U.S. Soccer

USA's Strong Effort Comes Up Short in 2-0 Copa America Loss to Colombia

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (June 3, 2016) – The U.S. Men’s National Team put in a strong effort against one of the tournament favorites but allowed two goals on set plays and fell 2-0 to Colombia before a sellout crowd of 67,439 at Levi’s Stadium in the opening match of the 2016 Copa America Centenario.

First half goals from Colombia’s Cristián Zapata in the 8th minute off a corner kick and James Rodriguez in the 42nd from the penalty spot forced the USA to chase the game, but despite an 11-8 advantage in shots, the Americans could not cut into that lead. Clint Dempsey had two excellent chances in the second half, one off a free kick that required a full-out flying save from Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina and a header that was cleared off the goal line by a Colombian defender.

The tournament continues for the MNT on Tuesday, June 7, against Costa Rica at Soldier Field in Chicago. The second Group A match for both teams will kick off at 7 p.m. CT and be broadcast live on FS1, UniMas and UDN. Fans can also follow the action on Twitter @ussoccer and @ussoccer_esp.

Goal Scoring Rundown:
COL – Cristián Zapata (Edwin Cardona) 8th minute:
Colombia earned an early corner kick from the right side of the field that Cardona swung away from goal toward the penalty spot. Starting at the far post, Zapata was able to evade his marker by darting around two other players and met the cross perfectly, striking a powerful, low volley into the lower right corner of the net. USA 0, COL 1

COL - James Rodriguez (penalty kick), 42nd minute: U.S. right back DeAndre Yedlin was whistle for handball in the box while trying to block a cross. Colombia captain James Rodriguez stepped up to take the kick and sent a low blast into the bottom right corner as U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan guessed the opposite direction. USA 0, COL 2 FINAL

Key Saves and Defensive Stops:
COL –
Sebastian Perez, 60th minute: Off a USA corner kick, Clint Dempsey rose above a defender to power a header toward the bottom right corner of the goal. However; Sebastian Perez was stationed on the post and made a vital goal-line clearance to thwart a U.S. comeback.

COL – David Ospina, 64th minute: The USA won a free kick just to the right of center about 25 yards from goal and Clint Dempsey, who had an earlier free kick blocked by the Colombia wall, stepped up to send a blistering shot over the wall and toward the upper right corner. Ospina was explosive to the ball and flew to his left, just getting his gloves on the ball to push the it away from danger.

Next on the Schedule: The U.S. MNT continues Group A play in the 2016 Copa America Centenario against Costa Rica on June 7 at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Broadcast information:
 FS1, UniMas, UDN
Social:
 Twitter (@ussoccer@ussoccer_esp); FacebookInstagram

- U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Colombia
Date: June 6, 2016
Competition: 2016 Copa America Centenario – Group Stage
Venue: Levi’s Stadium; Santa Clara, Calif.
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. PT
Attendance: 67,439 (sell out)
Weather: 88 degrees, sunny

Scoring Summary:    1          2          F
USA                             0          0          0
COL                             2          0          0

COL – Cristián Zapata (Edwin Cardona)     8th minute
COL – James Rodriguez (penalty kick)         42 

Lineups:
USA: 1-Brad Guzan, 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 20-Geoff Cameron, 6-John Brooks, 23-Fabian Johnson; 11-Alejandro Bedoya (19-Graham Zusi, 86, 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 13-Jermaine Jones (10-Darlington Nagbe, 66); 9-Gyasi Zardes, 8-Clint Dempsey, 7-Bobby Wood (17-Christian Pulisic, 66)
Subs not used:
12-Tim Howard, 22-William Yarbrough, 3-Steve Birnbaum, 5-Matt Besler, 14-Michael Orozco, 15-Kyle Beckerman, 16-Perry Kitchen
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

COL: 1-David Ospina; 4-Santiago Arias, 2-Cristián Zapata, 22-Jeison Murillo, 19-Farid Diaz; 13-Sebastian Perez (6-Carlos Sánchez, 86), 16-Daniel Torres, 11-Juan Cuadrado, 10-James Rodriguez (capt.) (5-Guillermo Celis, 73), 8-Edwin Cardona; 7-Carlos Bacca (17-Dayro Moreno, 88)
Subs not used:
12-Robinson Zapata, 23-Cristian Bonilla; 3-Yerry Mina, 9-Roger-Martínez, 14-Felipe Aguilar, 15-Stefan Medina, 18-Frank Fabra, 20-Andrés Felipe Roa, 21-Marlos Moreno
Head
Coach: Jose Peckerman

