“This is a special moment. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You got into the Semifinal, you made yourself proud, now go for more.” – Jurgen Klinsmann
The USMNT have rebounded excellently from a difficult 2015, and in the process outdoing expectations and being the last CONCACAF team standing. Jurgen Klinsmann has done more than the bare minimum to keep his job, and may be building a reputation as a coach who may have his faults, but shows up for the big tournaments.
The man set a high goal for his team — to make the semifinals in the second biggest tournament this team will play in this cycle, should they qualify for the World Cup — and he succeeded in accomplishing it. They didn’t play easy teams, either; after a disappointing 2015, many could have expected the US to continue on that disappointing run and lose to any of those teams. Klinsmann has done more than the bare minimum to keep his job for the next few years — Gulati said results were important, and he has indeed gotten the results at the Copa América Centenario.
Even if the anti-Klinsmann crowd are unhappy with the fact that he’ll stick around for a few years more than they’d like, there may be a silver lining to the whole thing. Klinsmann has done well in this tournament through having a consistent lineup, which is so unlike the Klinsmann of the last five years. He may have created a blueprint for how the team can succeed in the future. A further complication is that three members of his typical starting lineup — Geoff Cameron, Clint Dempsey, and Jermaine Jones — are 30 and over, so tinkering with that lineup may be in the cards, especially if Klinsmann wants to usher in the younger generation.
Looking at our team before the tournament, I didn’t even think we would make it out of the group stage. The game against Colombia didn’t exactly instill warm and fuzzy feelings but we figured it out when we faced Costa Rica and Paraguay. Once we won the group and faced Ecuador I had higher hopes for our run in the tournament. This has been a tournament where crazy things can happen and I think that we could get REALLY lucky and squeak into the finals. I think if we can get an early goal and play defensively we have a good chance. Prediction 2 – 1, US.
I think this is a huge do-or-die for us because our last appearance in the Copa (2007) wasn’t so great. To continue forward would be a huge victory in itself. But I believe we also have a fighting chance because we’re the home team, not to mention that NRG Stadium is ridiculously loud, and I’ll be there, so I personally will ensure that the noise level is high.
Like many I did not imagine the USMNT would reach the Final Four of the Copa 100. This glory has escaped the men’s team for so long, it was practically a given we’d be knocked out before we’d see Mexico or Brazil exit stage left. Yet, Klinsman’s goals with the senior men’s team set out from the beginning of 2016 were to give the U.S. a soccer tournament the world would not forget, and one which showed the skeptical U.S. public that USMNT was worth supporting year-round. He further offered a tantalizing prospect as the months went on, to reach the semifinals of the Copa America. While most media pundits and embittered fans, worn from the failed U-23 Olympics run as well as last year’s letdowns, scoffed at the notion that the USMNT would be in the final four of this 16 nation tournament dominated by South America, there was always hope that the combination of the fortitude of the veterans like Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and the speed and strength of their younger teammates, along with some surprises like Brooks would coalesce to form something yet unseen – a consistent series of wins along with a consistent lineup. They have not been pretty. They are grade A American wins. Gritty, tough and resilient, sprinkled with a bit of luck. They may even be the beginnings of a uniquely American style of the game.
On the other side we have Argentina and Messi: a team that has scored 14 goals, allowing only 2, in the past 4 matches; a team that beat its chief rival, Chile, in the opener of their run, without needing their star to do so; a team that has been denied the Copa America title since their last championship in 1993. And the same team that lost the World Cup to Germany in 2014. Both Messi and Argentina are playing for pride, for patriotism, for legacy.
That’s not to say the U.S. doesn’t play for high stakes. I don’t however, predict an upset by the hosts. This is an opportunity to win, but more than that, for me personally, it’s an opportunity to show that same American determination and assertiveess that has carried them through so far. Yes, in the end, this is a knockout game. Yes, in the end, it does not matter if we lose by 1 or 7 goals. But, assume for a moment you are a youth player in the U.S. and you watch a game where both teams are equally steadfast in their efforts. They may have different playing styles, and the U.S. may lose, but losing with heart and dignity is something heroic. Losing poorly, on the other hand (i.e. – giving up), is something to regret and will leave an impression on that young soccer lover. I’m pretty delighted that some of the WUFC members think the U.S. will pull off one of the world’s biggest upsets in history. Here’s hoping I’ll be proven wrong!
- VENUE NRG Stadium; Houston, Texas
- WATCH FS1, Univision, UDN
- KICKOFF8:00 PM CT
- OFFICIAL HASHTAG #USAvARG
photo: Darlington Nagbe – USA v Colombia, June 3, 2016. Levi Stadium, CA.
Photo credit: Lyndsay Radnedge/Prost Amerika