It was a humbling experience for the United States in Houston.
Against a far superior opponent, the Copa America run finally came to an end, with Argentina advancing to the finals with a dominant 4-0 win. Lionel Messi ran the US ragged, while the hosts had one shot all night – none on goal.
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From start to finish, Argentina was by far the better team. It all came crashing down for the United States just four minutes into the game. Lionel Messi chipped the US defense, and Ezequiel Lavezzi was all alone behind the back line to head home easily past Brad Guzan.
Down early, the US pushed higher up but still struggled to hold meaningful possession on the ball thanks to the Argentina high press. Messi had an opportunity in the 15th minute when he snatched a wayward Michael Bradley pass and carved through five players, but his shot was saved by Guzan.
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Argentina continued to get chances, with Gonzalo Higuain through on goal thanks to a quick restart on a free-kick at the top of the box, but a solid last-ditch tackle allowed Guzan to scoop up the ball.
With the top ranked team in the world pushing hard, the best player in the world put his seal of approval on the game. With Chris Wondolowski earning himself a yellow card for a foul at the top of the box, Messi stepped up and buried the free-kick into the top right corner, a pinpoint strike directly into the bullseye.
The US had its best chance on 42 minutes but it still didn’t come close. A cross from Gyasi Zardes flew into the box but just over the head of Chris Wondolowski.
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Into the second half, Jurgen Klinsmann brought on young Christian Pulisic, but things continued to get ugly. Gonzalo Higuain snuck behind John Brooks and the US back line, and although Guzan saved the first attempt, the rebound fell back to Higuain and he finished for a 3-0 lead.
There was a scary moment just past the hour mark when Lavezzi fell over the signage on the edge, and appeared to seriously injure his arm, but he walked off under his own power. He was replaced by Erik Lamela. Higuain got a second, on a feed from Messi, leaving the Napoli striker to poke home from close range.
Messi and company saw the final 30 minutes out with ease, holding possession and hardly seeing their goal threatened. With the win, Argentina moves onto the final against the winner of the other semifinal between Colombia and Chile. The U.S. still has one more game to play, with the 3rd place game still to come against the loser of the other semifinal.