Seeing the world’s No. 1 team dismantle a defense with surgical passing and combination play is one of the most beautiful sights for a soccer fan to see – unless that defense is your defense. It won’t be US Soccer when tonight rolls around. Here is why Messi and company will fall tonight in Houston, even though they’ve won every match thus far in Copa America:
The new-look formation
Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya all played vital roles in getting this team to where it is in this tournament. Whether their contributions were cringe-worthy or awe-inspiring, they (beside John Brooks) were the most influential players in dictating the flow of the games. Jurgen Klinsmann hasn’t made many adjustments up to this point, but he’ll have to in this game (see my projected lineup below).
The suspension of Wood and Jones force the US to reshape their formation to one no team has seen from them yet in this tournament. With the loss of their speedy creator up front and versatile defender that can transfer his energy to the offensive end, the USMNT could implement a defensive formation in which they can sit back and do what they’re known for: countering.
The stellar play of Matt Besler against Ecuador allows him to keep his place at left back. This development, combined with the return of DeAndre Yedlin, allows Fabian Johnson to return to his attacking position on the left side. The speed of Johnson and Gyasi Zardes can stretch the Argentina backline given the right situation, but solid distribution out the back will be required.
This is the best I may have seen the backline play over a stretch of three games, mostly because John Brooks is playing out of his mind. Argentina’s offensive attack will be a trying test for the U.S. defense, but they can match it in the middle with their size and on the edges with their speed.
Geoff Cameron, Graham Zusi and Yedlin have all shown great ability in tracking back toward their own net – not to mention Brooks has shown the ability to break up a goal-scoring opportunity more than once in this tournament.
The U.S. suspensions could be the reason they win this game. Especially after the 70-minute mark in the match, we could see the U.S. come alive if the game is close. Yedlin just completed his suspension after receiving his red card against Paraguay and will provide the threat of explosive runs out the back for the entirety of the game. Zusi has played only limited minutes as a sub and will be ready to work as well.
The advantage of hosting a tournament is undeniable. There will be Argentina supporters from both the U.S. and even further south, but they will be overpowered by the American faithful. The American Outlaws show up big for their squad in big spots, and this pivotal match will be no different. When their team wins, they’re loud. When their team loses, they urge them forward. Don’t underestimate the importance of the American Outlaws in this game on home soil.
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