The dream of Copa America glory is over for the United States. Argentina, behind fine performances from Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain, cruised to a 4-0 semifinal victory Tuesday over the United States in Houston.
Messi finished with a glorious free kick goal to become Argentina's all-time leading goal scorer, while also providing two assists.
It took the Argentines just three minutes to score, as Ezequiel Lavezzi finished off a Messi pass to set the tempo early.
Then, just after the half-hour mark, Messi drilled a brilliant free kick past Brad Guzan to make it 2-0.
Continuing to dominate and not allowing the United States to do anything in attack, it was Higuain who scored two goals in the second half to complete the dominant result. Higuain also scored two goals in the quarterfinal round against Venezuela.
The United States just couldn't control the ball or create chances against an inspired backline from Argentina. A change in formation with Clint Dempsey and Chris Wondolowski in attack resulted in zero shots on goal.
With the result, Argentina advances to Sunday's final, where they will play the winner of Chile-Colombia, who play Wednesday. But the United States is not done. The Americans will play in the third-place match Saturday against the loser of Chile-Colombia.
How did they get here: The U.S. beat Ecuador 2-1 in the quarterfinals, while Argentina destroyed Venezuela 4-1.
Favorite: The South Americans are the heavy favorite and currently ranked No. 1 in the world. A win by the U.S. would be one of the nation's greatest victories ever but seems unlikely against a prolific, speedy attack and strong, physical midfield led by Javier Mascherano.
USA team news: MID Alejandro Bedoya, FWD Bobby Wood and MID Jermaine Jones miss the match due to suspension.
Argentina team news: Star winger Angel Di Maria was injured in the group stage and didn't play in the quarterfinals against Venezuela as he looks to recover from a pulled leg muscle. He isn't expected to play against the United States.
Projected starting XI: USA - Guzan; Yedlin, Brooks, Johnson, Yedlin; Bradley, Beckerman, Zusi; Zardes, Dempsey, Nagbe; Argentina - Romero; Rojo, Otamendi, Funes Mori, Mercado; Mascherano, Banega, Fernandez; Higuain, Messi, Lamela.
USA will win if: It can play one of those games where it is as strong defensively as it is lucky. Sometimes the best teams in the world can create 20 chances in a match and the ball just doesn't want to go in. With that comes frustration. The U.S. hopes this is one of those matches. It seems unlikely though, as Argentina is almost certain to score at least a couple goals. There's too much quality in attack not to. But the U.S. will have chances and has to finish them. Argentina's back line is maybe, putting it kindly, above average, when that average is Venezuela and Honduras quality. It's Nicolas Otamendi and not much else. Take your chances, USA, and you are in it.
Argentina will win if: It can continue their scoring form. The team has averaged 3.5 goals per game in the cup with Gonzalo Higuain finding his confidence last time out with a brace. Argentina is so creative in attack and it should be able to produce several fantastic opportunities on goal. But goalkeeper Sergio Romero must be on top of his game because Argentina's defense has let opponents have too many quality chances, especially at the top of the box and off corner kicks.
Rubbing it in for Mexico: The U.S. is the last team alive at Copa America from the CONCACAF region. The USA soccer federation feels good about that with this tweet after Mexico lost to Chile 7-0.
Prediction: Argentina 3, USA 1