HOUSTON – Tuesday night’s comprehensive 4-0 dismantling at the hands of Argentina in a much-anticipated the Copa America Centenario semifinal may not have been a referendum on the state of US Soccer, but it did put the program’s progress in perspective.
Speaking to reporters following the match, federation president Sunil Gulati admitted the US got “outplayed badly by a very good team,” but also emphasized the positives behind a tournament run that saw the Americans win three straight games, including two against CONMEBOL competition in Paraguay and Ecuador.
Still, those results proved little consolation after the US wilted in the face of a juggernaut led by the incomparable talents of Lionel Messi and a laundry list of other world-class talents. Jurgen Klinsmann’s team failed to register a single shot were clearly outclassed on a night that held much promise before a goal just three minutes in set the tone for the rest of the match.
“Today is a good day to judge where we are in the program overall as a team,” Gulati told reporters following the loss. “We’re obviously a long way off. We knew that going in, but we knew we were a long way off when we beat Spain back in 2009 or Germany or Holland last year.”
Following a tournament-opening defeat to Colombia that put the US on the brink of elimination, Gulati addressed Klinsmann’s performance and recent results that had left much to be desired, for the the first time giving an indication that the German’s job security might not be ironclad.
“There are areas where I would have hoped for more progress and other areas where we’ve done well,” Gulati said at the time. “That in many ways reflects recent results …. Results over the last 18 months overall haven’t been what we would have hoped for. We’ll look at everything after the end of this competition.”
He stayed true to those words on Tuesday night, emphasizing that the tournament was not over yet and that another world-class team – either Colombia or Chile – await the US on Saturday in the third-place game. All evaluations, certainly publicly, would wait until all parties could review the full the body of work.
“Obviously tonight was disappointing. That there’s a gap between the two teams is not a surprise,” Gulati said. “That you can win some of those games is also not a surprise. Today that wasn’t going to happen. It was pretty clear early on. There have been some very good positives out of this [tournament run], but let’s see. We’ve got another game against a team that’s ranked top-five in the world.”
Whether the US acquit themselves better in that match remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt the team’s run to the semifinals as CONCACAF’s lone representative in the final four represented a success – even if that was tough to see after a night in which the US were never truly in the game.
“We just a lost a game in which we weren’t really in the game after the first three minutes,” Gulati said. “It’s hard to ask me about feelings. Today is a disappointment that it wasn’t a more competitive game. But overall, the performance of the team to get here, absolutely that’s a positive.”