U.S. loses, finishes fourth in Copa America
Glendale, Ariz. — Not quite a victory for the United States. Just a good enough effort to leave the team feeling better about itself.
Carlos Bacca beat goalkeeper Tim Howard by sliding to poke in a headed cross in the 31st minute, and the U.S. finished fourth in the Copa America with a 1-0 defeat against Colombia on Saturday night.
After losing to Argentina 4-0 in the semifinals, the 31st-ranked U.S. was beaten by No. 3 Colombia for the second time in the 16-nation tournament. But the Americans gave a far better performance Saturday night.
"We didn't get played off the pitch tonight," U.S. defender Geoff Cameron said. "If anything, I thought we dominated the game. I thought we had a lot of chances that we just didn't put in."
The U.S. outshot Colombia 10-9 and had 49 percent possession. Bobby Wood came closest to scoring for the U.S. when he hit a post in the 62nd, one minute after Colombia's Juan Cuadrado hit the underside of the crossbar.
The U.S. matched its previous best finish in the tournament, when it lost to Colombia in the 1995 fourth-place game at Uruguay.
After the Americans lost to Jamaica in the semifinals of last year's CONCACAF Gold Cup and struggled in the semifinal round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was hoping his team would rebound in the Copa, when right back DeAndre Yedlin, defender John Brooks, midfielder Gyasi Zardes and forward Bobby Wood solidified their positions as regular starters, and Brooks and Cameron became a steady pairing in central defense.
"After six weeks being on the road to pull up a performance like that in a meaningless third-place game in a certain way," Klinsmann said, "I think they deserve a huge, huge complement."
Darlington Nagbe and 17-year-old Christian Pulisic again entered as second-half subs, two more players who could break through and replace veterans during the remaining 16 months of World Cup qualifying.
Colombia, which never has won the Copa America, finished third for fourth time but first since 1995. Argentina plays Chile for the title on Sunday night in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Howard said the U.S. team didn't allow itself to get pushed around like it did against Argentina.
"We want to get in people's faces," he said. "One of our strengths is physicality. We weren't happy with that after the Argentina game, so there was a response tonight. I thought that was good."
Both teams finished a man short, when American defender Michael Orozco and Colombian defender Santiago Arias were ejected for a confrontation in the third minute of second-half stoppage time. Orozco, who also got a red card against Nigeria in the 2008 Olympics, was fouled by Arias and responded with a push to the chest of Arias, who fell over in front of Uruguayan referee Daniel Fedorczuk. Orozco is suspended for the U.S.'s World Cup qualifier at St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sept. 2.
Klinsmann inserted the 37-year-old Howard into his lineup in place of Brad Guzan, who had started the previous nine games.
"I thought we played well," Howard said. "We certainly could have won the game. So a positive performance, and certainly the last four or five weeks have been a step in the right direction."
Matt Besler was in central defense instead of Brooks, who was bothered by knee inflammation, and Orozco was at left back because Fabian Johnson has a sore groin.
Midfielders Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya returned to the lineup along with Wood after the three served one-game suspensions.
Colombia scored after Cuadrado, from along a flank, cut the ball back to James Rodriguez, just outside the penalty area. Arias made a run to get by Bedoya, and Rodriguez lofted a pass to Arias, who jumped at the edge of the 6-yard box and headed the ball on a bounce across Howard's goal to Bacca. The forward slid ahead of Yedlin to nudge the ball in for his 13th international goal, his second of the tournament.
Clint Dempsey, who led the U.S. with three goals in the tournament, nearly scored on a free kick in the 51st minute. Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina dived left and lifted his right arm to tip Dempsey's effort wide.
''It was just one of those days," Yedlin said. "We got into the box, just nothing was falling for us. So you take the positives from this game and there were certainly a lot of them. I thought for how aggressive we were being offensively we actually defended pretty well. I thought we pressed pretty well and I thought overall it was a good team performance."