Thursday’s win over Ecuador was one of the biggest wins in US Soccer history. With that win, the US is now into the semi-finals of the Copa America for only the second time. Jurgen Klinsmann said before the start of the tournament that reaching the semi-finals was the goal for the US, and that goal has been met. Now a massive challenge awaits as the US tries to reach the final when they play Lionel Messi and Argentina.
After a year and a half of poor results, bad soccer and doom and gloom from the fans, the US finally seems to be playing the more proactive style of soccer that Klinsmann promised when he took over as head coach five years ago. The first half of Thursday’s game against Ecuador was dominated by the US and they went into halftime up 1-0, though it could have been more as the US had several golden opportunities. But for the second game in a row, the US had a player sent off and was forced to change tactics. Luckily for the US, Jermaine Jones wasn’t the only one shown a red card as Antonio Valencia was also dismissed. However, Jones will be suspended for the semi-final and either the final or third place game as his red card was for Violent Conduct. After that the US managed to grab a very important insurance goal through Gyasi Zardes. It was a rearguard action from then on as the US held on despite conceding on another set piece routine. John Brooks was again fantastic (despite taking a beating from the Ecuadorians). Matt Besler acquitted himself well at left back and Fabian Johnson looked more comfortable filling in for the suspended DeAndre Yedlin at right back. The backline is in for a substantially more difficult test when they have to figure out how to stop the best player in the world: Lionel Messi.
Simply put, this Argentina team is loaded. Obviously the headliner is Messi and rightfully so. He is now Argentina’s joint-top scorer. He is second in the tournament with 4 goals (he’s only played in three games). But it’s not just Messi for Argentina. There are plenty of other world class stars including Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Erik Lamela. Sergio Romero is also a very good goalkeeper. Their manager is Gerardo Martino, who before taking over Argentina, won 40 of 59 games at Barcelona. So far throughout this tournament, Argentina has looked like the best team. Their only 1 goal game was against Chile and that game was not as close as the scoreline would indicate. They steamrolled Panama and Bolivia by scores of 5-0 and 3-0 respectively. They then made short work of Venezuela in the quarter-finals. Overall, their record in 2016 is a perfect 7-0-0.