The United States men’s national soccer team froze before immediately falling to pieces in its moment of truth.
Argentina inflicted a 4-0 defeat on Team USA on Tuesday night at NRG Stadium in Houston in the Copa America 2016 semifinals. Lionel Messi set up Ezequiel Lavezzi’s third-minute goal before putting Argentina in cruise control with a fantastic free kick just after the half-hour mark. Gonzalo Higuain then added two more goals in the second half, as Argentina swept the United States aside and advanced to Sunday’s Copa America Centenario final.
The U.S. achieved a measure of success and thrilled fans by reaching this point in the competition. But Team USA fell utterly flat in the face of the world’s best team and top player. History will remember June 21, 2016 as a dark day for U.S. soccer; not because team USA lost its most important game of the year, but because of the manner in which it capitulated.
Team USA handed Argentina the initiative, the lead and the game without putting up a fight. It was the United States’ worst performance of Copa America 2016, and it came on the biggest night of many of these players’ careers.
Here’s why Argentina hammered the United States.
Shallow, inept U.S.
Argentina always was going to have the majority of possession, but the US did nothing with the ball besides losing it constantly. Team USA’s passing was poor enough to enter Copa America’s and U.S. Soccer’s hall of shame.
Tactical organization, focus and fighting spirit were Team USA’s hallmarks in its previous three games. Those qualities were nowhere to be found against Argentina, laying Team USA’s technical deficiencies bare for all to see.
Top ranked team simply awesome dominant
Argentina’s on a mission to end it’s 23-year wait for a major title, and the United States was powerless to stop its charge. Argentina created danger early and often, piling more goals onto its already historically impressive Copa America 2016 ledger.
Argentina now has won nine consecutive games, including all five in Copa America 2016.
The reigning FIFA Ballon d’Or winner became Argentina’s all-time leading scorer with an unforgettable free kick, and his two assists moved him into first on the list of providers at Copa America 2016.
The United States had planned to stop Messi by attacking Argentina aggressively and making him defend. Team USA didn’t execute one bit of that plan, and Messi and Argentina only became hotter.
In the lead-up to the game, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann told his players to prove themselves as equals to Argentina’s star-studded cast. But not one American player enhanced his reputation.
On his 50th appearance for Team USA, Goalkeeper Brad Guzan conceded an early goal by hesitating on Messi’s chipped pass. The back line was surprisingly brittle, the midfield offered no protection or respite through possession and forwards were anonymous.
The semifinal also represented the ultimate test of Team USA’s squad depth, as three starters, Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya and Bobby Wood, missed the game due to suspension. Klinsmann substituted two of the suspended players’ replacements, Chris Wondolowski and Kyle Beckerman, before an hour of the game had passed. The other, Graham Zusi, made no impact in 90 minutes of work.
Klinsmann’s missed notes were among the principle reasons Team USA struck the wrong chord.
Thumbnail photo via Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports Images