There would be no Cinderella story for the US national team in Houston on Tuesday night, as Lionel Messi spearheaded a clinical 4-0 victory for Argentina at NRG Stadium to book a place in the championship final of the Copa America Centenario.
Messi was imperious, setting up Ezequiel Lavezzi's clever opener and lashing a gorgeous free kick into the top corner to give the favorites a 2-0 halftime lead.
The result was even more one-sided than the score would suggest, as the US simply failed to launch. The hosts struggled to cope with La Albiceleste's withering high press, rarely knitting together more than a few passes at a time, and would finish the game without a single shot taken.
Striker Gonzalo Higuain doubled the advantage with two coolly-taken finishes after the break, one of them assisted by Messi, to cap a dominant performance that advances Argentina to their third major tournament final in as many years.
- 3' - ARG - Ezequiel Lavezzi (Lionel Messi)
- 32' - ARG - Lionel Messi
- 50' - ARG - Gonzalo Higuain
- 86' - ARG - Gonzalo Higuain (Lionel Messi)
- Full box score
1. HOUSTON RODE-NO: NRG Stadium is the home of the famous Houston Rodeo, and on this night there was no question who were the stampeding bulls. While there's no shame in losing to such an outstanding opponent, the USMNT may be kicking themselves for the ease with which Argentina knocked them aside. There was no rhythm of any sort, most of the players were well short of their individual best and once Messi's free kick arrowed past Guzan, the result was all but settled.
2. HIGH PRESS, HEAVY STARCH: Argentina's ability on the ball is renowned, but against the US their tigerish pressing might have been their most devastating weapon. They closed down the North Americans relentlessly at every turn, making a very good team look pedestrian as the Yanks committed turnover after turnover and failed to hold possession for any length of time.
3. MESSI & CO., MOTIVATED: Regardless of who wins the other semi between Colombia and Chile, it's hard to see either as anything other than a clear underdog to Argentina. Messi and his mates are clearly eager to end their proud nation's trophy drought and after falling short in the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Copa America finals, they look like a team of destiny this summer.
- USA: Third-place match vs. loser of Colombia-Chile semifinal (Saturday, 8 pm ET; FX, Univision, UDN)
- ARG: Copa America Centenario Final (Sunday, 8 pm ET; FS1, Univision, UDN)