MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

The MLS is back from its break, its players are back from Copa America Centenario, and a couple from Euro 2016, I’m back from chasing those Copa players from coast to coast and back again, so here is the latest Big – 5.

Welcome Back!

To the horde of MLS players that participated in Copa America Centenario, many for the Copa semi finalist’s U.S.A. Costa Rica and Jamaica had the second and third most MLS representatives and both nations bowed out at the group stage.

Dempsey celebrating his goal against Ecuador. (ISI Photos//Maciek Gudrymowicz)

Dempsey celebrating his goal against Ecuador. (ISI Photos//Maciek Gudrymowicz)

As for the American MLS players, the Seattle Sounders Clint Dempsey was at his goal scoring best proving that returning to the league needn’t diminish your skills, a hot topic in light the turnover-fueled struggles of Toronto FC’s Michael Bradley.

MLS was repped in Europe by the L.A. Galaxy’s Robbie Keane, the Colorado Rapids Shkelzen Gashi, and Laurent Ciman. All told it hasn’t gone well in the old world for the MLS trio.

Keane barely played for the Irish, Gashi flubbed his chance to be the hero in Albania’s opener when he failed to finish a 1v1 chance in the 87th minute with his team trailing 1-0.

It would be Gashi’s only involvement in the tourney. Ciman started Belgium’s opener, a 2-0 loss vs. Italy. The Impact center back played well at fullback but he hasn’t played since.

Belgium hasn’t lost since and faces Wales on Friday, so Ciman is still alive at the Euro.

2) Tim Howard Lands in Colorado

Howard will be hoping to make an impact on the league.(Getty Images)

Howard will be hoping to make an impact on the league.(Getty Images)

And welcome back too, to goalkeeper Tim Howard. It has been a long time coming. Howard, of course, left the MetroStars, now the New York Red Bulls, for Manchester United in 2004, before carving out an impressive career with Everton.

The 109 times capped U.S. MNT keeper backed up Brad Guzan at the Copa but he impressed in his one start, a 1-0 loss to Colombia in the third place game.

Now it is on to Colorado, where the Rapids are in first place behind Zac MacMath. Switching goalies on a first place team could be an unnecessary disruption but Howard is still clearly a better keeper than the 24-year-old incumbent and his wealth of experience should be a boost to the Rapids as they head into the meat of the MLS season.

3) Ft. Lauderdale Prevents MLS Sweep of U.S. Open Cup

Each year the U.S. Open Cup seems to make incremental steps into the U.S. soccer fans collective conscience, it’s just that the increments are not very large.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers are the only non MLS team left. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Fort Lauderdale Strikers are the only non MLS team left. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

For two years in a row now the New York Cosmos have defeated MLS neighbors New York City FC, receiving a measure recognition for the Cup.

The U.S. Open Cup has been contested since 1914 making it the oldest cup competition in the United States soccer, so what would it take for the old gal to really capture some widespread attention?

How about a title win by a lower league side, an NASL or USL team. Not since the 1999 Rochester Rhinos has a non-MLS club won the Cup. Or, if not a title, how about a deep run from a tier 2 or three side?

Last night in Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale beat MLS second year team Orlando City SC and with the Cosmos loss by the same score to the New England Revolution, the Strikers become the last non-MLS club to survive into the quarterfinals.

Up next for Ft. Lauderdale is the Chicago Fire at a date to be determined. A victory for the Strikers might make some people sit up and take notice.

4) NYCFC Cash in on Fan Favorite, Poku

Kwadwo Poku has failed to make his mark at NYC FC. (ISI Photos/Mark Lawrence)

Kwadwo Poku has failed to make his mark at NYC FC. (ISI Photos/Mark Lawrence)

Another approach for a team or a league trying to get our attention is to splash the cash. That would seem to be the plan at NASL club Miami FC who just laid out $500,000 to $750,000 to spring Kwadwo Poku from NYCFC bench. A year ago Poku was so highly regarded that articles were written wondering if the Ghanaian could get his paperwork to play for the U.S. MNT. He did receive a nonbinding call up with Ghana but a coaching change in New York saw the fan favorite pinned to the bench, so this seems like a decent move for Poku, an excellent move for NYC, and an expensive move for Miami.

5) We’re number 9!

Hardly a chant likely to be heard ringing around a sports stadium near you, and certainly not from the rafters of CenturyLink Field in Seattle or at Crew, oops, MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus.

But one spot above the bottom feeders is where you will find the 2015 MLS Cup Finalists Columbus Crew; Eastern Conference; and the Seattle Sounders; Western; in today’s MLS Standings.

Columbus Crew have struggled this season but their fans are still upbeat. (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

Columbus Crew have struggled this season but their fans are still upbeat. (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

The silver lining for the Crew? They are in the Eastern Conference and sit just four points back of Orlando and DC, respectively the sixth and fifth place sides in the conference.

Seattle has it a bit tougher out west, where playoff line hugging L.A. sports a seven-point advantage on the Sounders. Seattle got a morale boosting pk shootout win over Real Salt Lake last night led by backup keeper Tyler Miller, who shone in regulation and in the shootout, where the U23 USMNT keeper saved two penos.

Stefan Frei is probably not the problem in Seattle but embattled coach Sigi Schmid might consider sitting the veteran and going with the hot hand.

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Chile Top Argentina as Messi Calls it Quits
Chile Top Argentina as Messi Calls it Quits avatar

East Rutherford, N.J.- Chile retained the Copa America title that it won last year with a second consecutive penalty kick shootout victory over Argentina in front of over 82,000 fans Sunday night at MetLife Stadium, a victory that would be overshadowed by Lionel Messi’s postgame announcement that he had decided to end his international career.

Messi has failed to lead Argentina to the greatness that they experienced with Maradona. (ISI Photos/Javier Gonzalez)

Messi has failed to lead Argentina to the greatness that they experienced with Maradona. (ISI Photos/Javier Gonzalez)

“In the locker room, I thought that the national team was finished for me, that it’s not for me,” Messi told Argentine television. “It’s what I feel right now. It’s a great sadness that it happened to me, that I missed penalty kick that was very important. It’s for the good of everybody. It’s not enough to just get to the final and not win.”

Like last year when Chile hosted the Championship Match neither of these high powered sides could find a goal in the regulation 90 minutes or in the two 15 minute extra time periods, extra time was played only in the Copa America Final this year, with previous rounds going directly to pks after 90.

The home of the New York Giants and New York Jets of the NFL attracted the biggest crowd to ever see a soccer match in New Jersey and with the Manhattan skyline glittering in the background a classic was hoped for when the Chile and Argentina rematch became a reality.

Chile were never going to concede their crown easily. (ISI Photos/OSVALDO AGUILAR)

Chile were never going to concede their crown easily. (ISI Photos/OSVALDO AGUILAR)

Conversely, the possibility of an ugly match between two bitter, evenly matched rivals was another possibility, and unfortunately that, for the most part, is what these two talent-rich teams produced.

A combined eight yellow and two red cards were handed out on the night and even if referee Herber Lopes seemed out of his depth at times, it was that kind of match.

The sides picked up eight yellows between them, the same number of shots on goal the teams combined for on the night. Argentina had the better scoring chances on the night with the miss of the game coming from Gonzalo Higuain in the first half.

Higuain continued his unfortunate habit of falling down on the big occasion for La Albiceleste, when Chile’s defensive rock Gary Medel surprisingly coughed up possession in his own half, sending Higuain in alone on Claudio Bravo.

Bravo would prove heroic later in the night but on this occasion, Higuain, who led Serie A in goals this season by almost double his nearest competitor, scuffed his shot, a miss that would haunt Argentina all night and for some time to come.

Still, Argentina’s path to a first major title since the 1990’s looked clear when Lopes sent Marcelo Diaz to the showers for a second yellow card, with both indiscretions coming against Messi.

The first was a violent, high boot, slide tackle that was an easy call, the second was not as clear. Diaz did cut off Messi’s space on the second foul but Messi seemed intent on running into the defender and uncharacteristically brandished an imaginary yellow card for Lopes to see.

