By Robert Cross / AO: Portland
The Copa America Centenario Semifinals are set. Colombia will face Chile in Chicago. Argentina will square off with USA in Texas.
The USMNT finds itself as sole survivor of the CONCACAF region as Copa America enters the home stretch. USA will face tournament favorite and trophy wanting Argentina in Houston, Texas on Tuesday night. The Americans have an extra day of rest and less travel. The Argentines have the 2016 FIFA Ballon d’OR winner in Lionel Messi. Why not us, indeed.
Coach Klinsmann faces significant lineup decisions and tough tactical choices to make Tuesday night.
A brief reminder that we have lost Bobby Wood, Alejandro Bedoya, and Jermaine Jones for this match due to suspensions. DeAndre Yedlin returns after missing the Quarterfinal match against Ecuador. The first thing Klinsmann needs to decide is whether we stay in the 442 that favors Clint Dempsey or return to a 433 that offers a more dynamic look and midfield support.
I lean towards us trotting out our old, reliable 4-4-2 for this match. Gyasi Zardes will replace Wood up top with Deuce roaming underneath. This may actually play to our benefit as center forward is Zardes’ natural position and he often plays there for the Lose Angeles Galaxy. This leaves a spot on the flank that will be occupied by Graham Zusi. I believe Klinsmann will hope to beat Argentina on set pieces and Zeus has delivered for USA in the past. Christian Pulisic will start on the opposite flank. Seeing him perform in Germany for Dortmun, Pulisic is unflappable and will respond in the moment.
Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman will comprise our center midfield. Beckerman is adept at sitting atop the box and making quick passes, but lacks pace. Starting Beckerman in this role would be a gamble by Klinsmann, but he remains a favorite and is trustworthy in his role. I would expect Fabian Johnson and Yedlin to return to LB and RB respectively, expect both players to run all match long.
The Boss would opt for a different route, starting Darlington Nagbe underneath Deuce in a 4-2-3-1.
As a PTFC season ticket holder in the Timbers’ Army, I have seen it all from Nagbe over his six MLS seasons. He has matured since his club team’s MLS Cup run last year and offers technical skill and possession that will be needed against Argentina. I would play Zardes up top, Deuce as LM (mostly underneath Zardes), and Zusi as RM.
A 4-2-3-1 affords USA a better option to protect the top of the box where Messi operates with clinical precision and unrivaled tenacity. Nagbe would be well positioned to combine with Bradley to help maintain possession. Deuce is going to move where he wants on the pitch no matter what formation we lineup in. As noted prior, Argentina may be vulnerable to free kicks and corner kicks due to our size.
Argentina is seeking its first trophy since winning the World Cup in Mexico in 1986.
Do you remember Argentina’s midfielder Diego Maradona and his infamous “Hand of God” goal against England in the Quarterfinal of the tournament? If not, AO’s may be forgiven seeing as it was 30 years ago. Argentina never lacks for talent on the ball or in the final third, this side being no exception, but chemistry and porous defensive play on the back line have plagued them before.
The USMNT will put forward a tight, compact approach in the first half opting to absorb pressure and hit Argentina on the counter attack. The counter is another area where Nagbe excels and the reason why I hold out faint hope that he will be in the starting XI. We have beaten Argentina in the Copa America before, in 1995, 3-0 behind goals by Frank Klopas, Alexi Lalas, and Eric Wynalda in South America.
Why not us?
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.