Writer's Note: Adam got hit with a power outage, so you're stuck with me. Congrats.
But seriously, what are we watching this for?
It's a third-place match. American's don't do third-place. You're either first or you're last! It's the American way. But maybe, just in this instance, it's okay to be third. Let's think about this for a second. No one gave the United States any chance of making it past the quarterfinals, while very few even thought they'd make it out of their group.
Not only did they make it out, they won the group and got a fortunate break in being able to face Ecuador in the quarterfinals. A honorable effort pushed them into the semifinals where they were met with the unstoppable force that is Lionel Messi and Argentina.
Would it have been nice to be sitting here getting ready for the Copa America final? You bet. But the USMNT have a very good opportunity tomorrow night. They're playing the No. 3 team in the world in Colombia. While the defeat they handed the U.S. in the opening match of the tournament proves they are a very good side, Colombia are certainly not an unbeatable one. For all intents and purposes, this is the USA's final. Finishing third in Copa America when most believed they wouldn't make it out of the group would be a great success.
L (0-4) - Argentina - Copa America
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
L (0-2) - Chile - Copa America
W (PK) - Peru - Copa America
L (2-3) - Costa Rica - Copa America
W (2-1) - Paraguay - Copa America
W (2-0) - United States - Copa America
Are they up for it?
It feels like deja vu. About this time last year, the U.S. got embarrassed by Jamaica in the semifinals of the Gold Cup and had to play Panama in a third-place match. I remember having to preview that match and it was weird. The main question heading into it was, would the players show up and play for Klinsmann? It has to be hard to get eliminated from championship contention and then be asked to get amped up for another match.
This should be different. This isn't a throwaway match against a CONCACAF team you've played a thousand times. This is a chance at redemption for the opening match loss and a chance to say you finished third in a tournament featuring the best teams from North, Central, and South America. Once again, you should keep an eye out for just how energetic and attentive the team is in this match. Are they in it to win it? Or are they just there because they have to be?
Time for a change
So, maybe this is a bit contradictory, but I don't care. Of course we want to win the match, but it would also be nice to see a different lineup. The old guard failed miserably against Argentina. Yes, there were three consistent starters out suspended, but it's time to see what the exciting up-and-coming talent can do. Yes, I'm talking about Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe.
We've seen them both get reserve minutes in the two losses so far. In both matches the U.S. were down multiple goals when they were finally given a chance. It's time to see what these two can do when given a clean slate and a level playing field. Instead of relying on them to turn around the ship, give them a chance to guide it.
Alright. I know you're all anxious to know who I'd start, so here it goes:
This is never happening in a million years, but I'd love to see it. Bobby Wood has been a revelation during this tournament. I'm excited about his future. Pair him with Dempsey up top and let them run off of each other like they did so well against Paraguay and Ecuador.
The midfield diamond of Pulisic, Nagbe, Bedoya, and Bradley have a good mix of skill, work rate, and defensive acumen. Ideally we'd have a better true No. 6, but that doesn't exist in our player pool currently. Bradley is what we have. Pulisic's natural position is in attacking midfield. Give him the keys and see how far he gets. Nagbe and Bedoya both have impressive motors and can contribute on both sides of the ball.
Keep the same back four. Keep playing them and playing them and playing them. Let them gain that consistency that we've been missing for years.
Finally, give Tim Howard a start. Because, why not? Perhaps it's a farewell start. Who knows?
Of course, Klinsmann will do something more pragmatic, boring, and unsatisfying. That's life. We can't have nice things in American soccer.
See you in the comments!