Messi stepped out of character again just three minutes later when he went down in the box after minimal contact, looking to sell a penalty call. Lopes wasn’t buying, however, and Messi earned a yellow card.

Rojo was shown a straight red for his tackle. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Rojo was shown a straight red for his tackle. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Referee Lopes would even the match at 10 a side in the 43rd minute, sending Marcos Rojo to the dressing room, erroneously as it happened, for a hard tackle on Arturo Villa.

To be fair to the official Rojo went in hard and Vidal’s leg bent back violently under his body. Replays, though, showed that the Bayern Munich man rolled over the ball and that Rojo made less contact than appeared.

The second half was somewhat less frenetic, if just somewhat. Chile’s best scoring chance was denied by Ramiro Funes Mori, whose perfectly timed and executed tackle denied Alexis Sanchez what looked to be a sure scoring chance.

A match winner would have been just reward for Alexis, who had to settle for the Copa America Centenario Golden Boot, awarded in postgame ceremonies. Higuain replacement Sergio Aguero had Argentina’s two best second half chances, he shot very high on the first and was then denied by in fantastic fashion by Bravo when his header was ticketed for the upper 90.

So it would take penalty kicks to separate these rivals for the second year running and again it would be La Roja that would maintain its nerve. After Sergio Romero denied Arturo Vidal on Chile’s first spot kick Messi sent his shot well high of Bravo’s net.

Chile walked away deserved winners and looked ecstatic to retain their crown. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Chile walked away deserved winners and looked ecstatic to retain their crown. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Bravo would save from Lucas Biglia, leaving it to Francisco Silva to win it. Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, himself an Argentine, had subbed out his two best goal scorers, Alexis and Eduardo Vargas, but Silva proved up to the task and Chile retained the title it won over Argentina just one year ago.

The final was exciting, even if the championship stakes provided for a spectacle that doled out its excitement in crunching tackles more so than with brilliant skills.

It is a shame that Messi chose to make his announcement postgame, an act that can be seen as an affront to Chile, worthy champions.

The dysfunction within Argentine soccer’s ruling body played a role in Messi’s decision and is so ingrained that on Friday FIFA announced that it had taken control of Argentina’s soccer federation from the current leadership and will help pick an emergency panel to manage its affairs.

Messi has long been said to be unhappy with the situation and that dissatisfaction, but at just 29 year’s old the superstar will hopefully reconsider, especially with the World Cup just two years away.

Several of Messi’s teammates were reportedly set to follow their captain into the international sunset with Aguero, Higuain, Sergio Aguero, and Javier Mascherano said to be considering their futures.

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U.S. Fall to Colombia and Settle for 4th
U.S. Fall to Colombia and Settle for 4th avatar

In a scrappy affair, Colombia defeated the U.S. 1-0 to claim third place in the Copa America Centenario tonight in Glendale, Arizona, relegating the tournament hosts to fourth place.

With the Americans seemingly intent on fulfilling Jurgen Klinsmann’s directive to play meaner, to step on some toes as Klinsmann says, the Yanks played aggressively from the start in a match that ended up 10v10 when Michael Orozco and Colombia’s Santiago Arias earned late ejections.

Tim Howard in action against Colombia, (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Tim Howard in action against Colombia, (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Klinsmann handed Tim Howard a start in goal and replaced the left side of his back four while reinstating the three suspended regulars, Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya, and Bobby Wood, who had all sat out versus Argentina.

Matt Besler stepped in for John Brooks and the Kansas City veteran gave a very good accounting of himself, although Orozco, operating in Fabian Johnson’s stead, did not fare as well.

Orozco ended up collecting that late red card with a moment of ill-discipline after he had earned a free kick in sight of Colombia’s goal. But that wasn’t all, Orozco was just not good versus Colombia, continually caught out of position, the second of Klinsmann’s surprise roster inclusions to let the side down in recent games after Chris Wondolowski’s giveaway and foul set up Lionel Messi’s free kick golazo in the Copa semifinal.

Carlos Bacca scored the only goal of the game. (ISI Photos/VICTOR POSADAS)

Carlos Bacca scored the only goal of the game. (ISI Photos/VICTOR POSADAS)

Carlos Bacca scored a gem of a team goal for Colombia in the 32nd minute with Real Madrid star James Rodriguez instrumental. James battled through a shoulder injury that we are told will require surgery and his teammates were no doubt inspired by his decision to play in this Third Place match.

Bravery aside, James brought a level of class to the proceedings that the U.S. simply do not have its disposal. That difference showed as the Americans struggled to convert some good chances and half chances, although Bobby Wood was unfortunate to hit the post after a great effort and Dempsey was denied a Messi moment when his free-kick was brilliantly saved by David Ospina.

Klinsmann waited until the 74th minute to spring Christian Pulisic from the bench to replace Michael Bradley, who had struggled after picking up a first-half knock. Darlington Nagbe followed five minutes later as Alejandro Bedoya limped off and the two subs did well in the limited they were given.

That could serve as a summation of the pairs Copa America Centenario. Used in the Copa opener versus Colombia the pair languished after with Klinsmann turning to more experienced international heads after that first match.

This second loss to Colombia ends The Copa America Centenario as a qualified success for the U.S. MNT. Making the semifinals and winning Group A certainly go down as positives for Jurgen Klinsmann and his team, and a stable starting unit has emerged led by a strong back four.

Bobby Wood has been one of the bright sparks for the U.S. in this tournament. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Bobby Wood has been one of the bright sparks for the U.S. in this tournament. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Bobby Wood continues to develop as a partner for Clint Dempsey, Gyasi Zardes showed growth and veterans Dempsey and Jermaine Jones made it clear that they have plenty left to contribute.

But questions remain with the U.S. badly outmatched by Argentina and to a lesser extent, Colombia in that first game. Captain Michael Bradley continues to be plagued by turnover troubles and Dempsey continues to carry the scoring load, although Wood has begun to step up.

Next up for the U.S. is a pair of September World Cup Qualifiers. First, the Americans travel to St. Vincent and the Grenadines for a September 2nd showdown with St. V&G before hosting Trinidad and Tobago in Jacksonville, Florida, four days later.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
COL 1 0 1

COL – Carlos Bacca (Santiago Arias) 31st minute

Lineups:
USA: 12-Tim Howard; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 20-Geoff Cameron, 5-Matt Besler, 14-Michael Orozco; 4-Michael Bradley (capt.) (10-Darlington Nagbe, 79), 13-Jermaine Jones, 11-Alejandro Bedoya (17-Christian Pulisic, 74); 9-Gyasi Zardes, 8-Clint Dempsey, 7-Bobby Wood
Subs not used: 1-Brad Guzan, 3-Steve Birnbaum, 6-John Brooks, 15-Kyle Beckerman, 16-Perry Kitchen, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 19-Graham Zusi, 21-Edgar Castillo, 22-Ethan Horvath, 23-Fabian Johnson
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

COL: 1-David Ospina; 18-Frank Fabra, 22-Jeison Murillo, 2-Cristian Zapata, 4-Santiago Arias; 5-Guillermo Celis (15-Stegan Medina, 86), 16-Daniel Torres, 10-James Rodriguez, 8-Edwin Cardona, 11-Juan Cuadrado (21-Marlos Moreno, 74); 7-Carlos Bacca (9-Roger Martinez, 79)
Subs not used: 3-Yerry Mina, 6-Carlos Sanchez, 12-Robinson Zapata, 13-Sebastian Perez, 14-Felipe Aguilar, 17-Dayro Moreno, 19-Farid Diaz, 20-Andres Felipe Roa,23-Cristian Bonilla
Head coach: Jose Pekerman

Stats Summary: USA / COL
Shots: 10 / 10
Shots on Goal: 3 / 3
Saves: 2 / 3
Corner Kicks: 4 / 8
Fouls: 14 / 13
Offside: 1 / 5

Misconduct Summary:
COL – Jeison Murillo (caution) 13th minute
USA – Matt Besler (caution) 22
COL – Juan Cuadrado (caution) 73
USA – Michael Orozco (caution) 87
COL – Santiago Arias (caution) 90+5
COL – Santiago Arias (sent off) 90+5
USA – Michael Orozco (sent off) 90+5

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Ellis Names Roster for South Africa Friendly as Olympics Near
Ellis Names Roster for South Africa Friendly as Olympics Near avatar

The talk in American soccer circles this month has been all about the U.S. Men’s National Team and its run to the semifinals of the Copa America Centenario where Jurgen Klinsmann’s side went down rather meekly to a tremendously talented Argentina team led, of course, by the magnificent Lionel Messi.

