The United States, and I really am stating the obvious here, faces a near impossible test against the World’s no. 1 ranked team in Argentina tonight in the semi-final of the Copa América Centenario. Past meetings between the two sides have never yielded a U.S. victory in recent memory, and you will have to go back all the way to 1995 to see the Americans come out on top in a 3-0 thrashing of La Albiceleste. In fact, in the highlights below, you will notice a slightly younger sounding Phil Schoen, and a Tarzan-esque present day pundit Alexi Lalas chime in with the 2nd goal.
Though you and I realize that 21 years is a long time, Lalas thinks that the United States are in this game with a shout. He said in an interview with Stars and Stripes FC, “I believe Jürgen Klinsmann has been gifted a team with more quality and more depth than any team in the past. Now it’s time for those guys to step up.”
In the preview on FX right after the Chile-Mexico game, Lalas was faced with this question from Fernando Fiore, his fellow analyst: “So you think it’s gonna be 50-50?”
Slight hesitance, and then the U.S. legend reiterated his view that if Klinsmann’s team do not make the same mistakes that Venezuela did, and take advantage of the chances that they are gifted, the game’s going to be closer than some might think.
This makes sense to some degree.
Argentina, however talented and in-sync, are not error-free. This was witnessed by viewers firsthand in their game vs. Venezuela, which they comfortably won 4-1. Although the final score suggests something distinctly similar to utter humiliation, the game was more open-ended and very exciting from a neutral perspective. Perhaps more entertaining than to Tata Martino’s liking.
Argentina were gifted at least 2 out of the 4 goals that they scored; one of which was a simple back-pass gone horribly wrong, and the other a save that even Victor Valdes could probably make. Since the game’s basic concept is built on who-commits-the-most-mistakes, we won’t really ponder into the subject very much. Because that’s where it gets pretty dangerous for the United States.
Klinsmann’s done a tremendous job of keeping a consistent lineup throughout games in this tournament. We saw what happened to Mexico when Osorio tried his hand at the gamble that is tinkering.
But, to Klinsmann’s point, he can’t really be held accountable for anything that happens in this game. He is forced to play his hand, rather than doing so by his own choice. If Bobby Wood, Bedoya, and especially Jermaine Jones weren’t acting out of instinct rather than experience he might not be in this precarious situation.
And to be frank, there aren’t that many reasons which tells you that the U.S. can actually win this game. They have only lost one game in the last 5 matches that they’ve played, true, but it was against Colombia. A team supposedly weaker than the no. 1 ranked Argentina.
Klinsmann and the U.S. will most likely have their work cut out for them in what is set to be a stunning evening in Houston. The crowd, though, will be chanting the team on all the way.