clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

USA vs. Argentina, Copa America 2016: What to watch for

New, 52 comments

In undoubtedly the biggest game of Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. tenure, The U.S. takes on the #1 ranked team in the world and one of the greatest players of all time for a trip to the Finals.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

-Henry V, Henry V, William Shakespeare

It is a game that the U.S. want to be playing in more and more often, even if they stare at near-certain defeat doing it. Argentina is the #1 ranked team in the world, featuring the best player in the world (who could possibly be the best player of all time when his career is said and done). The U.S. will try to beat them with Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, John Brooks, and Brad Guzan. Yes, the U.S. has put together a good string of games and are coming off of their best performance under Klinsmann. It will still take a monumental effort to beat Argentina on Tuesday. And that's exactly how the U.S. will go into this game: as a confident David ready to take on Goliath and fight for respect on the big stage.

Of course, Argentina have been very quick to downplay the U.S. as an underdog. Both Lionel Messi and Gerardo Martino have noted the U.S.'s home field advantage (in Houston [lol]), as well as their positive results in tough games. It doesn't seem like Argentina are downplaying the possibility that the U.S. could pose a threat to Argentine dominance at this Centenario, so the idea that the U.S. is could take a cocky giant unawares doesn't seem to be a possibility. If the U.S. beats Argentina, it will be done straight up, without subtlety or subterfuge. And that just might be the way the U.S. wants it.

Recent Form:

United States

W (2-1) - Ecuador - Copa America

W (1-0) - Paraguay - Copa America

W (4-0) - Costa Rica - Copa America

L (0-2) - Colombia - Copa America

W (4-0) - Bolivia - Friendly

Argentina

W (4-1) - Venezuela - Copa America

W (3-0) - Bolivia - Copa America

W (5-0) - Panama - Copa America

W (2-1) - Chile - Copa America

W (1-0) - Honduras - Friendly

What to Watch For:

Suspensions - It's now official that Jermaine Jones and Bobby Wood will not be available against Argentina, along with Alejandro Bedoya. Those three have been vital to the system that has seen so much success for the U.S. since the Costa Rica game: Bedoya and Jones buzzing around the midfield and disrupting play, while Bobby Wood cuts in from the wings and pulls center backs out of the middle. How Klinsmann chooses to replace them and shuffle the lineup is a mystery. Does he maintain formation, but his original back line together again with DeAndre Yedlin back from suspension, and make like-for-like swaps with Beckerman, Bradley, and Darlington Nagbe patrolling the middle while Graham Zusi starts on the wing? Or does he continue to play Matt Besler at left back in order to push Fabian Johnson into the midfield? Or does he switch up the 4-3-3 formation entirely? It's a bit hard to tell.

Stopping Argentina - Need a reason to be scared? Watch these highlights and pay special attention to the first goal Argentina scores.

Venezuela doesn't really do anything wrong here. It's not a mistake. Argentina just completes an absolutely immaculate sequence of play. The degree of difficulty on that pass and finish is insane, and there wasn't much more Venezuela could have done about it. There is plenty they could have done to prevent Argentina's other three goals, however. So the blueprint for the U.S. isn't exactly an unfamiliar one, because it's been the only blueprint for successful American defense over the past decade: get physical, don't make any stupid errors, and pray that the moment of brilliance doesn't come off for the other team.

Beating Argentina - I would love to see a good performance and I might feel ok if we were to lose 1-0 or something like that, but this is a semifinal. The U.S. can't just go out to survive this. They also have to try to win, and if you're going to win a game, you have to score. Unlike their attack, Argentina do not have gods playing center back, and a striker that stays alive in the box will find opportunities to score if they're willing to fight for it. Venezuela squandered those chances. Luckily, we have a forward with an unbelievable amount of fight in him. Clint Dempsey will get an opportunity to score in this game. When it comes, he absolutely must bury it. If he doesn't, the U.S. doesn't have a chance.

Lineup Prediction:

Klinsmann's propensity to go with his gut on players vs. his newfound propensity to maintain a consistent lineup and play players in the same positions as much as possible.

This is my attempt at reverse psychology. I really don't think Klinsmann trusts Nagbe. I also didn't think he would actually start Matt Besler at left back against Ecuador or that he would shift Fabian Johnson to the right and leave out Michael Orozco when he's constantly been Jurgen's safety blanket. So naturally, I choose Klinsmann to start Nagbe. He may or may not be flipped with Graham "Diet Bedoya" Zusi. It depends on whether Klinsmann will go out wanting to go toe-to-toe in possession or wants a lineup that will just destroy the middle and steal a goal or two on the counter.

Of course, the other option here is that Klinsmann keeps Besler at left back, puts DeAndre Yedlin in at right back, and pushes Johnson up to his best position on the wing. If that happens, I think Zusi definitely starts in Bedoya's role to run his tail off for 75 minutes and Klnsmann keeps Nagbe in reserve for a late offensive push. Either way, the U.S. will go into this game needing once again to be more than the sum of its parts. That has always been the calling card of the Stars and Stripes in their most successful moments. The ability to bite down, get up, and make something out of nothing against a team they have no business beating. I saw the possibility of that team reappearing, finally, against Ecuador, and it excited me. But I'm an American soccer fan. I want more.