Ellis will be looking closely at all her players for the final selection. (ISI Photos/Brad Smoth)

Ellis will be looking closely at all her players for the final selection. (ISI Photos/Brad Smoth)

With South America’s finest teams crisscrossing the country throughout the month of June it is no surprise that we haven’t heard much about the women’s team of late but the two time defending Olympic Champions are back in the news with the release of a 24 player roster for the July 9th match with South Africa at Chicago’s Soldiers Field at 12 p.m. CT, which can also be seen on FS1.

The big news in this 24 player group is the return of stars Carli Lloyd, the biggest star in the women’s game at the moment, and Megan Rapinoe. U.S. Soccer’s release says that Lloyd is fit and will be available for selection but that Rapinoe will not play and is in camp to train and be evaluated.

Rapinoe tore her ACL in early December as the U.S. trained for A Victory Tour match that was later canceled when the players voiced concerns over the condition of the artificial surface at the Aloha Bowl. “Pinoe” was not injured at the Aloha Bowl, sustaining her injury while training at a different location although there were grumblings from the players concerning the practice facility.

(ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Rapinoe will be hoping to make it back in time.(ISI Photos/David Bernal)

With the Women’s Soccer Tournament at the Olympic Games set to get underway on August 3rd, the gifted winger is still thought to be in a race against the clock to get back into tournament level fitness.

With the Women’s Soccer Tournament at the Olympic Games set to get underway on August The talk in American soccer circles this month has been all about the U.S. Men’s National Team and its run to the semifinals of the Copa America Centenario where Jurgen Klinsmann’s side went down rather meekly to a tremendously talented Argentina team led, of course, by the magnificent Lionel Messi.

The Americans last match before traveling to Rio will be against Costa Rica on July 22nd at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas at 8 p.m. CT. That match will be televised on ESPN..

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)

DEFENDERS (9): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Gina Lewandowski (FC Bayern Munich), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City)

FORWARDS (4): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)

 

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Holders Beat Colombia to Set Up Final Against Argentina
Holders Beat Colombia to Set Up Final Against Argentina avatar

In one of the oddest tournament knockout matches in memory Chile outlasted Colombia and a two-hour-plus weather delay to win 2-0 Wednesday night in Chicago to set up a dream Copa America Centenario Final versus Argentina Sunday evening at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

Chile were determined not to surrender their title. (ISI Photos/Jorge Martinez)

Chile were determined not to surrender their title. (ISI Photos/Jorge Martinez)

Chile entered this special 100th-anniversary celebration of the CONMEBOL, or South American, Championship with a bit of a collective chip on its shoulder at the idea of having to defend a title that it won just a year ago.

La Roja defeated Argentina on penalty kicks in last year’s regularly scheduled Copa America but the defending champions came into the Copa 100 a bit under the radar, with most of the spotlight focused on Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, and the United States as the host nation.

But Chile made the world sit up and take notice last Saturday when they demolished Mexico 7-0 in Santa Clara, and against Colombia on Wednesday night, La Roja picked up right where it left off against El Tri.

The same swarming style that was too much for Mexico had Colombia down by two goals 11 minutes into Saturday’s Copa semifinals.

Sanchez and Aránguiz celebrating his goal. (ISI Photos/David Leah)

Sanchez and Aránguiz celebrating his goal. (ISI Photos/David Leah)

Charles Aránguiz opened the scoring in the seventh minute aided by a poorly directed defensive header by Colombian attacker Juan Cuadrado. Less than four minutes  later José Fuenzalida pounced on a rebounded Alexis Sanchez shot to complete the night’s scoring.

The game started under storm warnings and the weatherman was proved correct during the halftime interval as the Illinois skies were illuminated with brilliant but frightening lightning strikes. Soon the stands at the Chicago Bears famous home were empty as fans heeded the scoreboards ominous warning to seek immediate shelter.

After a two and one-half hour storm delay, the players finally returned to the field while the fans had repopulated the stands, in good spirits despite the long break.

Despite the best efforts of the squeegee crew, the field was still a sodden mess leaving the players to splash and slide through the final 45 minutes with a place in the Copa America final at stake.

It is often said that if a referee goes unnoticed then he has probably done a good job, this was not the case for Joel Aguilar last night as the lead official commanded the spotlight in the opening stages of the second half.

First, Aguilar waved play on when Colombia’s Daniel Torres looked to have earned a penalty kick on a takedown by La Roja defender Gonzalo Jara. Then in the 57th minute, Aguilar presented a second yellow card to Los Cafeteros midfielder Carlos Sanchez, a judgment that seemed unduly harsh.

Despite the field conditions and the numerical disadvantage Colombia battled to the end but Chile and keeper Claudio Bravo maintained the clean sheet. It was another impressive performance by Chile, its fourth consecutive win since opening the Copa with a 2-1 loss to finals opponent Argentina.

Colombia missed striker Carlos Bacca, who came on late due to injury worries but Chile impressed as they shrugged off the absences of midfielders Arturo Vidal and Marcelo Diaz, as well as a first half injury to yet another midfielder, Pedro Pablo Hernandez, who did not return.

Hopefully the U.S. will put in a better performance this time round. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Hopefully the U.S. will put in a better performance this time round. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Colombia now moves on to the Copa America Third Place game, a rematch of its 2-0 Copa opening win over the United States this Saturday in Glendale, Arizona while Chile prepares to defend its Copa crown against Argentina and fan favorite Lionel Messi.

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USA Outclassed by Argentina
USA Outclassed by Argentina avatar

Houston, TX. – It didn’t take long to realise that Tuesday night was not going to be one of those nights that would see the U.S. MNT produce a historic upset along the lines of the 2009 Confederations Cup win over Spain, in fact, it took just three minutes to find out.

Ezequiel Lavezzi scored the game opener for Argentina. (ISI Phoso/Javier Gonzalez)

Ezequiel Lavezzi scored the game opener for Argentina. (ISI Phoso/Javier Gonzalez)

Three minutes for an unmarked Ezequiel Lavezzi to ruin that notion when he converted a sublime Lionel Messi chip over an indecisive Brad Guzan setting the stage for an impressive if routine 4-0 Argentina victory.

83 minutes remained to be played but after the game, with the disappointment of losing still fresh, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said: “it was very difficult, especially after three minutes being one nil down, it was quite a knock.”

It would prove to a knock the Copa America Centenario hosts would not recover from. Klinsmann noted that “we couldn’t compensate for the fact that we missed those three guys,” the three being Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya, and Bobby Wood.

Klinsmann was right in that those losses were too much for the U.S. to absorb, and while it was always going to be a challenge, the coach who had gotten most everything right up until now in this Copa100, got his subs wrong on the night.

Wondolowski's selection seemed a strange one. (ISI PhotoS/Will Thorne)

Wondolowski’s selection seemed a strange one. (ISI PhotoS/Will Thorne)

Which is not to say that any 11 men available to the U.S. tonight were liable to give this Argentina side a game. Still, playing Chris Wondolowski was a curious decision, given the availability of Gyasi Zardes.

The Wondo move backfired when the San Jose Earthquake forward fouled Lionel Messi after his turnover had gifted the ball to the best player in the world.

Even Wondo’s inclusion on this roster was controversial with many clamoring for Jordan Morris instead but Klinsmann trusts and respects the 33-year-old who stopped to answer a question or two from GotSoccer after the loss.