Stats Summary: USA / COL
Shots:11 / 8
Shots on Goal: 2 / 8
Saves: 6 / 1
Corner Kicks: 4 / 3
Fouls: 10 / 14
Offside: 1 / 3

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Alejandro Bedoya (caution)    57th minute    

Officials:
Referee:                      Roberto Garcia (Mexico)
Assistant Referee 1:   Jose Luis Camargo (Mexico)
Assistant Referee 2:   Alberto Morin (Mexico)
Fourth Official:            Wilton Sampaio (Brazil)

Budweiser Man of the Match: John Brooks

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MNT Jun 3, 2016

- U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Colombia
Date: June 3, 2016
Competition: 2016 Copa America Centenario – Group Stage
Venue: Levi’s Stadium; Santa Clara, Calif.
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. PT
Attendance: 67,439 (sell out)
Weather: 88 degrees, sunny

Scoring Summary:    1          2          F
USA                             0          0          0
COL                             2          0          0

COL – Cristián Zapata (Edwin Cardona)     8th minute
COL – James Rodriguez (penalty kick)         42 

Lineups:
USA: 1-Brad Guzan, 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 20-Geoff Cameron, 6-John Brooks, 23-Fabian Johnson; 11-Alejandro Bedoya (19-Graham Zusi, , 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 13-Jermaine Jones (10-Darlington Nagbe, 66); 9-Gyasi Zardes, 8-Clint Dempsey, 7-Bobby Wood (17-Christian Pulisic, 66)
Subs not used:
12-Tim Howard, 22-William Yarbrough, 3-Steve Birnbaum, 5-Matt Besler, 14-Michael Orozco, 15-Kyle Beckerman, 16-Perry Kitchen
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

COL: 1-David Ospina; 4-Santiago Arias, 2-Cristián Zapata, 22-Jeison Murillo, 19-Farid Diaz; 13-Sebastian Perez (6-Carlos Sánchez, 86), 16-Daniel Torres, 11-Juan Cuadrado, 10-James Rodriguez (capt.) (5-Guillermo Celis, 73), 8-Edwin Cardona; 7-Carlos Bacca (17-Dayro Moreno, 88)
Subs not used:
12-Robinson Zapata, 23-Cristian Bonilla; 3-Yerry Mina, 9-Roger-Martínez, 14-Felipe Aguilar, 15-Stefan Medina, 18-Frank Fabra, 20-Andrés Felipe Roa, 21-Marlos Moreno
Head
Coach: Jose Peckerman

Stats Summary: USA / COL
Shots:11 / 8
Shots on Goal: 2 / 8
Saves: 6 / 1
Corner Kicks: 4 / 3
Fouls: 10 / 14
Offside: 1 / 3

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Alejandro Bedoya (caution)    57th minute    

Officials:
Referee:                      Roberto Garcia (Mexico)
Assistant Referee 1:   Jose Luis Camargo (Mexico)
Assistant Referee 2:   Alberto Morin (Mexico)
Fourth Official:            Wilton Sampaio (Brazil)

Budweiser Man of the Match: John Brooks

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Gallery: Best of Copa America Centenario Group A

Take a look at the best photos of the U.S. MNT from the Group Stage of the Copa America Centenario. Read more
MNT Jun 13, 2016

1995 Copa America Oral History: An Opportunity Missed and a Hero's Return

Twenty-one years ago, a hungry and ambitious United States Men's National Team journeyed to Uruguay to prove it could play with the world's best.

The Americans did, making some history along the way. 

A year older and wiser after reaching the second round of the 1994 World Cup, the USA proved to the rest of the world it was for real.

Not only did the U.S. MNT finish fourth at the 1995 Copa America, they turned some heads and surprised many soccer observers and experts along the way. Their victories included a triumph against Chile, the team's first win over a South American team on that continent in 65 years, a stunning 3-0 victory over highly-rated Argentina and a penalty-kick shootout win against archrival Mexico at a neutral venue. 

To many soccer fans back in the States, the tournament might as well have been a well-kept secret because access to matches was greatly limited. Games were available only through closed-circuit TV at bars and restaurants or if you were willing to pay $19.95 per match to watch it on cable. Since the competition was held in the early days of the internet and social media was years away, acquiring information about the MNT's success proved to be a monumental task at the biennial competition, the oldest international soccer tournament in the world.

