No one expected the USMNT to beat Argentina in last night’s Copa America semi-final, but plenty thought that if Jurgen Klinssman game-planned properly and things fell the right way for the U.S. and Lionel Messi pulled a hamstring in the first few minutes, the Yanks could defy explications and walk out of Houston with a massive upset.
They didn’t. Instead, the game went like most predicted, with Argentina throughly dominating the U.S. en route to a 4-0 win. The scoreline doesn’t do Argentina's ass kicking justice though. FIFA's top ranked team held possession 68 percent of the time.
When the U.S. got on the ball, it didn’t keep it for long. And anytime the U.S. got near its 18-yard box, it failed to do that which is so necessary in soccer—shoot the damn ball. The Yanks finished the match without a single shot. Not one.
That’s bad, but it’s not impossible to recover from. When a team like the U.S. is taking on a team like Argentina, it’s often wise to focus on defense and hope to stall until time runs out. Then you might get lucky in the ensuing shootout. The problem is that U.S. wasn't focused on defense last night.
It was trying to get forward, but couldn’t. That terrible strategy—the soccer equivalent to pumping fastballs down the middle of the plate and daring dudes to hit it—opened the team up to Argentina’s vaunted attacked, which struck in the third minute with this perfectly placed header from Ezequiel Lavezzi.
Argentina’s next goal came after American forward Chris Wondolowski, 2016 World Cup GOAT, gave the ball away to the best player in the world, Lionel Messi. Wondo did the smart thing and hit him with an American football tackle. Problem is, Messi can do this.
At this point, after just 32 minutes and a 2-0 Argentina lead, the match was essentially over. Not that Argentina stopped pouring it on. Just after halftime, Gonzalo Higuaín found himself one on one with American keeper Brad Guzan, who stopped the striker's first shot but not his second.
Higuaín wasn’t done either. With seven minutes left before the game would come to a merciful end, the Americans gave the ball away in the worst possible position to the worst possible person, Messi. The tiny Argentinian ran past his defenders, and then put the ball on a platter for Higuaín.
Losing hurts and losing ugly hurts even more, but fans should at least be happy about one thing—with the U.S.'s failure to qualify for the Olympics, we've got at least another three months until the men's soccer team can disappoint us again.