Argentina gave the U.S. no time on the ball. (ISI Photos/)OSVALDO AGUILAR

Argentina gave the U.S. no time on the ball. (ISI Photos/)OSVALDO AGUILAR

Argentina is known for its offensive prowess but much like Messi’s club team Barcelona, La Albiceleste should also be feared for its swarming, choking defense, a defense that Wondolowski said the Americans had prepared for. “Yeah, we’ve scouted them in depth and we knew their characteristics but sometimes it’s very difficult to execute.”

That defense had its role in forcing a host of U.S. turnovers, including the Wondolowski giveaway that led to his fouling Messi just 25 yards from Brad Guzan’s goal.

Wondolowski admitted to a sinking feeling when the referee whistled him for that infringement. “Definitely, it’s one of those things when you wish you could take it back but it was on the break and I was just hoping to get some of the ball.”

That said, in a tournament that has been justly criticized over its high ticket prices, Messi’s goal was well worth the price of admission, whichever team you were rooting for.

The U.S. found it hard to handle Messi and Co. (Getty Images)

The U.S. found it hard to handle Messi and Co. (Getty Images)

While acknowledging Argentina’s obvious ability, Klinsmann felt, “we gave them far too much respect.” Center back Geoff Cameron agreed with his coach and gave a neat summation of the match.

“You can’t take anything away from them, they’re a very good team,” the Stoke City man began. “They’re clinical, make a mistake, one or two opportunities and they put the ball in the back of the net and that,” Cameron said, “is the difference.”

As for his own team? “We had some good spots where we showed some promise but nothing really came out of it. We let them dictate the pace of the game, we let them get the flow, we weren’t physical enough. “I think,” Cameron said, echoing his manager, “we respected them too much.”

To Cameron’s point, this was a game where the Americans needed to play mistake-free soccer, and mistakes led to all four Argentina goals. Poor marking and Guzan’s hesitation on the first, Wondolowski’s turnover and foul on the second, inattentiveness by John Brooks on the third and a terrible decision to play a dummy 20 yards from his own goal by substitute Steve Birnbaum ,which led to the final tally.

Although it felt like the end for the U.S. the home team still has the third place match to play Saturday in Phoenix. The Yanks will need to shake off this disappointment quickly with either Chile or Colombia up next.

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati was on hand and when GotSoccer asked the President if he felt better about the team than he a couple of weeks ago Gulati indulged in a touch of gallows humor. “Well, I felt better about the team three hours ago,” Gulati said. “Listen, we just lost a game where we weren’t really in the game after the first few minutes, so it’s hard to ask me about feelings. Today’s a disappointment; that it wasn’t a more competitive game but overall the performance of the team to get here, obviously that’s a positive.”

Klinsmann looked on as his team were totally outplayed and outclassed. (ISI Photos/Will Thorne)

Klinsmann looked on as his team were totally outplayed and outclassed. (ISI Photos/Will Thorne)

Klinsmann too felt that the experience had been a good one for the growth of the U.S. team but when he was asked when his team might narrow the gap with Argentina, the normally loquacious coach was stumped. “Oh, that’s a tough one,” a tired-sounding Klinsmann offered honestly, before concluding,”I don’t have that answer right now.”

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
ECU 2 2 4

ARG – Ezequiel Lavezzi (Lionel Messi) 3rd minute
ARG – Lionel Messi 32
ARG – Gonzalo Higuain 50
ARG – Gonzalo Higuain (Lionel Messi) 86

Lineups:
USA: 1-Brad Guzan; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 20-Geoff Cameron, 6-John Brooks, 23-Fabian Johnson; 19-Graham Zusi, 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 15-Kyle Beckerman (3-Steve Birnbaum, 60), 9-Gyasi Zardes; 8-Clint Dempsey (10-Darlington Nagbe, 78), 18-Chris Wondolowski (17-Christian Pulisic, 46)
Subs not used: 5-Matt Besler, 12-Tim Howard, 14-Michael Orozco, 16-Perry Kitchen, 21-Edgar Castillo, 22-Ethan Horvath
Not available: 7-Bobby Wood, 11-Alejandro Bedoya , 13-Jermaine Jones
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

ARG: 1-Sergio Romero; 16-Marcos Rojo (15-Victor Cuesta, 84), 13-Ramiro Funes-Mori, 17-Nicolas Otamendi, 4-Gabriel Mercado; 8-Augusto Fernandez (6-Lucas Biglia, 59), 14-Javier Mascherano, 19-Ever Banega; 22-Ezequiel Lavezzi (18-Erik Lamela, 67), 9-Gonzalo Higuain, 10-Lionel Messi (capt.)
Subs not used: 2-Jonathan Maidana, 3-Facundo Roncaglia, 5-Matias Kranevitter, 7-Angel Di Maria, 11-Sergio Aguero, 12-Nahuel Guzman, 21-Javier Pastore, 23-Mariano Andujar
Not Available: 20-Nicolas Gaitan
Head Coach: Gerardo Martino

Stats Summary: USA / ARG
Shots: 0 / 14
Shots on Goal: 0 / 9
Saves: 5 / 0
Corner Kicks: 1 / 4
Fouls: 12 / 7
Offside: 2 / 9

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Chris Wondolowski (caution) 31st minute

 

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The Americanization of Jurgen Klinsmann
The Americanization of Jurgen Klinsmann avatar

Houston, TX – “ I Believe That We Will Win.” It was the chant that captivated the soccer world as the red, white, and blue-clad U.S.A. supporters followed their team all over Brazil encouraging the U.S. MNT on to the Round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup and building a rep for themselves as among the best fans in the world.

Klinsmann (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Klinsmann has gained the American Spirit.  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

This all came after the team’s coach, Jurgen Klinsmann said that he did not believe, telling Sam Borden of the New York Times, “it is not possible” for the U.S. to win the World Cup. It didn’t go over well. It wasn’t that the American soccer public expected to win the World Cup, but it was not an outlook that public embraced from its team’s leader before a ball had been kicked in anger.

Fast forward two years and the Copa America Centenario has come to the United States and Klinsmann has displayed a different, dare I say more “American” attitude. In the Copa build up the U.S. Coach and Technical Director revealed that he expected to reach the semifinals, now that he and his team has done just that, not even the specter of Argentina and Lionel Messi can temper Klinsmann’s confidence.

“There’s no reason at all why we can’t win Copa America,” the coach said on Sunday. “We traveled the world the last few years to very difficult friendly games all over Europe and in Mexico and we came away with wins. We surprised a lot of people; no one gave us a chance to get out of the group in Brazil. We left Portugal behind, we left Ghana behind.”

Yes, this is still the coach that castigated the American soccer media, critical of the team’s performance after the opening round loss to Colombia saying, “the result, in this country that’s all that matters to a lot of people.”

Given that the Copa America is an official competition and not a series of friendlies and recalling that U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati told a small group of reporters following that loss to Colombia that, “results are what matter, everyone understands that.” And this, “the results over the last 18 months, overall, have not been what we would’ve hoped for, especially in the official competitions.”

The US MNT train in preparation for the Copa America Semis. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The US MNT train in preparation for the Copa America Semis. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Winners get to write the history and to that end, Klinsmann riding a three-game winning streak, said yesterday, “the only down period we had was last year’s Gold Cup, for several reasons.” Forgetting perhaps that he himself had told USSoccer.com that winning the Gold Cup was “very, very important to us,” the coach says now, “we wanted to bring some youngsters through and maybe payback now, because they had that growing time last year,” reducing the CONCACAF Championship to something akin to a January camp.

When Sunil Gulati finally reeled in Jurgen Klinsmann to coach the United States National Team back in 2011, one of the primary selling points was that Klinsmann lived in California, and therefore, the theory went, understood America and Americans.

It was an enticing combination, an international star who could command respect on the world stage but who also “got” the American soccer community.

Two years removed from telling America that its team could not win the World Cup has Klinsmann learned about his adopted country’s mindset? Consider these remarks. “Anything is possible in knockout games. You’re 50-50 with whoever you play against,” Klinsmann said. “Dream big; why not? This is about two more games.”

From “it’s not possible,” to “anything is possible,” in just two years. Sounds pretty American to me.