To truly appreciate the quality of the team that U.S. Soccer sent to Uruguay, it must be noted that a dozen from that squad have been elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame. The impressive list includes goalkeeper Kasey Keller; defenders Marcelo Balboa, Alexi Lalas, Paul Caliguiri and Thomas Dooley; midfielders John Harkes, Tab Ramos, Cobi Jones, Earnie Stewart, Joe-Max Moore and Claudio Reyna; and forward Eric Wynalda. Another teammate, goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who retired from professional soccer in 2015, is considered to be a strong candidate when he becomes eligible. 

Part Two of this three-part series reprises the USA's monumental triumph against World Power Argentina in the teams' final group match as well as the defeat of archrival Mexico in the first knock-out round that formed on the cornerstones for that generation's struggle for the CONCACAF crown.

Part 1 | Part 2

Read more
MNT Jun 10, 2016

1995 Copa America Oral History: USA Makes a Soccer Statement to the World

Twenty-one years ago, a hungry and ambitious United States Men's National Team journeyed to Uruguay to prove it could play with the world's best.

The Americans did, making some history along the way. 

A year older and wiser after reaching the second round of the 1994 World Cup, the USA proved to the rest of the world it was for real.

Not only did the U.S. MNT finish fourth at the 1995 Copa America, they turned some heads and surprised many soccer observers and experts along the way. Their victories included a triumph against Chile, the team's first win over a South American team on that continent in 65 years, a stunning 3-0 victory over highly-rated Argentina and a penalty-kick shootout win against archrival Mexico at a neutral venue. 

To many soccer fans back in the States, the tournament might as well have been a well-kept secret because access to matches was greatly limited. Games were available only through closed-circuit TV at bars and restaurants or if you were willing to pay $19.95 per match to watch it on cable. Since the competition was held in the early days of the internet and social media was years away, acquiring information about the MNT's success proved to be a monumental task at the biennial competition, the oldest international soccer tournament in the world.

To truly appreciate the quality of the team that U.S. Soccer sent to Uruguay, it must be noted that a dozen from that squad have been elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame. The impressive list includes goalkeeper Kasey Keller; defenders Marcelo Balboa, Alexi Lalas, Paul Caliguiri and Thomas Dooley; midfielders John Harkes, Tab Ramos, Cobi Jones, Earnie Stewart, Joe-Max Moore and Claudio Reyna; and forward Eric Wynalda. Another teammate, goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who retired from professional soccer in 2015, is considered to be a strong candidate when he becomes eligible. 

Part Two of this three-part series reprises the USA's monumental triumph against World Power Argentina in the teams' final group match as well as the defeat of archrival Mexico in the first knock-out round that formed on the cornerstones for that generation's struggle for the CONCACAF crown.

Part 1 | Part 3

PRACTICE WASN’T PERFECT ON THIS FIELD

Many of the team practices were held at a municipal park in Paysandu, and it was not in the best shape or in the best part of town. The players and coaches could have squawked publicly, but felt it was in its best interests not to rattle the goodwill they had made with the fans and citizens of Paysandu.

Sampson: They put us on a field that literally had mud down the middle of the field. We felt that we were disrespected by being placed on that field. The organizing committee put us on this horrendous field. Interesting enough, as we progressed in the tournament, we got better and better fields provided to us. We could have made a huge issue of that, but we didn't.

Ramos: The fields were awful. Uruguay was one of those countries where it's a small country and 90 percent of the country lives in the capital or outside the capital, and we were way outside the capital. I think five or six hours away.

Jones: It wasn't in the best area. People forget soccer is a blue collar sport, so our training facility, it was really in an under-privileged area. The field was not a good field. It got muddy because it was raining a lot. Muddy in the middle and bumpy on the outside.

Wynalda: We played with a ball which was a rock. I think Harkes came in and talked to Steve and said, "I don't think we need to practice. It's not worth it. It's just too dangerous to go out and even risk getting hurt." We all pretty much assumed that it was going to be cold and were going to have to wear our studs. The reality was you couldn't wear studs on that ground in the daytime. You would have to wait until it got dark and the dew set and the field got loosened up. We were making jokes about Alexi when we were practicing. I was like, "You sound like a damn Clydesdale coming down a cobblestone street. Here he comes!" We were laughing about that. It was very difficult to train there.

