After a slow start, the Copa America Centenario has kicked into high gear, and tonight's semifinal promises more of the same. In the red corner, we have the host nation, the United States. The USMNT have fought hard after an opening match loss to Colombia to get to the semifinals, which was coach Jurgen Klinsmann's hope all along. Now, the team seeks to do what few thought would be possible and book a place in Sunday's final.
In the blue corner, their opponent: the twice World Cup champion, fourteen time Copa America champion, #1 ranked team in the world, Argentina. Argentina has what many refer to as the greatest player of all time in Lionel Messi, and they have a host of players that rank among the best in the world. Entering this tournament, they were the favorites and they have not showed any signs of weakness as they have destroyed the competition to get to this point.
United States starting 11:
Argentina starting 11:
Match previews: Over at Stars and Stripes FC, the prediction is that Kyle Beckerman gets the start to replace Jermaine Jones in the midfield, while Darlington Nagbe gets the nod to replace Alejandro Bedoya. Graham Zusi gets the nod, leaving Clint Dempsey alone up top due to Bobby Wood's suspension. Finally, DeAndre Yedlin returns to the lineup after his red card suspension at right back.
I'd like this lineup as well, especially Nagbe playing a more of a central midfield role. His creativity and speed can help press Argentina's defense which, while good, can be exposed against faster players. Our defensive four will obviously have to be incredibly sound, and it will be interesting to see what kind of lineup Jurgen Klinsmann employs to attempt to keep Messi at bay. The real worry with Argentina's attack is that it can come from anywhere, with any of Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Sergio Aguero, among others, with the ability to end American dreams of a championship. The United States will have to pick and choose their moments to attack, but when they have the angles they must capitalize. You don't want to waste chances against the top team in the world.
What are you drinking?: As you read this, I'm walking into NRG Stadium now for the big match, where it's a full 30 degrees cooler inside than the Houston heat is giving me outside. A nice healthy combination of beer and water is keeping me hydrated during this one.
Prediction: When you're playing Argentina, saying the USMNT will fall is an easy prediction. Admittedly, it's probably a popular decision. Well, I don't believe in easy predictions. I like to go bold and for this match, I'm going for the boldest prediction so far in this tournament. Messi kicks the scoring off for Argentina early, but Darlington Nagbe equalizes for the Americans just before the half. In the second half, Aguero makes the U.S. pay, but somewhere around the 80th minute, Clint Dempsey ties it up. The Americans hold off the Argentines over a furious final 10 minutes and we go to penalties. In the shootout, Brad Guzan stops 2 shots and the United States completes the unlikely upset over Argentina, 2(4)-2(3). The USMNT moves on to MetLife Stadium for the final Sunday.
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