Game: United States vs Argentina
Date: Tuesday, June 21st
Time: 9pm Eastern
Venue: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
Television: Fox Sports 1, Univision, and Univision Deportes
Streaming: Fox Sports Go, Univision Deportes, fuboTV (free trial)
Believe it or not, the USMNT find themselves in the semi-finals. Jurgen Klinsmann told us he was going to get them there and despite all of the doubt in social media land, he did it. His reward for achieving what was thought to be impossible is what is probably a near impossible opponent.
Argentina presents the USMNT’s toughest task since the German took over the program. The collection of attacking talent on this roster is far more than any nation has any right to. Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Erik Lamela, Angel Di Maria, Javier Pastore, and that’s all before even mentioning the greatest in the game, Lionel Messi. The one good thing for the USMNT is that Argentina can only run out a few at a time.
It isn’t just a tough looking foe on paper. Argentina has been the only consistent team in the tournament. After a tight 2-1 win over Chile, there has been no looking back. Argentina routed Panama 5-0 and Bolivia 3-0 to round out the perfect group stage record before strolling past Venezuela 4-1.
The USMNT on the other hand have been on a roll since not showing up against Colombia in the opening game of the tournament. Besides the Costa Rica win, the USMNT has fought tooth and nail for each victory. The quarterfinal against Ecuador was impressive, but has set up quite the hill for the USMNT to climb in the semifinals.
Three Issues The USMNT Must Overcome
In the quarterfinals DeAndre Yedlin’s absence seemed like a major problem. Now, the USMNT must overcome three suspensions against Argentina. Jermaine Jones’ red card paired with the yellow card accumulation suspensions to Alejandro Bedoya and Bobby Woods will give Klinsmann plenty to think about leading up to the game.
Kyle Beckerman seems like a shoe in to replace Jones and Graham Zusi has been in good form each time he is called in. It wouldn’t be far fetched to see him replace Bedoya out wide. The real question is who replaces Wood up top. The only real option off the bench would be Chris Wondolowski. If Klinsmann decides Wondo is not the right fit for the game, he could push Dempsey into the target spot and bring in Nagbe to play in front of Bradley and Beckerman in a 4-3-3. That may be the best option moving forward.
Paging Captain Bradley
The last three games have not been as bad as the Colombia match, but the captain has yet to really show up. He’s been missing from the attack and in his worst moments has been a defensive liability. His errant pass led to the Colombia penalty and his failure to cover for Geoff Cameron when he pushed forward was part of the reason Paraguay had a 3 on 1 break that could have resulted in an early deficit if not for a great play by John Brooks.
With the three suspensions the team are facing they need their captain to step up and lead from the front. Having Beckerman playing next to him will free up the option to push higher up field and be part of the attack. His distribution will be key in kick starting the counter attack. At this point in the tournament, the team will go only as far as their captain will lead them.
Messi vs The World
The best player in the World will be lined up opposite the Red, White, and Blue on Tuesday. He’s played a limited role in the tournament, but still has 4 goals, which up until Eduardo Varga’s 4 goals in Chile’s 7-0 rout of Mexico (that feels very pleasant to type), had him leading the Golden Boot race. He has yet to win a major trophy on the international stage and after coming in second in the last Copa America and World Cup, this is starting to feel like his break through tournament.
The USMNT defense is going to be under more pressure than they’ve been up against since losing to Belgium two years ago. The good news is that at no point in the last 6+ years has the US been so organized at the back. All four of the members of the back line play in a top European league. Geoff Cameron just had one of his best performances and John Brooks is turning into a superstar right before our eyes.
Expect the possession battle to be heavily tilted in the South American nation’s favor. The team must defend as a unit, forcing Argentina out wide and into playing crosses where Cameron and Brooks can dominate in the air. The longer Argentina is held off the scoreboard the more frustration will build up among the many attacking options they have and the more disorganized their attack will become.
I’m expecting Dempsey to find the back of the net on a counter attack early in the second half. At that point the USMNT will shut up shop and try to ride out the storm. If you thought the ending of the Ecuador game was nerve wrecking, wait for holding onto a one goal lead against Argentina’s firepower. A moment of Messi magic will happen, as no one should bet against it, and a late equalizer will send the game straight into penalties. As much as I want to believe in the USMNT being a team of destiny, this is where the ride ends. Argentina pulls off the shoot out victory and goes on to take the Copa America title on Sunday.