Lalas: The discussion occurred about the possibility of changing our training facility to a different place. A different town or city came up. I'll never forget saying, "Hey look, we have something good here in terms of our support. While that might benefit us to a certain extent from a soccer perspective, we also may lose something by doing that. And it may even be viewed as disrespectful and that's the last thing in the world we wanted to do." 

Jones: I remember to this day, we were putting our shoes on, getting ready for training, hearing the rain come. You can actually see it as a sheet of water coming down. It started hitting the little shacks that were around the field. You could just hear the rain getting louder and louder hitting the tin rooftops of the homes. How are they living like that? That was something that stuck with me, the living conditions there. I would be wide awake. I wouldn't be able to sleep, it was so loud.

ARGENTINA

The USA's task was well defined entering its third and final group match at Estadio General Artigas in Paysandu on July 14: the Americans needed a win or a high-scoring draw against one of the world's top sides, which was playing just across the border from its homeland. Argentina head coach Daniel Passarella rested nine players from his previous match, a 4-0 victory over Chile, although he left forward Gabriel Batistuta and center back Roberto Ayala in the Starting XI. That strategy backfired big time.

Sampson: What impressed me the most about that National Team was their confidence going into the game.

Keller: We felt a little bit disrespected; not to the point where we were all mad or anything. It was kind of like, OK, they were already through. Let's be honest. It was an Argentinean team regardless who they put on the field. Where we were located in Paysandu was relatively close to the Argentinean border, so it wasn't Uruguayans who were at the game. It was all Argentinians. So they're thinking they have a relative home game. They're already through. They're playing the U.S. They can make some changes, and even losing they don't expect to lose three-nil.

Jones: OK, they're insulting us because they don't have to worry about us. But we still have to play to our utmost ability because their second teamers are starting on top teams around the world. It didn't matter. It's like saying you have to play Real Madrid's six, seven starters and four who aren't usually starting. Really? Does it matter? It's still such a quality team. We had to come out and perform and put it on the line, man up a bit.

Lalas: I didn't care (about the apparent snub) because my focus and concentration was on Batistuta. One, because he was a good player, and two we were all coming off of new, very important experiences from a club perspective and I was coming off playing my first season in Italy (with Padova) and I knew him from there. I wanted to shut him down any way I possibly could. I was coming off my first Serie A season and Batistuta was a scoring machine. I remember having played him earlier that year or in the second part of the previous year. He was playing for Fiorentina and he went on a scoring tear. I remember being incredibly disappointed because I had the opportunity to mark him and stop him from consecutive games scoring and he ended up getting a penalty. I didn't foul the guy. I remember thinking that's a cheap way to continue your streak. So there was this game within a game. I knew what type of player he was. He was a great goalscorer, and his physical ability and his willingness to put his body in peril and to score was legendary. So I knew I had a fight on my hands.

Caligiuri: I was presented my 100th cap. It was amazing going into the game. The players were really geared up and focused. We were an unstoppable team. In the first half, these guys were in line with one another. It was an amazing half. I had a great game, great experience. That was among my greatest memories.

Jones: Paul Caligiuri probably had the most spectacular game of his life.

Klopas on scoring in the 20th minute: It was a play developing on the right side and I was following up the action. There was a cross in the box that rebounded out. The ball just happened to come out as I was following the play. I just left-footed a shot to the back post. The goalie was coming from his left to the right across the goal and I just hit it back post.

Sampson: I remember Tab Ramos saying (at halftime), 'You guys realize that if we beat Argentina 3-0, we'll be group leaders." (laughs) I'm thinking to myself, "Wow, what a bold statement, beating Argentina 3-0." And you know what? I think Tab was 100 percent serious when he said that. That just carried over to the rest of the team that they wanted to make a statement that night.

Wynalda: I think once that was said out loud -- we had proven everybody wrong -- we said, “Let's see if we can take it to the next step.” We weathered the storm without a doubt in the second half.

Sampson: Going into halftime up 2-0 my biggest fear was, "Let's not get overemotional here, let's calm down and really prepare for what is going to be a very, very difficult second half.” We ended up scoring a third goal in the second.

Keller: At two-nil, they still win the group. At three-nil, they start making subs and start trying to get that goal. How many times do you see it? You go into a game with a particular mindset and it’s really hard to change it once the game starts.

Wynalda: Joe-Max Moore and I were able to put together a counter and we got a goal and we just locked it down and made sure we got out of there with a victory.

Sampson: Diego Maradona, I remember turning around from the bench and looking up into the stands into the VIP area and literally after the third goal, Maradona was standing up applauding the goal.


