Trust Jurgen: Why We Lost To Colombia

Last night the USMNT faced Colombia, their most difficult opponent, in Group A of the 100th Anniversary of Copa America. Playing in Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, CA with an on field temperature of 88 degrees the USMNT made an effort to subdue the star studded cast of Colombians.

The discussion across a variety of sports media outlets seems to be US coach Jurgen Klinsmann and whether he is the right man for the job. Hind-sight being 20–20, what changes could Klinsmann have done to improve the outcome of this match?

The first half started as most halves start; each team tentatively feeling each other out, finding their legs and creating a rhythm. By the end of the half the USMNT found themselves down 2–0 on a goal in the eighth minute by Christian Zapata from a corner kick and another in the 42nd minute, a penalty kick converted by James Rodriguez.

US defender Jeff Cameron lost his mark on a well executed basketball-pic-like play on a corner kick allowing Zapata to score Colombia’s first goal. Furthermore, how could Klinsmann have prevented DeAndre Yedlin’s handball? Both defenders apply their trade regularly in Europe for Premier League sides Stoke City and Sunderland and have experience defending at this level.

Colombia’s two goals were entirely the result of mental defensive lapses on behalf of two of some of the most capable American defenders. The USMNT’s best opportunities came from our most veteran player Clint Dempsey in the 60th and 64th minute of play. Both of which were goal-line incredible saves.

Throughout the first half, Colombia allowed the US the majority of possession, however, in the final third of the field the US were unable to create anything substantial. In the midfield Colombia closed down spaces and angles, not allowing time on the ball. Options going forward were reduced to over the top and possession out wide was rarely exploited by the US midfield.

Fielding the best side since the 1990’s, Colombia has had a game plan since the beginning of the tournament. After a poor performance in the previous Copa America, held in Chile, their star player James Rodriguez confirmed that their goal this year is to reach the final and win. The likes of James, Cuadrado and Ospina proved their worth throughout the course of the game. Cuadrado’s pace was too much for the US and no matter where he was on the pitch, the Juventus defender was always a step ahead.

James showed why he was given the number 10. Although matched-up against a physical and athletic American defense his movement off-the-ball as well as decision making skills on-the-ball allowed space and created ample opportunities forward for the South American side. The result: 8 shots in total, all of which were on goal.

The Arsenal goal keeper, David Ospina, proved his worth when he kept Clint Dempsey from getting on the score sheet by stopping a well placed free kick from hitting the back of the net in the 64th minute. Four minutes earlier, in the 60th minute, defender Sebastian Perez had a goal line save which kept Dempsey’s header off a corner kick from being converted.

Going into the second half Colombia had the wind at their back. They were full of confidence, up two goals, acclimated to the California heat and had a surprising home field advantage playing in front of a predominantly pro-Colombia crowd of 67 thousand fans. At one moment, Carlos Bacca nearly sealed the deal in the 77th minute with a shot beating US goalie Brad Guzan but ended up deflecting off the crossbar.

The real fault lies in individual defensive errors and the midfield’s inability to spread the field and think creatively in possession of the ball. Bradley and Jones were consistently forcing the ball through the middle of the field or over the top. Some of our best forward movement came from overlapping runs by Johnson and Yedlin. Its not the fault of Jurgen Klinsmann that we lost 2–0 to Colombia. The best XI were certainly on the field and therefore its up to those professionals to adapt to the minute-by-minute changes that happen in the game.