SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The U.S. national team lost to Colombia in the Copa America Centenario opener on Friday but you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
A sense of positivity was with the USMNT despite losing 2-0 to Colombia at Levi’s Stadium in Group A.
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Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann spoke about his team matching Colombia blow-for-blow and also impressing defensively as they had three big chances which all fell to Clint Dempsey but the Texan couldn’t celebrate his 125th appearance for the U.S. with a goal.
“There was no difference, besides the two goals,” Klinsmann said, bluntly, when asked in his post-game press conference.
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His players agreed as a goal off a set-piece early on — man-marking saw Cristian Zapata get away from Geoff Cameron after James Rodriguez cleverly blocked Michael Bradley — and then a penalty kick just before half time sealed the win for Los Cafeteros. There wasn’t much in it in the run of play but Colombia got the job done and showed their class when it mattered most.
They knew it, but Cameron admitted the team go into the next two Group A games against Costa Rica and Paraguay feeling optimistic despite now being left with plenty of work to do to make the last eight.
“We are definitely optimistic and we are positive,” Cameron said. “We believe in each other and have the ability to do something special. We have done it before, we’ve proved it before and I think we will do it.”
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Klinsmann praised the partnership of Cameron and John Brooks in central defense as the U.S. really didn’t look under pressure until late on when they pushed to grab a goal back.
Was the head coach happy with the back line?
“Definitely,” Klinsmann said. “We didn’t give them any chances until the end when there was a counter breaks because we had thrown everything forward. Outstanding back line. We didn’t allow them anything.”
That positive feeling flowed throughout the team as they were’t outplayed for the entire game but you got the sense they let an opportunity to beat the No. 3 ranked team in the world slip away.
USMNT captain Michael Bradley summed up the game in one word: ruthless.
“The first half, there were some good moments,” Bradley said. “We weren’t quite sharp enough or good enough to be able to take some little advantages or some half-chances and really punish them. Obviously, on the night they were ruthless in terms of their ability to know what the game was going to needing again close space, make things very difficult and take chances when they came.”
Klinsmann agreed the margins were thin and hopes his players take confidence from an encouraging overall display and use that for the rest of the tournament.
“I think the players coming out of that game have just seen the number three in the world and we can actually play with them,” Klinsmann said.
If the U.S. can build on the fact that they matched Colombia for most of the game, they should get past both Costa Rica and Paraguay and make it out of the group stages.
It wasn’t the ideal start but the U.S. certainly isn’t feeling sorry for themselves as they aim to take positive vibes into their final two group games.
“We showed good character and we had good points in the game, possession wise. We created a few chances, Clint had a few and on another day those go in. They had their chances, so did we. Overall we did okay,” Cameron said. “We kept possession, we had to weather the storm a few times when they dictated the pace. We have to take the positives and it is a big game against Costa Rica coming up. We will keep our heads held high and we know what we need to do: we have to win.”