 
Although it was near impossible to find coverage of the U.S. MNT's achievements at the 1995 Copa America back in the United States, the team was front page news in South America.

Wynalda: It was really a remarkable performance. A couple of big saves on Batistuta and (Diego) Simeone couldn't get it past Mike Burns on the post. Mike Burns gets a lot of crap for not being there in '98 (World Cup) when the ball slipped past him to score. There was a reason why he was on the post. 

Klopas: We had unbelievable difference makers, like Eric Wynalda, Alexi in the back, John Harkes in the middle. [Ernie] Stewart.

Wynalda: Four or five years prior we would have folded our tents and gone home. "We gave it a good shot. There's no way we're going to beat Argentina." On that quick turnaround, after that Bolivia game, we finally asked the question: why not, why can't we beat these guys? Why not? If we can go out there and put together a collective effort and just fight and make it so hard on them to play, maybe we can make something special happen. And that's exactly what happened. 

Lalas: It was just one of those nights where everything went right for us and very little went right for Argentina. It was thoroughly deserved in the way that we played, both in the way we finished our chances and in the way that we defended. It was a classic, traditional American type of performance. We had a good goalkeeper who made the saves when we needed to. We counterattacked. Even my goal was a re-circulation of a free kick. It was one perfect night.

Jones: We were ecstatic. People were just riding high, feeling excited, exuberant. We didn't know what was going to happen next. To beat Argentina was something special that ... we would remember forever.

Lalas: My lasting memory from Copa America '95 was following the win against Argentina. The stadium had a little lounge upstairs. We went up and we were all having a drink and this celebration. I was sitting against the bar and it was packed. It was a big moment. We were the toast of the town. The door was on the other side of the room and all of a sudden it was the parting of the seas. I couldn't see what was happening, but everyone started moving to the side. Out of this parting of the seas emerges Diego Maradona. He had played in Italy, so I spoke Italian to him and it was an incredible moment. He had come to meet these people who had just beaten his team to pay respect, and that was the ultimate form of respect.

Sampson: He said in his own words that we were the better team on the night and we played the better football.

Wynalda: He says: "I'm not crying because Argentina lost. I'm crying because it was so beautiful to see the Americans play such beautiful soccer."

Sampson: We had very few members of the media from the United States in Paysandu. It wasn't on national television, except for Prime Ticket in Spanish back in the United States. But now all of a sudden we are seeing articles in The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Boston Globe. These guys are now saying, this is a big deal.

Keller: One of those moments in U.S. Soccer history that really kind of changed the landscape a little bit for the U.S. Yeah, you can get a friendly result in America, but this is a FIFA tournament against a world power, albeit an overconfident world power that already won their first two games. But you showed on the day that if somebody takes you for granted, you can hit them and you can hit them hard. It was cool.

Klopas: I always keep a tape of that game because when I run into my old Argentine friends, I always make some copies. I give it to them. "Hey guys, do you remember this moment?" They all want to forget. I have enough hard copies that I've made of the game that I pass it around.

Wynalda: If you're going to take all of the results in U.S. Soccer history and just on that magnitude, that's one that gets overlooked a lot. Maybe it was the time. It was 1995. Maybe because it happened in Paysandu, Uruguay. Maybe it didn't get the headlines. If the U.S. National Team did something like that tomorrow, they would be calling it the greatest game the U.S. National Team played. We were very proud to be American soccer players at that time.

THE AMAZING GOALKEEPING TAG-TEAM

One of the more intriguing aspects of the Americans' Copa journey was the fact Sampson, for the most part, alternated goalkeepers Keller and Friedel. He had two exceptional keepers and wanted to give both of them playing time. Keller started the opener against Chile, while Friedel took on the duties against Bolivia. Keller was back in the net for Argentina, while Friedel took over for Mexico and Brazil before Keller returned for the third-place match against Colombia.

Keller: It's not foreign to national teams. Also, I think in an interim manager role you are still trying to figure things out as well. What is the goal of these tournaments? It's really preparing you for World Cup qualifying so you have a team that you can trust. The tricky part about it is if you alternate, are you keeping two people happy or are you making two people mad?

Sampson: I had explained to them that because of continuity, I would keep the goalkeeper starting in the second round forward. During group play I would alternate them.

Friedel: I don't think Kasey or I enjoyed it at all, sharing the duties. I think we both felt we were No. 1. I think looking back on it, and I think Kasey would probably agree, we probably would have wished the coach would have chosen one and let one guy go on with his career.

