By Robert Cross / AO: Portland
On the eve of the Copa American Centenario knockout rounds, what is at stake for the USMNT?
USA opened match play in Group A with a shaky performance on both sides of the ball against Colombia that resulted in a 2-0 loss. Coach Klinsmann was unmoved and chose to stand by his approach and core players. The team responded with a solid defensive play in matches against Costa Rica and Paraguay, both victories and clean sheets to boot. Colombia stumbles in their final group match and USA finds themselves through, winners of Group A, and headed to Seattle to play Ecuador in the Quarterfinals.
Coach Klinsmann deserves credit for not blinking after the Colombia match.
We blundered shortly after the opening whistle against Colombia, were behind a goal early on a defensive miscue, and saw our position crumble after Yedlin’s handball in the box was converted with the ensuing penalty kick. Neither Michael Bradley nor Jermaine Jones fared well, Clint Dempsey looked out of place atop a 433, and our play in the final third was lacking.
USMNT fans, myself included, were clamoring for both Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic to enter the starting 11. Klinsmann was unmoved, doubled down on his approach, and smartly opted for a 442 tactical shift in both victories over Costa Rica and Paraguay. Suddenly, the long running Bradley and Jones partnership looks well, Dempsey is Deuce on the ball again, and John Brooks emerges with some of the best football by a US center back in ages.
Expectations for the USMNT are rising as they head to the Pacific NW for the Quarterfinal match against Ecuador.
The Pacific NW is a stronghold of American soccer. Athough I am not from Portland, Oregon (I grew up in northern New Jersey), but let it be clear folks: the passion and support of soccer in the Cascadia region is unmatched in the USA. Facts are facts. Anyone that was in Century Link for the 2013 WCQ against Panama will attest to the energy that reverberated around the pitch.
Ecuador will be facing strong, coordinated support on Thursday night and it matters. The American Outlaws’ mission is to unite & strengthen in our support of US Soccer. Each year, our presence in the stands for both the USWNT and USMNT grows and it is making a difference. We all know what is at stake here, a dream scenario Semifinal matchup against Lionel Messi and Conmebol juggernaut, Argentina.
I believe. I believe that we will win!
The knockout rounds for Copa are now upon us and much has been said about America’s underdog role and our opportunity in this tournament. Do me a favor and retire that line of thinking now. It is old, I am sick of it, and it should no longer apply here. This land is our land. The USMNT is tough to beat at home, we are playing sound, defensive football, and we have enough attacking pieces and dynamic substitutes to lift the trophy.
That is right, I said it. Those are my expectations for the USMNT. To dominate the CONCACAF region once more. To compete and consistently beat the best football countries of the world. To win the Copa America Centenario, this year, against Mexico, at Met Life Stadium on Sunday, June 26th. Our time, my fellow American Outlaws, is now.
About the Author
Robert W. Cross is a founding member and former President of American Outlaws Portland and a lifelong football fan and supporter of both club and country.