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Suspensions Lead to Klinsmann’s Dilemma
Suspensions Lead to Klinsmann’s Dilemma avatar

Houston, Tx. – The U.S. MNT stand one step away from qualifying for the Copa America Centenario Championship game next Sunday at MetLife Stadium, in East Rutherford, New Jersey, but what a step it is.

Argentina have struggled to make their (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

Argentina have failed to dominate at any international tournament of recent years. (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

An Argentina team that has not won a major championship since winning the 1993 Copa America (the men’s Olympic tournament is primarily a youth competition) is quite an obstacle standing between the Norte Americanos and a place in the Copa Finals.

On the plus side for the U.S. is an NRG Stadium sellout that figures to be a pro-U.S. crowd, although the star power of Messi can’t be discounted. The home team may also get a break from Argentina’s quick turnaround, La Albiceleste knocked off Venezuela 4-1 on Saturday night, two nights after the U.S. secured its semifinals spot with a 2-1 win over Ecuador.

As for U.S advantages, that’s about it. Argentina will be without Nicolas Gaitan through yellow card accumulation but the U.S. will have to replace three key players, although DeAndre Yedlin will be returning for the home side.

Jermaine Jones should never have got involved in the incident that seem him getting sent off. (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

Jermaine Jones should never have got involved in the incident that seem him getting sent off. (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

After playing the same starting 11 in all three group games, Yedlin’s absence forced Klinsmann to break that run for the quarterfinals. Now, with perhaps the best national team in the world as an opponent Klinsmann will be forced to shuffle his lineup again, this time to replace midfielders Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya, and forward Bobby Wood.

Los Angeles Galaxy forward/winger Gyasi Zardes is likely to move forward into Wood’s position in what has morphed from a 4-3-3 at the start of Copa 100 for the U.S. into a 4-4-2, a formation change that has seen Clint Dempsey flourish, relieved of the center forward role.

Zardes has been effective as a wide left midfielder in the new setup, a position he has played often for both the U.S. and his club, although the striker’s role has always seemed a better fit for the 24-year-old.

Zardes appreciates what Wood has brought to the team in this tournament, calling Wood “a phenomenal player.” “His work rate,” Zardes said before yesterday’s practice, “was through the roof, so I’m just curious,” the once and future striker said, “to see what the coaches have prepared.” “We don’t know anything yet, so we’re curious to see what’s going to happen.”

Gyasi Bardes is an option upfront for Klinsmann. ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Gyasi Bardes is an option upfront for Klinsmann. ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Klinsmann could elect not to move Zardes, opting instead for Chris Wondolowski to lead the line, and knowing Klinsmann’s high opinion of Wondo that could happen.

Yedlin figures to return to his regular right fullback position alongside Geoff Cameron and John Brooks at center back and here is where things get interesting. Against such an explosive team as Argentina, Klinsmann may opt for the comfort gained from his recently familiar back four and leave Fabian Johnson at left fullback.

With two midfielders to replace Klinsmann has options in Kyle Beckerman, Darlington Nagbe, Graham Zusi, Christian Pulisic, and the coach also could move the versatile Fabian Johnson up to a wide midfield role.

Klinsmann was giving nothing away at Monday’s press conference, although the coach was defiant when asked about his approach to Tuesday’s match.

“”We want to continue our path that we started years ago,” Klinsmann began. “We want to take the game to them as well, we want to keep a high line.” “We want,” Klinsmann said, “to go eye to eye because we’ve done tremendously well throughout this tournament.”

Besler put in a good performance against Ecuador.. (ISI Photos/Don Feria)

Besler put in a good performance against Ecuador.. (ISI Photos/Don Feria)

So to whom will Klinsmann turn to back up his bold words? Matt Besler was very solid at left back against Paraguay as Johnson took Yedlin’s spot. Besler could retain that spot with Johnson pushed forward as Zardes does the same and moves up to Wood’s striker position.

Beckerman or Nagbe are in line to partner Michael Bradley in the center of the park with Nagbe also a candidate outside along with Zusi. Trusting Pulisic from the start seems a bridge too far for Klinsmann against this level of competition, although the 17-year-old may be called into action at some point.

So, who should Klinsmann pick? Who will he pick?

Let’s take a crack at figuring it out.

Guzan
Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Besler
Zusi, Nagbe, Bradley, Johnson
Dempsey, Zardes

The more experienced Beckerman may well get the nod over Nagbe but I would prefer to see Nagbe given the start for his superior speed, and ball control ability, especially with possession likely to be at a premium for the U.S.

Whoever gets the call, the home team will be up against it and while Klinsmann has a plan, former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson famously had this to say about plans. “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Mexico were stunned after the huge defeat at the hands of Chile. (ISI Photos/JORGE MARTINEZ)

Mexico were stunned after the huge defeat at the hands of Chile. (ISI Photos/JORGE MARTINEZ)

Mexico had a plan going into Saturday night’s game versus Chile, and Venezuela surely had one too that same night against Argentina. Mexico lost 7-0, Venezuela 4-1.

But upsets do happen, Tyson’s loss to Buster Douglas being one of the biggest ever. The U.S. MNT has had a few too. Beating England 1-0 in the 1950 World Cup, topping Colombia 2-1 in the 1994 World Cup, Portugal, 3-2, and Mexico, 2-0 in a 2002 run to the World Cup quarterfinals, and most recently the 2-0, 2009 Confederations Cup stunner over Spain.

Most of those victories featured heroic defending and outstanding goalkeeping and plan or no plan that formula will likely be needed if the U.S. is to add another upset victim to that illustrious group.

The coach has a couple of options available to him. The easiest would be to replace Jones with Kyle Beckeranm

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U.S. MNT Excited to Face Argentina
U.S. MNT Excited to Face Argentina avatar

Houston, Tx. – Nobody was calling Argentina just another team, nor was anybody connected with the U.S. MNT coming off as anything approaching cocky, but coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his players sounded quite happy to take on Argentina tomorrow night at Houston’s NRG Stadium.

Dempsey (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Dempsey is looking forward to the game against Argentina.(ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Speaking to the media before training at the home of the NFL Houston Texans, Nacogdoches favorite son Clint Dempsey appeared unfazed while expressing excitement at the prospect of playing in Tuesday’s Copa America Centenario semifinals in his home state.

“It’s where it all started for me,” Deuce said of playing in Texas, “it’s where I grew up.” Dempsey continued, “I grew up watching South American soccer, watching Copa America and being able to play against some of these teams in this competition is awesome.”

While Dempsey will be trying to provide some offense for the home team, another player with strong Texas roots, former Houston Dynamo Geoff Cameron, will be charged with keeping Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and the rest of the potentially devastating La Albiceleste attack from lighting up the NRG Stadium scoreboard.

Cameron (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Cameron had much to say about Messi. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Asked how the U.S planned to contain Messi, Cameron didn’t hesitate. “Obviously, we know the caliber of player he is, world class he is, but you don’t want to allow him to have time on the ball where he can influence and pick the passes that can exploit the team’s defense.”

With fullback DeAndre Yedlin suspended erstwhile center back Matt Besler was pressed into service in the U.S. quarterfinals win over Paraguay at left fullback. Suspensions to three U.S. players, Bobby Wood, Jermaine Jones, and Alejandro Bedoya could see Besler called into action in that role again, a possibility the Sporting KC defender is taking in stride.

Besler said of playing the position against Paraguay, ”it helps, it helps.” “At the same time,” the World Cup veteran said, “it’s just one game, you’d like to probably have a couple more – if I do get that chance.”

Klinsmann is positive about the match against Paraguay. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Klinsmann is positive about wanting his team to process. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

While acknowledging Argentina’s quality Klinsmann was keen to point out the opportunity this match presents for his team. “We want to go further,” Klinsmann said, “we are very, very hungry for tomorrow night.” “Argentina, the U.S. coach went on, “I say it again, (don’t) talk them bigger than they are, they are who they are, but we left Ecuador behind us, we left Paraguay behind us, we left Portugal two years ago behind us, Ghana, so let’s give it a shot, we are hungry for tomorrow night.”

