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USA vs. Argentina, Copa America 2016: Stock Up, Stock Down

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Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

That was rough. Not a whole lot of players performed well, and the game plan wasn't thought through properly. The defense was repeatedly torn to shambles and the offense was nowhere to be seen. It was a historically poor performance from the USMNT, I know it was Argentina and that they were on tremendous form on the night, but it was still disappointing to see the USMNT knocked out in such humiliating fashion. But enough with the negativity, at least for now. Let's take a deep breath and look (really hard) for the positives. Here's who saw their stock go up.

Stock Up

Gyasi Zardes

Gyasi Zardes may very well be the only player who had a decent game against Argentina. He tracked back well. When he had the ball, he was insistent on carrying it forward and relieving some pressure instead of playing the ball back into the opposition. Considering the players around him regularly played poor passes when confronted with a pressing Argentine, Zardes played with a level head. We've seen him grow through the tournament and he looked a much better player in spite of the overwhelming context.

Christian Pulisic

Christian Pulisic came on for Chris Wondolowski at half time in the hopes that he would jump-start the attack. I personally think it's a bit much to expect that a 17-year-old will come on and completely rejuvenate a nonexistent attack, but, you know, maybe that's just me. In any case, it didn't work. Pulisic didn't add a whole lot to the attack. Frankly, considering how disjointed the team was, I am not surprised. What Pulisic did show was no fear in front of the Argentine players. He willingly took them on and tried to make progress up the pitch. He won the USMNT's only corner and he put in a few crosses. In a game where nearly everyone on the USMNT played timidly, it was refreshing to see a prospect come on and try to implement his own game with some confidence.

Jordan Morris

As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. It was a bit controversial to see Morris left off the roster in favor of Wondolowski. After the poor performance of the later against Argentina, it's hard to say the omission wasn't a mistake. While I don't think Morris' inclusion for this match would have changed the result, I certainly think it's likely that playing the Seattle forward would have made the attack look at least a little bit better. The USMNT was historically bad going forward, failing to register a single shot for the first time since at least '98. The USMNT needs to come up with new options for forward after Bobby Wood, and, at this point, that conversation needs to start with Morris.

Stock Down

Chris Wondolowski

In another post, I promised I wouldn't blame Wondo for playing. And I plan to keep to my word here. Sometimes, circumstances are circumstances. However, those circumstances aren't going to make Wondo's stock look better. Wondolowski didn't do anything for the team except commit a couple of fouls and pick up a yellow card. In fact, the professional foul he was carded for happened to lead to the free kick that Messi scored from. Wondo already didn't have the best reputation at the international level, and it could very well be that his international career is now over.

Brad Guzan

Getting scored on four times is not a good look for any goalkeeper (though I suppose Guzan is used to it by now after his time with Aston Villa.) The USMNT was always going to need a clinic from their goalie and Guzan didn't deliver. He looked shaky and timid in goal. He was slow off his line. He didn't inspire confidence. And that first goal. When I was a kid and I played keeper, I was taught that, when it comes to getting off your line, you have to make a split-second gut decision and totally go for it. Never hesitate. When Messi played a cute little dinked ball into the box, Guzan made the right decision to come out. And then hesitated. Lavezzi promptly lobbed a soft header over the keeper's head and into the goal to open the scoring. It looked to me like Guzan could have gotten there in time to block the shot, but even if he would have been late, getting into an attacker's face increases the likelihood that they make a mistake. Because Guzan doubted himself on that early goal, the USMNT were dead on arrival.

Michael Bradley

I genuinely don't know what has happened with Michael Bradley. He's still got the amazing athleticism and endurance. He's gained better discipline and positioning. But his passing ability has absolutely deteriorated. Against Argentina, he could barely put two passes together. He was a turnover machine and his decision making was horrible. Instead of clearing the ball upfield or passing it wide, Bradley played a bad ball into Birnbaum, leading to the fourth goal. Against both Colombia and Argentina, we saw that Bradley can be easily forced into giving up the ball away in bad places. But it hasn't just been against teams who press high up the field. Bradley's had shaky moments in almost all of the games in this tournament. Paraguay and Ecuador may not have been able to capitalize on them, but those moments are worrying. This is a far cry from the sort of play we expect from the Toronto FC midfielder. It's been often said that, as Bradley goes, so too does the USMNT. As I pointed out, his positioning and discipline have improved and been an asset on defense. But the bad mistakes are costing this team, both cutting our offense short and setting up the defense for failure.

(Dis)Honorable Mention

Clint Dempsey

Dempsey was anonymous throughout the whole match. He barely completed any passes and his most notable action was an elbow to a defending Argentine player.

Kyle Beckerman

Beckerman came into steady the defensive line in the wake of Jermaine Jones' suspension. And he didn't really do that. On the flip side, he may very well have had the best hair on the pitch.

Jurgen Klinsmann

Jurgen Klinsmann got the game plan all wrong. He had a tough job replacing the suspended players, but failed to make the right choices. The players pressed ineffectively and the offense was nonexistent.

The Nike Kit Designer

On the night, the United States wore light-blue and white while Argentina wore a dark blue. From the television's view, it looked like the kits were flip-flopped, which may have had something to do with why so many USMNT players insisted on passing to Argentina.