Three Things to Watch: USMNT vs Colombia

USMNT Michael Bradley

by Deny Gallagher

After months of speculation and weeks of build up, the Copa America Centenario is here.

Over the course of the next month, the U.S. Men’s National Team has a chance to prove that they are among the Americas’ footballing elite. While the Americans have strung together a series of good results, it remains unclear whether those three consecutive wins were mere fools gold or a sign of things to come. Over the past two years, the Stars and Stripes have been scrutinized for their lackluster form. All of that talk and chatter regarding the quality of the player pool and Jurgen Klinsmann’s job status can all be put to rest with a deep run in the Copa America Centenario.

With all of that said, let’s further examine the main headlines ahead of the United States and Colombia.

Is the 4-3-3 Here to Stay?

It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that the upward turn in form occurred with the advent of the three-man midfield. While it was successful against Bolivia and Ecuador, many wonder whether it will remain the primary option for Jurgen Klinsmann and company. More than its offensive flexibility, what makes this formation successful is the fact that Michael Bradley can play his natural holding midfield role. It’s no question that the side is at its best when Bradley can run the midfield. The only debate now is whether Klinsmann truly believes what pundits and fans have seen for years.

Make no mistake about, where Klinsmann plays Bradley in this tournament will go a long way in deciding the fate of the Stars and Stripes in the Copa America Centenario.

The Game Will Be Decided From Set Pieces

Set pieces have been the Achilles heel for the Colombians in the early stages of 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying. The side has dropped points in 2016 thanks to sloppy man marking and subpar aerial defending. This will more than likely be an area that the U.S. will try to exploit on Friday night — a difficult task with target striker Jozy Altidore out of the mix.

While Klinsmann has constantly expressed his desire to play a more attractive style of soccer, it would not be surprising to see the American pick up points by outworking Colombia.

Which Colombia Team Shows Up? 

Manager José Pékerman created headlines when he released his 23-man roster and left off some mainstays in the side, including Adrian Ramos, Teofilo Gutierrez and Abel Aguila. This on top of the omission of embattled striker Radamel Falcao gives the South American power a bit of uncertainty heading into the tournament.

To make a run in this tournament, Colombia will need James Rodriguez to be at his best. It has been well documented how the midfielder has struggled to find minutes at Real Madrid. If the midfield of Rodriguez, Cuadrado, and Sanchez can click from the first minute against the United States, then expect the Americans to be playing out of the back for a good portion of the night.