Sampson: The main reason why I alternated them was because they were both exceptional goalkeepers and I felt they both deserved an opportunity to show what they could do under those conditions. I wanted to give them that international experience.

Keller: If you're up front and you stick with it, there are no surprises. With both of us knowing that going in, it was pretty easy getting the job done.

Friedel: It made Kasey and myself better because we always wanted to better one another. We've spoken about it since. It definitely was a catalyst for both of us to improve. It is never ideal for a goalkeeper because only one guy can play. It was what it was. 

Jones: That was more of an issue for the ‘keepers than for us. It didn't matter for us who was in goal because we knew either way we were going to have one of the top keepers in the world and that was important.

Ramos: Steve managed that tournament really well. Definitely it wasn't an easy one. For the last 30 years we've had the best goalkeepers in the world. That's one thing we haven't had to worry about.

Lalas: I'm not a fan of it, and I know that Kasey and Brad are not fans of it. However, from a Steve Sampson perspective, he felt that it was not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. He was to a certain extent proven right, given the results. But it was not ideal. It does not lend itself to establishing a consistency and connection between a goalkeeper and a back four. I don't think that's something that should be done within a tournament but if you're going to do it, you better have two goalkeepers that are on an equal footing.

MEXICO, ROUND TWO

Following Sampson's pattern, Friedel started against Mexico at Estadio General Artigas on July 17, the second time the two CONCACAF rivals met in a competition within a month. In their previous meeting on June 18 in Washington, D.C., the U.S. hammered and embarrassed Mexico, 4-0. After 90 minutes and stoppage time in Paysandu, they went straight to penalties. Because the tournament was being playing in a short amount of time with little rest between games, officials felt extra time would put additional strain on the players.

Sampson: We knew they were going to take a different approach against us because we had beaten them so soundly a month ago.

Lalas: It's almost like a different type of game in a tournament if you're playing Mexico because of our familiarity, because of our rivalry. It almost takes on a different character because of all of those things. It's almost not part of the tournament.

Friedel: Mexico always claimed that we couldn't beat them in a big event, in a neutral venue. The Mexican team back then really took it on the chin back home if they ever lost to us. That was even more magnified because that was in Copa America.

Lalas: It was a typical U.S.-Mexico match. It was a street fight. We kicked them, they kicked us. There were cards. There was obviously not a lot of scoring. It was a very equal type of affair. It was not surprising that it went down to penalties because both teams felt that they were not just on par with the opponent, both teams felt that they were better.

The 6-foot-2 Friedel was exceptional in the shootout, making two saves while every American player converted his attempt for a 4-1 victory.

Friedel: I dealt with penalties the same way I did my whole career. I was fortunate to have a decent record on penalties. Not in just shootouts, but in general. It is different shooter to shooter. There would be some that I'd never gotten any data on and I would most definitely try to detect their run-up. Some strikers you can definitely tell where their tendencies are going to go based on the way they angle their approach to the run up to the ball. You try to see where their planting foot is, see where their hips are. It's all very quick stuff. I think when your eye is really in-tune, that's when you have the most capabilities of saving the penalties.

Jones: It's amazing. Brad Friedel has always been excellent since my days playing with him at UCLA where he had the nickname "Great Ape," where he had those long arms. He's always come up big on those. I don't know if you remember the cartoon from way back in the day, the big ape (Great Grape Ape) who had those long arms. Friedel has those long arms. He can literally stand there, reach up and have his hands reach the crossbar. That's just a part of it. His quickness and his ability to get down is what really helps him there. That's why he’s one of the top goalkeepers in the world.

Wynalda: That was the most extraordinary performance. When he went into goal, he reached up and grabbed the crossbar and pulled it down. You can imagine that the crossbar is now vibrating. All of a sudden he spreads his arms out. I think I looked at Caligiuri and said, "He's covering the damn goal!" It was unbelievable.

Lalas: It was all fine and well to do that, but you also have to save the ball. Every little advantage helps. When the shooter saw this happen, I think at times it's intimidating. It was no surprise to me doing what he needs to do in that situation, ultimately winning the game for us.

Friedel: Keep in mind all the advantage is for the player to score. All of the pressure is on the player. There's no pressure on the goalkeeper. So I never found penalty shootouts daunting at all as a goalkeeper because the outfield player is supposed to score the goal. That's one instance of the keeper that you can possibly be the hero because if you don't save it, you're not thought of as a failure.


