The Calm Before The Storm: USMNT Ready For Tough Group A

USMNT Guzan

by Deny Gallagher

In just about 24 hours, the United States will kick off against Colombia in their highly anticipated first match of the Copa America Centenario. This year has been a mixed bag for the Stars and Stripes, as the side continues to figure itself out. Of late, the Americans have strung together a good series of results in the lead up to the Copa 100.

Can that be a harbinger of things to come?

Getting Hot At The Right Time?

It’s no secret that the Americans have not come close to their best form since the 2014 World Cup. However, recent results suggest an upswing for this side. This change in fortune is due largely to the new found continuity on the back line with Geoff Cameron and John Brooks at centerback. The insurgence of new blood into the side has also been beneficial. The likes of Christian Pulisic, Bobby Wood and Darlington Nagbe have given a spark on the attacking end.

The recent run of form stems from a few small, but meaningful changes made by manager Jurgen Klinsmann. One of these changes is the emergence of the 4-3-3. The formation features a midfield trio of Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Kyle Beckerman. What allows for this formation to be successful is the freedom given to the two wingers. Against Ecuador, the United States was able to win and keep possession thanks to the likes of Gyasi Zardes and Graham Zusi dropping back into the midfield when needed. This tactical rearrangement was foreshadowed when Klinsmann listed forwards and midfielders under the same category in his final 23-man roster. The lack of depth at forward may have had a lot to do with the change, but if it works, the German may be on to something that could change how future teams are assembled.

Expectations and Impact

Expectations for the tournament vary from person to person. Most fans are taking the wait and see approach, despite the team’s recent form. Klinsmann has already set the benchmark at the semifinals, which may seem lofty, but is certainly obtainable.

The best hope the tournament and the squad have of reaching the center of the American sporting landscape is for the Stars and Stripes to follow Klinsmann’s vision. Not only because the excitement would be palpable, but it would also have the stage all to itself if the NBA Finals go to a Game 7. Like it or not, the average sports fan is 10 times more interested in seeing the Warriors finish off the greatest season in NBA history, or LeBron bringing the first professional sports title to Cleveland since 1964 than watching the USMNT make a run in Copa America.

After that, the Copa is the only game in town. It can’t be stressed enough how important a deep run in this tournament by the Americans is for the U.S. Soccer Federation, and the financial viability of future joint Copa Americas.

Predictions

Saying that this is the Americans group to lose would be a big exaggeration after the Keylar Navas’ injury, but the Real Madrid keeper’s absence can ease the worries of the USMNT — if not slightly. The U.S. faces a favorable schedule, as they take on group favorite Colombia in the first match. A result on Friday would go a long way in the side’s effort to win the group. In the last tune-up match against Bolivia, the U.S. demonstrated some serious firepower en route to a four-goal night. If the Americans carry this type of production over to the tournament, then the next month could be quite the Star-Spangled affair.

  • Dominic

    Cannot wait for the US to lose all three games.

    • slowleftarm

      Typical Cosmos fan. They somehow think US Soccer is against their tiny club so they root against their own country’s national team. Pathetic.

  • Pretty much my whole adult life I’ve wanted a Copa America”s”. Now we have one and I find myself not caring.

    • DanGerman

      Are you not a fan of the US team Leo? I realize its more of a marketing thing this year but I’ll watch and root for them, why wouldn’t you?

      • slowleftarm

        A lot of Cosmos supporters hate US Soccer so much for perceived slights that they’ll root against the national team. It’s pretty myopic but what else would expect from these guys?

        • Joe Strupp

          For the record, I am a Cosmos supporter & 100% behind the US.

  • Larry loves weiner

    We are cosmos country and 100% behind US soccer. We actually care about the US Open Cup too unlike the hipster community posing as NYCFC soccer fans.