To be honest, three minutes into the game we all expected it to get a lot worse.
Ezequiel Lavezzi opened the scoring with a header and Argentina never looked back as Lionel Mess added a second via a direct kick and Gonzalo Higuain added a second half brace in a 4-0 win over the United States in the Copa America semifinals from NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.
The US opted to start several veterans due to suspensions to starters Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya and honestly the move backfired badly. The US could barely complete passes and were routinely giving the ball away in their own half and their only "shot" was a badly scuffed Pulisic effort in the second half. It was a dominant performance from start to finish for Argentina and the scoreline reflected that.
1. Klinsmann Reverted Back To The Old Ways
Kyle Beckerman, Graham Zusi and Chris Wondolowski are good soccer players, and quite frankly I'm less upset at their inclusion than with the USA's formation from the start of the game. Klinsmann opted to deploy his team in basically a flat 4-4-2 with Beckerman and Michael Bradley in the middle, Zusi and Gyasi Zardes out wide and Clint Dempsey and Wondo up top.
In the first half, down 2-0, it looked like this:
USA average positions for the first half. Wondo isolated. Zusi pinned back. Dempsey deeper than Bradley (??) pic.twitter.com/ULRO6NLCB0— Seth Vertelney (@svertelney) June 22, 2016
That looks like a very broken 4-2-3-1 with Dempsey as a CAM dropping so far back into midfield to try and relieve pressure. And you know what, with most of the individual performances today there was no way the US were going to beat Argentina. Bradley was bad, the Americans could barely string together any passes let alone get the ball out of their own half against the masterful Argentina press.
This lack of tactics in my opinion, and as always, falls on Klinsmann. The US not for the first time in Klinsmann's tenure the USMNT looked woefully unprepared for a game and directionless on the field. Jurgen's lineup from the start was conservative and the US played like it the whole way as if they were looking for a 0-0 draw and penalties. If that was the gameplan then it was poor formation to deploy.
Players like Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic who are more comfortable and quicker on the ball might helped the US from the outset as opposed to coming in during the second half but odds are this result was a foregone conclusion.
But it one thing to lose to Argentina, it's another to simply not belong on the same field. And a lot of the confidence and progress Klinsmann earned throughout this tournament with his 4-3-3 formation was seemingly thrown away tonight.
2. The Kids Need To Play In The 3rd Place Game
Wood. Nagbe. Perry Kitchen. Birnbaum. Edgar Castillo. Ethan Horvath. Basically everyone under the age of 30 that is on the US roster should be in the starting lineup on Saturday. In fact, here's what the lineup should be in the 3rd Place Game:
Horvath; Castillo, Brooks, Birnbaum, Yedlin; Kitchen, Bradley; Pulisic, Nagbe, F Johnson, Wood. If Zardes is involved somewhere from the start then that's fine too.
Klinsmann opted for the experienced MLS veterans against Argentina and it didn't work, so now let's give the younger players the minutes they deserve.
Let's also not forget the positives from this US side, especially in defense with John Brooks and Geoff Cameron and Bobby Wood especially up top. Clint Dempsey and Jones turned back the clock and Ale Bedoya finally found a position he excels out. Even Gyasi Zardes, long a target of my ire, had solid moments out wide and especially on defense where he tracked back a ton.
The US players will learn from this game. Hopefully for once their head coach will too.
3. Leo Messi and Argentina are not good at soccer, they're great at soccer.
One of my goalkeeping buddies described this free kick as a "red tagger" - which is to say it's a shot so perfect it would hit the tag attached to the underside of the crossbar in shooting drills.
This is a world class goal, from a world class player who broke Argentina's national scoring record. La Albiceleste deserved every bit of their 4-0 win tonight, and the scariest part for me?
I don't think they had to try that hard. They scored three goals effectively on US giveaways and mistakes and were leading more or less right after the kickoff. Like the USA's 2-0 to Colombia, the American's didn't make their opponents work nearly as hard as they could have.
At this point, I want to see a Chile-Argentina rematch of last year's final because that was amazing and I want another shot at Colombia in the consolation game. It's been a wonderful run for the US