at this point in his career with so many young stars waiting in the wings.

With that being said, the US held their own in every statistical category except for goals, they genuinely dominated sections of the game according to the always scientific eye test, and they created a number of free kicks in dangerous positions around the top of the box. They squandered all but one of them, but Klinsmann certainly can’t be blamed for that.

Moreover, I’ve waited years to see Geoff Cameron — possibly the most talented player on the roster — start at center back. There was a time when Cameron couldn’t sniff camp (for reasons other than talent), despite morphing into an irreplaceable two-way player for Stoke City. Partnered with John Brooks, the US now look to have an elite center back pairing. For the most part, Cameron delivered and then some, even if Colombia’s first goal did come as a direct result of his concentration lapse.

Perhaps the biggest boost to my optimism going forward, though, came from watching the other games. Ecuador, maybe the fastest all-around team in the tournament (world?), caused problems for a favored Brazil squad despite subpar talent and were one out-of-bounds call away from snatching a win. Even more importantly for the US, Costa Rica v Paraguay was the most frantic rock fight played on American soil since (insert any 1994 USMNT World Cup match here).

It’s easy for Americans to forget that Colombia is a real team with real world class talent, particularly in the attack; they capitalized on mistakes and it decided the game. Starting the tournament on a loss is obviously not ideal, particularly as the host nation. But with the other two teams in the group sitting on a point, the US is actually in great position to advance.

The US play a majority of their games against sides just like Costa Rica and Paraguay —proud, hard-working teams with thin rosters that are light on talent. The USMNT isn’t so far removed from that place that they can’t survive a knockdown drag out battle. The difference in the next two matches will be that the US has the talent to punch in a goal or two in an otherwise stunted contest.

So when Klinsmann says “there was no difference besides the two goals”, he means exactly that. If I was a player in that locker room after the game, I would be thinking the same thing. He’s not concerned because the goal is to advance, and he’s confident his side will. He coaches like a man whose job security has a definitive expiration date — post-2018 World Cup — and that infuriates people in the long stretches between meaningful games. But the team has always performed when it mattered most, and Tuesday will be no exception.

Besides, does this look like the face of indifference?

Wait, don’t answer that.

The US men were beaten. It happens. I’m not suggesting people can’t be angry; if anything, it’s a positive to see just how many more people care with each passing year. Now let’s take that vitriol for a coach who, like it or not, is going to be with us for a couple more years, and aim it Tuesday at whichever Costa Rican starter draws a yellow in the first 15 seconds.

Devin is a die-hard USMNT fan that needed a place to write about them. For Premier League film breakdown and match analysis, check out his site RedDevilReplay.com.

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