June 21, 2016
A MESSI WIN AND A MESSY LOSS
Argentina rolls over USA, 4-0, in Copa America semifinals
HOUSTON -- A magnificent performance by Lionel Messi and his teammates was too much for a mediocre United States side to overcome in the Copa America Centenario semifinals Tuesday night.
|Brad Guzan endured a difficult night in goal for the USA>
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Messi set up the first goal, scored the second, created yet another and helped caused all sorts mayhem and chaos for the Americans in what turned into a 4-0 rout by Argentina before a crowd of 72,000 at NRG Stadium.
Gonzalo Higuain collected two goals and Ezequiel Lavezzi added one for the world's top-ranked team.
The result meant the Argentines booked a spot in Sunday's final at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. against the winner of Wednesday's semifinal clash between Colombia and Chile. Argentina hasnít won a major international title in 23 years or since Copa America 1993.
The USA will play the loser in the third-place match in Glendale, Ariz. Saturday night.
The game was a reminder of how great Argentina can be when all its cylinders are running and how far the USA still has to go against the great teams of the world in tournaments that matter.
The Argentines increased their goal total to a tournament-best 17 and their goal differential to a plus 15 as they have allowed opponents to score only twice.
The Americans failed to get a shot on goal in the match as they were out shot, 10-0.
The USA played without three suspended players -- midfielders Jermaine Jones (red card) and Alejandro Bedoya (yellow-card accumulation) and forward Bobby Wood (two yellows). In their place were Kyle Beckerman, Graham Zusi and Chris Wondolowski, respectively.
Needless to say, it didn't help.
The first half was all Argentina and all Messi as the Americans walked off the field at halftime rattled.
Whatever game plan USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and the USA had entering the game, it all but went out the window in the third minute.
There were thousands if not millions of words written and uttered on how the Americans were going to stop Messi from scoring. It was easy to forget that the Barcelona striker can create goals as well.
He demonstrated that early on as he looped a pass to Ezequiel Lavezzi on the left side of thd penalty minute and the forward headed the ball over indecisive goalkeeper Brad Guzan for a 1-0 advantage.
Wondolowski tripped Messi some 25 yards out. Messi took his time prior to the free kick, tying his shoes. Instead of sending the ball over the defensive wall, he curled a magnificent shot into the upper right corner for a 2-0 lead. It also was his 55th international goal, breaking the Argentina record he held with Gabriel Batistuta.
There were no true attacking highlights for the hosts in the opening 45 minutes. Sure, DeAndre Yedlin penetrated down the right wing, but his decision on his cross was not spot on. And when you're playing a team like Argentina and chasing a game against a team like Argentina, every decision must be spot on.
USA striker Clint Dempsey, who had scored in three consecutive matches, hardly came close to touching the ball.
The Americans' ball possession was abysmal as they kept giving the ball way, many times on unforced errors to the Argentines at midfield. It never allowed the hosts to catch their breaths and set up offensively.
With nothing to lose and trying to find goals, Klinsmann decided to pull Wondolowski at halftime for 17-year-old Christian Pulisic. While he did give the Americans a bit of a boost, the son of the former Oceanside Navaho player did not create any scoring opportunities.
Only five minutes into the half, the USA suffered a devastating goal that essentially ended its hopes of making some history. Higuain latched onto a long ball by Lavezzi and ripped a six-yard shot that Guzan saved. Higuain gathered in the rebound and slipped it in the left side from three yards for a 3-0 advantage.
Guzan saved a fourth goal by Argentina when Messi stayed onside and fired a shot the goalkeeper tipped away for a corner kick in the 83rd minute.
Higuain put an exclamation point on the match in the 86th minute when he tapped in a left-wing feed from Messi past a helpless Guzan for Argentinaís fourth goal.