Of course, Argentina is a step or two up from those teams, Portugal included, in part because Messi seems to be at 100% fitness after being held out of Argentina’s first match, while Ronaldo was clearly not at his best during the 2014 World Cup.

Besler was asked if playing against Ronaldo helped to prepare for Messi, his answer? “It doesn’t help, they’re different players.” So, are there any players that you’ve faced that can compare to Messi?” Besler was asked. “I don’t think there’s a comparison to that guy,” Besler replied, drawing laughs.

Asked how you go about defending the five-time Ballon d’Or/World Player of the Year, Besler sounded genuinely unsure. “It’s hard,” Besler began, “because you say you want to get pressure on Messi and not let him have time on the ball, but how do you do that?” Besler continued, “even when guys step up to him and are right on him he finds a way to wiggle out of something and then he’s able to get his head up and play some of those balls he’s played in this tournament.” “It’s a huge challenge,” Besler notes, “probably the biggest challenge for us as a defensive unit.”

Messi and Co will surely be a challenge for the U.S.  (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

Messi and Co will surely be a challenge for the U.S. (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

It is a huge challenge that the U.S. faces on Tuesday, but it is one the players relish. Just over 24 hours from game time Dempsey sounded as if he couldn’t wait. “Being in your home country, being able to play a game on this stage, if you don’t get excited about it then you shouldn’t be playing,” Dempsey said, “it’s a dream come true.”

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U.S. Advance to Copa America Semifinals
U.S. Advance to Copa America Semifinals avatar

Seattle, Wa. – As promised by coach Jurgen Klinsmann the U.S. MNT is heading to the Copa America Centenario semifinal next Tuesday in Houston after hanging on to defeat Ecuador 2-1 in front of a loud pro- U.S.A. crowd Thursday night in Seattle.

Dempsey celebrating his goal against Ecuador. (ISI Photos//Maciek Gudrymowicz)

Dempsey celebrating his goal against Ecuador. (ISI Photos//Maciek Gudrymowicz)

Mr. Clutch, Clint Dempsey staked the hosts to a 1-0 lead in the 22 minute at the end of an impressive passing sequence finishing a Jermaine Jones pass to the Ecuador net with a powerful header.

Bobby Wood played a big part in the goal and was buzzing from the start helping to keep Ecuador’s highly touted wide players busy defending and helping to blunt the La Tri attack.

The first half was nearly all positives for the Americans, although a stray Michael Bradley pass needed a good save from Brad Guzan to maintain that 1-0 lead into the break.

Jermaine Jones left the referee no choice after get involved in the confrontation. (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

Jermaine Jones raised his hands to another player and in the rules of the game that is seen as a straight red card.  (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

The second half was a much different affair and it turned on a double ejection in the 52nd minute. Ecuador’s Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia sparked the situation with a flagrant kick to Alejandro Bedoya and when Jermaine Jones interceded he and Valencia both ended up with an early exit.

Jurgen Klinsmann called Jones’ red card, “an absolute joke.” The fracas occurred in front of the U.S. bench and the coach said, “I was right there.” Klinsmann said that it was the fourth official who made the call, adding that the decision, “is a disgrace.”

Replays seemed to back the U.S. coach, who will have to face the winner of Saturday’s Argentina vs. Venezuela match without Jones, Alejandro Bedoya, and Bobby Wood, the latter two for yellow card accumulation.

The U.S. was put back on its heels after the twin dismissals with Ecuador taking advantage of the extra space in the 10 v 10 matchup but it was the Americans who scored next with Bobby Wood finishing from Dempsey in the 65th minute.

John Brooks started the scoring play with a ball over the top to Wood, who fed Matt Besler, Besler found Dempsey and Zardes helped the veterans shot/cross into the net.

The L.A. Galaxy forward said afterward that, “there was a defender right there, so I didn’t want to take a chance, so I had to bury it.” Zardes felt that team’s character showed after the red card, adding, “our leader, Michael Bradley, he really brought us in together, kept us focused on the game plan and the task at hand.”

Michael Arroyo  got one back for Ecuador. (ISI Photos/DAVID LEAH)

Michael Arroyo got one back for Ecuador. (ISI Photos/DAVID LEAH)

That task was made more difficult when the U.S. was caught napping on an Ecuador free kick in the 74th minute, allowing Walter Ayovi to pick out a wide open Michael Arroyo who beat Guzan cleanly to halve the U.S. advantage.

The crowd responded to the setback by getting louder and with the industrious Bobby Wood winning the occasional foul the Americans were able to slow things down enough to make it to the final whistle with their lead intact.

That final whistle brought equal parts joy and relief as the U.S. players celebrated on the field and the fans rejoiced in the stands. At Wednesday’s practice Michael Bradley had said of the expected fan support that, “it could be the difference.”

After his side’s big win Bradley said, “look, the atmosphere was amazing inside the stadium.” “The fans pushed us on in a big way,” the captain said, emphasizing that, “on night’s like this the fans can make the difference for us.”

Jurgen Klinsmann had one big decision to make prior to the game and the coach nailed it, inserting Matt Besler at left fullback and flipping Fabian Johnson to the right side in place of suspended DeAndre Yedlin.

Besler put in a good performance. (ISI Photos/Don Feria)

Besler put in a good performance. (ISI Photos/Don Feria)

Besler was solid defensively and contributed more going forward than expected. Good team defense thwarted Ecuador’s speed based attack and the Americans did enough to withstand La Tri’s second half onslaught.

Now it is on to the semifinals where the home team gets a break from the schedule makers for Tuesday’s match at NRG Stadium in Houston. Even if the U.S. wind up facing Lionel Messi and mighty Argentina, it could be a tired La Celeste that the Yanks face. Argentina and Venezuela don’t play until Saturday, giving the Americans some needed recovery time and leaving its opponent with a very short turnaround.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 1 2
ECU 0 1 1

USA – Clint Dempsey (Jermaine Jones) 22nd minute
USA – Gyasi Zardes (Clint Dempsey) 65
ECU – Michael Arroyo (Walter Ayovi) 74

Lineups:
USA: 1-Brad Guzan; 5-Matt Besler, 20-Geoff Cameron, 6-John Brooks, 23-Fabian Johnson; 11-Alejandro Bedoya (19-Graham Zusi, 81), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 13-Jermaine Jones; 9-Gyasi Zardes (3-Steve Birnbaum, 90+4), 8-Clint Dempsey (15-Kyle Beckerman, 74), 7-Bobby Wood
Subs not used: 10-Darlington Nagbe, 12-Tim Howard, 14-Michael Orozco, 16-Perry Kitchen, 17-Christian Pulisic, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 21-Edgar Castillo, 22-Ethan Horvath
Not available: 2-DeAndre Yedlin
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

ECU: 22-Alexander Dominguez; 2-Arturo Mina, 3-Frickson Erazo, 4-Juan Paredes (17-Jaimen Ayovi, 82), 10-Walter Ayoví (capt.), 13-Enner Valencia; 6-Christian Noboa (8-Fernando Gaibor, 62), 7-Jefferson Montero, 11-Michael Arroyo, 16-Luis Valencia, 18-Carlos Gruezo
Subs not used: 1-Maximo Banguera, 5-Cristian Ramirez, 9-Fidel Martinez, 12-Esteban Dreer, 14-Angel Mena, 15-Pedro Larrea, 19-Juan Cazares, 20-Robert Arboleda, 21-Gabriel Achiller, 23-Miler Bolaños
Head Coach: Gustavo Quinteros

Stats Summary: USA / ECU
Shots: 7 / 13
Shots on Goal: 4 / 3
Saves: 2 / 2
Corner Kicks: 4 / 5
Fouls: 11 / 11
Offside: 0 / 4

Misconduct Summary:
ECU – Luis Valencia (caution) 38th minute
USA – Jermaine Jones (sent off) 52
ECU – Luis Valencia (caution) 52
ECU – Luis Valencia (sent off) 52
USA – Bobby Wood (caution) 53
ECU – Juan Paredes (caution) 64
USA – Alejandro Bedoya (caution) 73
USA – Brad Guzan (caution) 84

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Bradley Believes Crowd “Could be the Difference”
Bradley Believes Crowd “Could be the Difference” avatar

Seattle, Wa. – “We tell them (the U.S. players) be courageous, go at them, it’s a 90-minute battle.” That was Jurgen Klinsmann talking about the U.S. MNT as it takes on the challenge of Ecuador tomorrow night at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.

