Taking Stock of the USMNT and Copa America

by Robert Cross / AO: Portland

_88O0064

The 2016 Copa America Centenario comes to a close with USA finishing 4th.

Chile edged Argentina on penalties to repeat as champions of Copa America. Colombia finished third as USA was blanked 1-0 in the third place match on Saturday night. By most measures, this was the most successful Copa America in the tournament’s 100-year history. I am confident that Conmebol and CONCACAF will revisit this idea again soon and they should, because soccer in the America’s is better off for it.

BQ2I1474 Was the tournament a success for the USMNT?

Coach Klinsmann’s stated goal before the tournament was an appearance in the semifinals. Check. USA finished first in a difficult group including Costa Rica, Paraguay, and Colombia. Check. For the most part, the team played cohesive, organized football for most of the tournament (save the thrashing against Argentina). Check.

Copa still feels like a lost opportunity to me personally. USA was blanked 7-0 in the three matches against Colombia and Argentina. Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe saw few minutes on the pitch as Klinsmann was reliant on his core veterans including Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, and Kyle Beckerman. At our best, we were combative and competitive but the open, progressive play that Klinsmann promised years ago is still lacking.

_88O9960
Dempsey’s revival, Bobby Wood and John Brooks emerge, and Jermaine Jones dies hard.

Dempsey remains USA’ most dangerous player on the ball recording three goals and three assists in the tournament. Duece benefited from the emergence of Wood and a return to the 4-4-2 formation. It is clear that Wood has overtaken an oft-injured Jozy Altidore as the top forward for the USMNT. Wood’s high work rate and deep forays in the attacking half opened up space for Dempsey to operate underneath. This pairing will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Brooks is a stud. Brooks was dominant in USA victories over Paraguay and Ecuador, clearing ball after ball from dangerous areas in a calm, composed fashion. He was paired throughout the tournament with Geoff Cameron, but I foresee his long term future with Cameron Carter-Vickers who is 19 and currently plays for Totttenham in the BPL.

Jones has been the driving force behind the Colorado Rapids hot start in MLS this year. His play in Copa was equally impressive, active and combative winning many tackles in critical moments for the Yanks. There were even times that Jones and Michael Bradley appeared to have formed a coherent partnership. Jones will not cede his spot in the starting XI easily.

BQ2I0357

Klinsmann fails to persuade his detractors that progress has been made.

USA is 0-5-1 against top 10 under Klinsmann. As noted prior, we did not play open, progressive soccer in Copa America. Two of our most technical players in Pulisic and Nagbe spent most of the tournament on the bench. It is clear to me that Klinsmann will be with USA through the 2018 World Cup in Russia. It is also evident that our play has not progressed on the pitch since his hiring. For the USMNT, two WCQ remain in September later this year and (hopefully) it is on to the Hex and 2017.

I would like to thank all my fellow AO members for reading these articles throughout the tournament. I’ve enjoyed it.

About The Author

Robert W. Cross is a founding member and former President of American Outlaws Portland, a lifelong football fan, and supporter of both club and country. 

Photos by Will Leverett