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.
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.
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 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.