Klinsmann is positive about the match against Paraguay. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Klinsmann acknowledged his team’s need to play a high line.. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

The U.S. supremo had been asked specifically if he intended to have his defense keep a high line, would he change tactics given the speedy opponents and minus his suspended speedster DeAndre Yedlin?

“Oh absolutely,” Klinsmann answered of continuing to play the high line. “I think it’s important to kind of stick to your beliefs.” The coach expressed confidence in his defense saying, “I think our backline is doing a tremendous job so far by keeping it higher up, to go eye to eye with them and continuing that learning curve that we started a while ago.”

With Yedlin out that recently fearsome foursome will be minus one of its regular members. Not surprisingly Klinsmann did not give anything away but the coach did offer a ringing endorsement of leading candidate Michael Orozco.

Orozco in action against Paraguay. (ISI Photos?John Dorton)

Orozco in action against Paraguay. (ISI Photos?John Dorton)

Orozco filled in admirably when Yedlin was shown to the sideline versus Paraguay and Klinsmann sounded very comfortable with the prospect of handing the Tijuana man the start in tomorrow’s Copa quarterfinals.

“He’s always been there when we’ve needed Michael,” Klinsmann said, going on to praise the TJ handyman as, “an outstanding individual, very focused.” “He’s doing his job down south of the border at the very highest level,” the coach added.

So, it sounds likely that Orozco will get the nod but the right fullback position is not the only issue heading into what the U.S. coach called, “a big, big game tomorrow night in beautiful Seattle.”

If the Thursday night ends up tied after 90 minutes, the game goes directly to penalties, with no extra time. As might be expected, U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan was asked about the increased possibility that the match would come down to spot kicks.

Guzan seemed quietly confident in his own responsibilities. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Guzan seemed quietly confident in his own responsibilities. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

“We obviously want to win in whatever way can,” the U.S. shot-stopper said and although Guzan didn’t say he wanted the outcome on his shoulders, the big netminder didn’t sound stressed over it. “It’s part of being a goalkeeper, so if faced with that situation, then it’s no problem.”

Alejandro Bedoya says of the new rule, “it’s a bit bizarre but I guess it makes things a little different.” Bedoya didn’t seem thrilled with the change but he shrugged, “it can go either way.”

Klinsmann conceded that the new pk rule has changed the team’s preparation. “Yeah, it changes definitely, certain things including practicing penalties, absolutely.”

With that uncertainty and with so much at stake the U.S. MNT hopes to receive a boost from what is for this team a rarity, a big boisterous, pro-USA crowd.

““We are thrilled to play in front of that crowd,” Klinsmann said. His team’s captain took it further.

“I think it could be the difference,” Michael Bradley shared today before taking the CenturyLink field for one final run-through ahead of tomorrow’s quarterfinals match against Ecuador.

(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Bradley is thrilled to be playing in front of a potentially large Pro-U.S Crowd.. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

“We played here a few years ago against Panama and the atmosphere was amazing,” Bradley remembered. “I think,” Bradley wrapped up in that quietly focused way of his, “that tomorrow has the potential to be one of the best American atmospheres we’ve seen in awhile, so hopefully it will come through for us.”

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Big Guns Fall but Here Come the Copa America Quarterfinals
Big Guns Fall but Here Come the Copa America Quarterfinals avatar

Seattle, Wa. – When Argentina defeated Bolivia last night in a canter it set the stage for the Quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario but before we get to that, let’s spend a moment on two teams that surprisingly failed to advance out of Group play.

Brazil failed to make it to the quarters. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Brazil failed to make it to the quarters. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Brazil and Uruguay are without question the biggest disappointments of the Copa, and will remain so barring an unforeseen collapse from Argentina.

Brazil came in with the ready made excuse of the Rio Olympics in August. It was understood that the Olympics was the priority but surely Brazil could muster a first or second place finish from a four-team group consisting of themselves, Peru, Ecuador, and Haiti.

As it turned out mighty Brazil managed to beat just Haiti. An opening 0-0 draw with Ecuador was sandwiched around the Haiti win by a 1-0 loss to Peru.

Raúl Ruidíaz handball knocked Brazil out of Copa America. (ISI Photos/ISAAC ORTIZ)

Raúl Ruidíaz handball knocked Brazil out of Copa America. (ISI Photos/ISAAC ORTIZ)

The Peru game was decided on a goal that should have been waved off as a handball but other than Haiti match Brazil went 180 minutes with scoring a single goal.

Perhaps when Neymar was saved for the Olympics we should have seen this coming. After all, who can forget how the Selecao fell to pieces in the World Cup just two years ago when the dynamic striker went down with an injury?

The 7-1 loss to Germany in 2014 had been an abject capitulation, and it showed a lack of character from the Brazilians that we should have all kept in mind.

Uruguay (ISI Photos/OMAR MARTINEZ)

Uruguay have underachieved and must be disappointed.(ISI Photos/OMAR MARTINEZ)

Uruguay joins its illustrious colleagues on the Copa sidelines after a first round exit that was sealed in a game two loss to Group C surprise packet Venezuela.

That loss followed a 3-1 defeat to Mexico, a pre-Copa favorite, so no harm, no foul. But when coach Oscar Tabarez refused to insert his best player, Luis Suarez into the game two loss to Venezuela after the Barcelona man had prepared himself to enter, it highlighted a shocking disconnect between star and coach.

Dunga paid for Brazil’s early exit with his job, but Tabarez has been in charge of the Uruguay team since 2006 and may be invulnerable. Unless, of course, the Suarez incident is seen as a signal that it is time for a change.

QUARTERFINALS
Thursday – June 16, 2016
CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Wash.)
Game 25: USA (1A) vs. Ecuador (2B) — 9:30 p.m. ET | FS1, UniMas, UDN

The host nation is up first facing Ecuador in a match that seems destined to be a close one between two fairly evenly matched teams.

Ecuador has some fine attacking players led by the Valencias, Enner, and Antonio and will have no fear of the home team. The U.S. bounced back well from a 2-0 loss to start the tournament, latching on to what it seems to have perceived as unfair criticism of that performance, on the way to a pair of impressive victories to win the Group A.

Jurgen Klinsmann started the same 11 three games in a row, reportedly the first time that has been done by a U.S. coach since 1930. That won’t happen on Thursday, DeAndre Yedlin will sit after picking up two yellow cards in the team’s 1-0 win over Paraguay.

Klinsmann will have to get the replacement right, Ecuador wide man Jefferson Moreno can wreak havoc on that wing.

The U.S. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The U.S. should be strong enough to see it through to the next round. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

It will be close but I think that led by a tight defense and veterans Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Clint Dempsey the Americans will do just enough to make it through and meet Klinsmann’s target of reaching the semifinals.

Friday – June 17, 2016
MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Game 26: Colombia (2A) vs. Peru (1B) — 8 p.m. ET | FS1, UniMas, UDN

Peru both benefitted from, and precipitated Brazil’s surprise downfall, defeating the Group B favorites and topping the group. In a 1-0 win, Peru’s goal came on a clear handball but Peru held firm against a Brazilian onslaught, winning the match despite ceding 66% of the possession and being outshot 14-4.

Colombia should have enough quality to get past Peru.  (ISI Photos/David Leah)

Colombia should have enough quality to get past Peru. (ISI Photos/David Leah)

Colombia looked like world beaters after two games then rested most of the team in a 3-2 game three loss to Costa Rica. The loss ended up saving the Cafeteros close to 3,000 miles in travel and got them an extra day of rest.

It should be the formula for a Colombia win.