Dedicated soccer news outlets in the U.S. as well as some major publications publicized the USA's remarkable success at the 1995 Copa America once the team made the knockout rounds. 

Wynalda led off against the 5-7 Jorge Campos, placing his attempt to the right side while the goalkeeper dove the other way. Luis Garcia, who tied Batistuta for the Copa Golden Boot as scoring champion (four goals apiece), fired his try toward the middle of the net while Friedel went to his right side for a 1-1 deadlock.

In the second round, Moore drilled his shot into the lower right corner as Campos sprawled in the other direction for a 2-1 lead as Friedel dove to his right and punched away Carlos Hermosillo's kick as the keeper lifted his arm in triumph.

Caligiuri placed his attempt to the right side while Campos dove in the other direction before Friedel barely got his right hand on Alberto Coyote's try for a save for a 3-1 USA advantage.

Up stepped Klopas – TV graphics had misspelled his name as Clopas – to attempt the game-winner. He took a couple of stutter steps and as Campos committed himself to the right. Klopas slotted his shot into the lower left corner for a 4-1 win.

Klopas: In any situation, you have to have the confidence as a player, but knowing that this can win the game. If the goalie saves it or miss, whatever it’s not the end of the world for you. All those little things did play in my mind at time. I was saying, “OK, I'm scoring, we're celebrating, we're through with the team.” The pressure would have been different if I don't make it and we're out. I went up and slowed my run a little bit a couple of times and I saw that Campos was already moving one way. He committed early. It was pretty easy for me. I just wanted to make sure I didn't miss the goal. Just put it in the left corner, my left to his right. After that, I ran to the bench and celebrated with my teammates. 

Ramos: I think we arrived at the world stage. We had to let Mexico know that we had arrived here in CONCACAF. We've arrived to be competitive and to stay. It was just the beginning of the U.S.-Mexico rivalry.

Jones: It was sending another significant message not only to the world but to CONCACAF. It was a battle for 90 minutes and penalty kicks. It says more that the U.S., without a doubt – even though I'm sure some of the Mexican people will argue – but that the U.S. was surpassing and pushing beyond Mexico in the region as being the No. 1 player. That was extremely important to put out there.

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MNT Jun 9, 2016

1995 Copa America Oral History: The Tournament Begins

Twenty-one years ago, a hungry and ambitious United States Men's National Team journeyed to Uruguay to prove it could play with the world's best.

The Americans did, making some history along the way. 

A year older and wiser after reaching the second round of the 1994 World Cup, the USA proved to the rest of the world it was for real.

Not only did the U.S. MNT finish fourth at the 1995 Copa America, they turned some heads and surprised many soccer observers and experts along the way. Their victories included a triumph against Chile, the team's first win over a South American team on that continent in 65 years, a stunning 3-0 victory over highly-rated Argentina and a penalty-kick shootout win against archrival Mexico at a neutral venue. 

To many soccer fans back in the States, the tournament might as well have been a well-kept secret because access to matches was greatly limited. Games were available only through closed-circuit TV at bars and restaurants or if you were willing to pay $19.95 per match to watch it on cable. Since the competition was held in the early days of the internet and social media was years away, acquiring information about the MNT's success proved to be a monumental task at the biennial competition, the oldest international soccer tournament in the world.

To truly appreciate the quality of the team that U.S. Soccer sent to Uruguay, it must be noted that a dozen from that squad have been elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame. The impressive list includes goalkeeper Kasey Keller; defenders Marcelo Balboa, Alexi Lalas, Paul Caliguiri and Thomas Dooley; midfielders John Harkes, Tab Ramos, Cobi Jones, Earnie Stewart, Joe-Max Moore and Claudio Reyna; and forward Eric Wynalda. Another teammate, goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who retired from professional soccer in 2015, is considered to be a strong candidate when he becomes eligible. 

Part One of this three-part series illustrates the events leading up to the 1995 Copa America as well as the first matches against Chile and Bolivia.

Part 2 | Part 3

WHAT THE USA ACCOMPLISHED
Defender Paul Caligiuri: It was a big deal. Reaching the semifinals was absolutely a huge success, and at that time it was the greatest success in U.S. Soccer history in competing in one of the world's elite tournaments. And to do it so quickly, without the opportunities that we see today, without development academies and Major League Soccer, this was a unique group that accomplished a heck of a lot in a short period. After this year's Copa America Centenario, American fans will know a lot more of the magnitude of Copa America.

