The United States Men’s national team fought bravely and were close on many occasions to score, but they lacked the final touch in the opponent’s third of the pitch and were done in by a Carlos Bacca goal to fall to Colombia 1-0 in the Copa America third place match.
In front of 29,000 people in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, the United States and Colombia faced off for the third place match for the Copa America Centenario. Although the heat outside got up to 115 degrees, USMNT fans seemed in great spirits as they entered the stadium for what was a historic night for U.S. Soccer.
Once the game was underway, both teams created great chances and in the first 20 minutes it looked like it could have been anyone’s game. Bobby Wood and James Rodríguez were the driving forces for the USMNT and Colombia, respectively, and the game seemed to be wide open.
In the 31st minute, James chipped a nice ball to a driving Santiago Arias and delivered a headed pass into the mouth of the goal to find Carlos Bacca. Some bad marking by DeAndre Yedlin allowed Bacca to get free and get a touch on the ball that pushed the ball into the back of the net for the 1-0 Colombia lead.
Bacca scores Colombia’s first goal in 228 minutes for the 1-0 lead vs #USMNT. That pass from James though! #USAvCOL https://t.co/2pkS5DFJUQ
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 26, 2016
The USMNT would get some more chances before the half, but the Colombian defense was suffocating in the middle of the box denying any shots to be taken, allowing one shot on frame in the first half. The United States needed to come back out stronger and more aggressive, and they got that in the second half.
Early on in the second half, Clint Dempsey was taken down outside of the half moon and was poised to take a free kick. From there he delivered a killer shot that was destined for goal, but man of the match David Ospina reacted well and reached out to deny a for sure Dempsey goal that was headed for the upper 90.
David Ospina has been the best goalkeeper at #CopaAmerica and it’s not close. What a stop to deny Dempsey! #USAvCOLhttps://t.co/WDNJSQQXzX
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 26, 2016
“We knew that [Dempsey] was a great free kick taker, he demonstrated it in the first game, and luckily for us it didn’t end up as a goal,” said Ospina after the game.
Then an agonizing moment for the USMNT and fans alike in the 62nd minute, when Wood received a great areal through ball and fell down in the box. The Colombian defense did not expect for him to pop back up as fast as he did, which allowed Wood to take a shot on net and it bursted off the crossbar to deny the U.S. once more.
“Jürgen’s always believed in me so I’m real thankful, it’s amazing to play for a coach like that. Playing with Clint and Gyasi [Zardes], as the tournament goes on we are going to develop and I think people saw that. We were a little bit unlucky that we couldn’t score and yeah we lost,” said Wood when asked about coach Klinsmann’s belief in him and his development.
In the later stages of the game, Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic made their way into the game and the USMNT held on to better possession later in the half with the two midfielders directing traffic for the United States.
In the 83rd minute, the U.S.’ greatest chance to tie the game was again wasted as Yedlin fed Wood a great cross that found him alone in front of the goal. However, as Wood tried to one-touch shoot the ball, he mistimed it and whiffed on it as the ball rolled along to a Colombian defender to kill what was the U.S’ last chance for an equalizer.
After a five minute stoppage time that saw Michael Orozco for the U.S. and Santiago Arias for Colombia receive red cards for their extracurricular activities, the official blew the final whistle and Colombia outlasted the USMNT for the final score of 1-0 to win the third place in Copa America.
When given their third place medals, some players from Colombia took off their medals immediately, as was the case with James and many others that seemed disappointed to win in a consolation game like this.
After the game, Klinsmann (although crushed by the result) seemed optimistic about the U.S. going forward. “I think it was a huge game for our guys. It was really fun to watch … I gave the team a huge compliment in the locker room, after being six weeks being on the road to put up a performance like that in a meaningless third place game, in certain way I think they deserve a huge compliment.”