Saturday – June 18, 2016
Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.)
Game 27: Argentina (1D) vs. Venezuela (2C) — 7 p.m. ET | FX, Univision, UDN

Messi and Co will surely be too strong for  (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

Messi and Co will surely be too strong for Venezuela.  (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

Well done Venezuela, but for these Cinderella’s the clock is about to strike 12. Argentina has not won an international tournament during Lionel Messi’s glorious career and the with Maradona sniping that Messi has no leadership skills, that drought looks like ending here in the United States.

Saturday – June 18, 2016
Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)
Game 28: Mexico (1C) vs. Chile (2D) — 10 p.m. ET | FX, Univision, UDN

This is the one everyone will have circled on their calenders. Chile won the 2015 Copa America just one year ago and might be feeling a bit put upon for having defend that title so quickly.

A 2-1 loss in game one versus Argentina put the champs in a hole, they climbed out of that crevice thanks to a hugely controversial penalty kick decision deep into added time of game two. Arturo Vidal scored the 110th-minute winner plus Chile’s other goal to hand his team the three points and break Bolivia’s heart.

Mexico are one of the tournament's favorites to go all the way. (ISI Phtos/JORGE MARTINEZ)

Mexico have a huge fan base and will hope that this will help carry then to the final. (ISI Phtos/JORGE MARTINEZ)

Mexico was a hot favorite since before Copa 100 started and nothing has happened to change that perception. That 3-1 win over Uruguay to open Copa play certainly laid down a marker, and Jamaica soon fell 2-0 to Mexico. Then coach Juan Carlos Osorio rested everybody for game three versus Venezuela.

That game ended 1-1 with Mexico taking the group over Venezuela by virtue of goal difference. Mexico has often been touted before only to see things fall apart but there is a sense that Osorio is the steady hand that Mexico needs; but can El Tri get past Chile.

I don’t think so. Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vargas are flying up front, Vidal is a beast, a talented one at that, and I think Chile will beat Mexico.

A Mexico exit would surely disappoint Copa America Centenario organizers, who would love to see Mexico fans continuing to fill stadiums right up through the Championship match on June 26th at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

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Argentina Too Strong For Bolivia
Argentina Too Strong For Bolivia avatar

Seattle, Wa. – By the time Lionel Messi checked into Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over Bolivia the match was over as a contest, his deputies had seen to that with three goals in the first half to demoralize and ultimately defeat Bolivia at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field in front 45,753 Messi worshiping fans on Tuesday night.

The crowd roared when Messi emerged from the locker room at the conclusion of the halftime intermission and jogged across the field to report to the 4th official.

Victor Cuesta #15 celebrates his goal with teammates. (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

Victor Cuesta #15 celebrates his goal with teammates. (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

In truth, they had been cheering for Messi all evening. Erik Lamela and Ezequiel Lavezzi scored in the 13th and 15th minutes ending the game as a contest when it had barely gotten started. Coming into the game at 2-0-0 Argentina was already through to the quarterfinals, while at 0-0-2 Bolivia was merely through.

With that cushion, Gerardo rested Messi, Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano, but if the coach didn’t need his team’s inspirational leader tonight, well the fans did. Messi! Messi! Messi!

Afterward, the coach sounded a practical note. “People pay all over the world to see him,” Martino said through a translator at his postgame press conference. “He has that obligation to play.”

So, Martino gave the people what they demanded. And from that point onward the whole point of the game became – could Messi give the public what it wanted?

If that answer was a goal then the answer was no, but the magic of Messi cannot be reduced to mere numbers. There is no statistic for Messi’s dribbling run through and around the right side of Bolivia’s defense midway through the second half. And what metric could be possibly be employed to determine the value of watching Messi, his back to the end line as he nutmegged Bolivia’s keeper; and who cared if he was flagged offside?

Messi prior to the match against Bolivia. *ISI Photos//Jane Gershovich)

Messi prior to the match against Bolivia. (ISI Photos//Jane Gershovich)

Messi showed his angry side late in the match when he went forehead to forehead with Bolivia’s Jhasmani Campos after Campos has chopped him down with a scything tackle. Argentina defender Facundo Roncaglia stepped in to protect Messi but Campos got in one last shove.

Then it was over and with the result, the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals were set. Here are the matchups.

QUARTERFINALS
Thursday – June 16, 2016
CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Wash.)
Game 25: USA (1A) vs. Ecuador (2B) — 9:30 p.m. ET | FS1, UniMas, UDN

Friday – June 17, 2016
MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Game 26: Colombia (2A) vs. Peru (1B) — 8 p.m. ET | FS1, UniMas, UDN

Saturday – June 18, 2016
Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.)
Game 27: Argentina (1D) vs. Venezuela (2C) — 7 p.m. ET | FX, Univision, UDN

Saturday – June 18, 2016
Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)
Game 28: Mexico (1C) vs. Chile (2D) — 10 p.m. ET | FX, Univision, UDN

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3 Things We Learned From The U.S. Group
3 Things We Learned From The U.S. Group avatar

Costa Rica’s surprise 3-2 victory over Colombia left the United States as Group A winners and set U.S. and Colombia quarterfinals schedules, if not opponents.

Which brings us to 3 Things we learnt from last night’s U.S. 1-0 win over Paraguay.

1) The Time (Zones) They are A Changing

I wouldn’t dare suggest that Colombia coach Jose Peckerman was engaging in a bit of gamesmanship when he left some of his top players on the bench to start last night’s final group match versus Costa Rica, after all, he did turn to his stars as the game went on, but by losing Colombia save themselves a cross country trip.

Instead of traveling to Seattle as the U.S will do now, Peckerman and his squad will take the short trip up I-95 to New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium while the U.S. makes yet another cross-country journey.

Rodriguez will be looking to revenge their World Cup.  (ISI Photos/David Leah)

Rodriguez will be looking to avenge their 2014 World Cup exit against Brazil. (ISI Photos/David Leah)

Colombia is more likely to play Brazil now but this is not the best Brazil side we’ve seen and Peckerman might fancy his chances against the Neymar-less South American giants. Peru and Ecuador also remain in the mix as opponents for the Group A teams.

And how many times have the Americans traversed this great country of hours in service of this Copa America Centenario? The hosts began the tournament in Santa Clara, traveled halfway across it to Chicago, then completed the coast to coast journey in Philadelphia last night.

A game in New Jersey looked likely but Costa Rica upset the apple cart and set the Americans up for a trip to the Northwest. The U.S. MNT will not complain but, at some point, even professional athletes have to feel the effects of all that travel and all that time zone hopping.

2) How About That Bench?

A lot was made last night of the Americans using the same lineup for the third straight match, it hasn’t happened in decades, and the first 11 has performed admirably in the Copa America 100, but how about a shout out to the substitutes.

At first, the talk was all about Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe, exciting offensive players who showed well off of the pine in the opening loss to Colombia.

Klinsmann is not tinkering with his lineup and this seems to be working thus far. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Klinsmann is not tinkering with his lineup and this seems to be working thus far. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Subsequent matches haven’t called for that duo’s talents though with Klinsmann trusting Graham Zusi and Kyle Beckerman to protect leads in games two and three.

Chris Wondolowski also pitched in for the squad in the 4-0 win over the Ticos. Graham Zusi has been particularly impressive in his late-game role, even adding a fine goal versus Costa Rica.

Everyone wants to play 90 minutes every game and it is good to see some stability and continuity in this U.S. team but let’s not overlook the contributions of the backups.

3) Guzan the Man

The easy move for Jurgen Klinsmann would have been to revert back to World Cup hero and America’s favorite goaltender Tim Howard for the Copa but Klinsmann knew that Howard hadn’t played much in the second half of Everton’s season, so he went with the Aston Villa man.

Guzan has (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

Guzan seems to be Klinsmann chosen net minder. (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

Guzan endured something of a nightmare season himself with the relegated Villians but the one time Chivas USA man battled to the end and Klinsmann had to have liked that fight from Guzan.

In truth, Howard would have probably stepped up if give the nod but kudos to Klinsmann for going with Guzan, and of course to the keeper himself for making his coach look smart.

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