GLENDALE, Ariz. – After a hard-fought, hard-luck end to their Copa America Centenario run on Saturday, there was much to be positive about for the US national team.
The Americans had plenty of chances to draw even during the 1-0 loss to Colombia. They showed they’d learned from the first match with Los Cafeteros earlier this month and at times looked like the better team on the pitch. Players like Tim Howard, Matt Besler and Michael Orozco, who got their chances to start, performed ably in the lost.
But in the aftermath, a solid truth remained: the USMNT is still looking up at the world’s best teams after going 0-3 against top-five sides in Copa America.
Two losses to FIFA No. 3 Colombia and one to top-ranked Argentina made up the three defeats the US suffered this month. And while few expected a win or even gave the home team much of a chance, the talk coming out of the US camp was confident yet in acknowledgement of the need to beat the best.
“We got to the semifinals which is good. A game that was pretty rough [Argentina], and today was a game that could have gone either way. A lot of emotion,” said US Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who attended Saturday’s match. “But do you take a step back? It’s a tough tournament. We didn’t lose to anybody in the tournament that’s ranked outside the top five in the world. But we need to win some of those games, obviously.”
US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann expressed pride in his team’s effort throughout the tournament and optimism for the future.
“If they raise the level of awareness and commitment on the field, if they go the tempo with these teams, if also they have the tactical awareness and the discipline to be very compact… all these topics that we’ve tried to improve in the last five years, if they do that then they know they can compete with these guys,” Klinsmann said.
Some players chose to focus on making the semifinals of Copa America and finishing in the top four and looking ahead to World Cup qualifiers. Others looked at what the US needs to do against world powers.
“Colombia was a good measuring stick because we played them twice,” Howard said. “We felt hard done in the Argentina game, and it’s OK to lose games, that’s part of sports. But I think we weren’t at it. We want to get in people’s faces and one of our strengths is our physicality.”
As for Klinsmann and his performance, a meeting with Gulati and the US Soccer brass is soon to come, as is standard after a big tournament.
“Getting to the semifinals is very good, but I never said he wasn’t on solid ground or was on solid ground or anything else,” Gulati said. “A lot of stuff gets written. Next week we’ll sit down, we’ll talk with Jurgen and assess everything.”