The Copa America Centenario serves as a great measuring stick for the U.S. as it looks to rebound from a poor 2015 and a rough start to 2016 when it goes up against the best teams in the Western Hemisphere.
Well, there's still a lot of work to be done. In Friday night's opener against Group A favorite Colombia, the U.S. struggled all night, losing 2-0 in an uninspiring, dull performance.
Two goals in the first half, the second right before the break, put the game away, and the U.S. is now in a tough spot to qualify for the quarterfinals.
The match really couldn't have started off worse for the U.S. as the hosts went down early. Colombia scored just eight minutes in off a corner kick, as Cristian Zapata hammered home with his right foot, beating Brad Guzan for the 1-0 lead with the American defenders were nowhere to be found.
Looking to respond, the U.S. was able to recover and see more of the ball, even putting together some nice passing sequences in attack, but failed to threaten David Ospina in goal in the first half. Colombia seemed content with trying to go on the counter and enter the break up 1-0, but then a big error by the U.S. gave Colombia its second.
DeAndre Yedlin was correctly called for a handball inside the box, and a penalty kick was awarded. Here's the handball.
And James Rodriguez made no mistake, finishing with class.
Rodriguez then left the match with a shoulder injury, but Colombia managed to win comfortably as the U.S. showed little for the remainder of the match, with just Clint Dempsey showing anything in attack.
With the result, Colombia sits at the top of the group with three points, while the U.S. needs some points from its last two matches to have a chance of advancing to the quarterfinals.
The U.S. returns to the pitch Tuesday against Costa Rica, while Colombia will play the same day against Paraguay.
The party has almost started. The Copa America Centenario kicks off on Friday night as host USA battles talented group favorite Colombia to open up the cup. Three huge points and plenty of momentum are on the line as both teams hope to get a leg up in qualifying for the knockout stages after this one.
Coming off a poor 2015 and a rough start to 2016, Jurgen Klinsmann is confident he has the mix of players to make a run, while Colombia is thirsty for a trophy and feels that it has the talent to earn one after a poor showing at the 2015 Copa America. Ahead of the clash, here is everything you need to know, including how to watch, who to watch and more.
When: Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California
TV: FS1 and Univision Deportes
Stream: Fox Soccer2Go and Fox Sports Go
USA player to watch: Midfielder Christian Pulisic. The young Dortmund sensation has really looked comfortable with the USMNT, scoring his first goal against Bolivia on May 28 to become the country's youngest scorer on the senior level. He's quick, smart and creative with the ball at his feet, and his young blood could boost this team's attack in the tournament. He'll likely come off the bench, but he is going to get a shot to make a statement.
Colombia player to watch: Forward Roger Martinez. Yeah I know, 'What about James?' James Rodriguez is Colombia's top player, but Martinez has star potential and knows how to do damage against the U.S. The 21-year-old Racing striker is inexperienced but has good size and is quick and clinical. He's one of the reasons the USA men aren't at the Summer Olympics.
Want to see how good he is? Check out this golazo against Bolivar in this year's Copa Libertadores group stages.
What USA must do to win: Remain calm and dominate possession. Colombia has talent in the middle in James and Juan Cuadrado, who know how to beat defenders and create chances either for themselves or others. Holding onto the ball and building slowly in attack will go a long way to allowing the U.S. to stay in the game. Colombia isn't the most disciplined team we've ever seen, so chances are to be had against a backline that isn't afraid to commit to a challenge. By holding onto the ball with patience in the attacking half, the U.S. can keep the ball from Colombia's dangerous players and pick and choose when to go on goal, looking to exploit the wings. Watch out if Frank Fabra starts for Colombia. The Boca Juniors defender loves to get up the field, meaning space will be there on the flank.
Where are the big names? The average soccer fan will notice James, maybe even Cuadrado. But for those big time soccer fans, there's no Radamel Falcao or Jackson Martinez. The two big-name forwards, who both have seen clubs spend millions upon millions to acquire them, are off the roster, having failed to impress in quite some time. At the 2014 World Cup, Colombia's forward depth was so good it would make most team's jealous. Now? It is above average, nothing more. Carlos Bacca will be counted on as the hero in the final third.
What happens if the U.S. wins? Then it will be in a golden position to advance to the next round.
What happens if the U.S. doesn't win? There will be some serious work to do, with another loss likely meaning elimination. The U.S. would probably take a point right now if it could.
Projecting starting XIs: USA - Guzan; Johnson, Brooks, Cameron, Yedlin; Bradley, Jones, Bedoya; Wood, Dempsey, Zardes. COL - Ospina; Fabra, Murillo, Zapata, Arias; Sanchez, Perez, Rodriguez, Cuadrado; Bacca, Martinez.
Prediction: Colombia 2, USA 1. Colombia has too much talent for the U.S. and will control the ball and create chance after chance as it marches to victory in the opener.