Very few actually expected the U.S. national team to still be alive and kicking once the semifinal round of the 2016 Copa America Centenario rolled around earlier this week, so in that sense the tournament was a success no matter the results against Argentina and, eventually, Colombia.
That said, the cruelest dynamic of the third-place game is that someone will go home as the only side to have lost not once, but twice, in the knockout portion of the tournament. Following Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of Colombia in Phoenix, Ariz., that team is Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT, for the second straight year. The Yanks hardly endured the kind of domination that Argentina exercised on Tuesday, but a third loss and fourth-place finish this tournament nonetheless.
Colombia went ahead through Carlos Bacca’s second goal of the tournament, in the 31st minute, but it’s the chipped through ball from James Rodriguez that will (rightly) steal all the plaudits. From 22 yards out, the Real Madrid man lifted the ball toward the near post for Santiago Arias, who headed across the face of goal for the late-arriving Bacca and the easy finish. USMNT sliced and diced, with ease, yet again.
Clint Dempsey was robbed by a save of the tournament-level denial by David Ospina in the 51st minute. Dempsey’s free kick from 30 yards out started outside of Ospina’s left-hand post before curling back inside and under the crossbar, but the Arsenal deputy scrambled across the face of goal and went airborne to make an otherworldly save.
The USMNT remained just a goal down, but only by inches, in the 61st minute, when Juan Cuadrado caught Tim Howard off his line and opted for the delicate chip from 20 yards out. Two inches too high, Chelsea’s on-loan-to-Juventus winger came up with nothing but crossbar.
Less than a minute later, it was the woodwork that preserved Colombia’s lead, as Bobby Wood worked a scoring chance all by himself, refusing to quit even after falling to the ground inside the penalty area with three defenders blanketing him. Wood’s left-footed shot went agonizingly close to equalizing from just wide of the penalty spot.
The next time the USMNT convenes, it’ll be for the resumption of 2018 World Cup qualifying in September, with an away fixture against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, followed by a home date against Trinidad and Tobago.