Goalkeeper Brad Friedel: This wasn't a friendly. This was a competition that every single South American team and Mexico and us in this instance wanted to win desperately. So whether you were Brazil or Argentina or Uruguay or Paraguay or Chile, if you didn't do well you knew you were going to get a lot of negative attention back in your home country. We had just done fairly well in the '94 World Cup and it was important to keep building on that.

Midfielder Cobi Jones: If that happened now, the world would be going crazy. The United States would be going crazy beyond what they've seen up until this point in the World Cup. That's absolutely massive for us to not just beat Argentina, but to annihilate Argentina. It was 3-0 and it was a dominant performance.

Forward Frank Klopas: No pressure on us. We just really wanted to compete, to continue the success we had in '94 and prove to the world that we were a good team with a lot of good players and prove the U.S. would be a soccer country in the future that deserved a lot of respect.

Caligiuri: It was some of the best times of my life in my entire experience. It was absolutely amazing, from the camaraderie of the team to the success we had on the field to the impact and imprint on the Uruguayan people.

Forward Eric Wynalda: We just wanted to see our country get what we felt it deserved, and that meant being recognized as a footballing nation. That was really what we wanted. It was not a team that people feared, but they certainly didn't want to play us. I remember that the Mexicans wouldn't look at us, and after the game was over the Argentines respected us. That was cool. I don't know how the other guys feel, but I wouldn't change a thing.

Interim coach Steve Sampson: I can believe that if we had that kind of a run today it would be incredibly well received. I think it would break the internet.

COPING WITH 1993 COPA AMERICA
Copa ‘95 wasn't the first time the USA had participated in the biennial tournament. Two years prior under coach Bora Milutinovic, the Americans competed at the 1993 Copa America in Ecuador as preparation for USA '94. It was a difficult initiation with many lessons. They did not win a match, losing to Uruguay, 1-0, and Ecuador, 2-0, before squandering a three-goal, second-half lead to Venezuela and settling for a 3-3 draw.

Sampson: It was a tremendous honor for the United States to be invited to both of those Copa Americas. Given our history, some respect was being paid by the fact we were hosting the World Cup in '94.

Defender Alexi Lalas: I had just gotten to the team that year, so it was my first big tournament with Bora [Milutinovic]. I think Bora recognized very early on, "Hey, this is great experience for my team as a whole to go to this tournament and a lot of individuals, assessing what they could do.” It was going to be the closest approximation to a World Cup that he was going to get.

Jones: I was a youngster at that time. I was just trying to get my bearings, trying to figure everything out, what I was going to do, where I was going to go. It was a significant difference, because in '95 I had a better understanding of what everything was and what we were trying to do and the possibilities and the meaning of what Copa America is all about.

Sampson: We were by and large a very young team compared to the rest of the field of Copa America. Bora wanted to see who could manage the pressure of playing in an event like that. I think he learned an awful lot about guys like Wynalda, guys like Balboa and guys like Lalas. I think it really helped him really solidify a lot of his decisions on who he was going to select for the World Cup the next year.

Caligiuri: We did not have international experience at altitude. Our first game, we are playing in Ecuador in Quito. Though there was a lot of excitement going into it, we weren't prepared for that altitude. Guys just couldn't breathe after 10 minutes of the game.

Sampson: The Venezuela game stands out. I don't think I've ever seen Bora more disappointed than after that match, having lost that much of a lead and having squandered that lead for a tie. Bora was never one to be animated, but he was incredibly animated in the locker room after that match to the extent where he was angry. I thought it was an incredible growing experience, having said that because it allowed Bora to make some changes in the team which he might not have made otherwise and to the benefit of the U.S. National Team. You could say that a number of players played themselves onto the World Cup roster in the first half and then a number of players played themselves off the roster in the second half. In hindsight, that was a watershed moment for our development as a country.

Midfielder Tab Ramos, who captained that team: The most important thing we learned was that we could not participate in the tournament without having a full team. In '93, five or six guys decided to take a break and we had a very tough time.

GEARING UP FOR COPA 95
Two years later, Jones, Ramos, Lalas, Calgiuiri and their teammates had another chance at Copa America, this time in Uruguay. This was a different and more experienced team. It had the World Cup experience and many more international matches under its belt. The Americans also were coming off a superb performance at the U.S. Cup. They defeated Nigeria, 3-2, in Foxborough, Mass., shocked and rolled over Mexico, 4-0, in a virtuoso display in Washington, D.C., and secured the title with a scoreless draw with Colombia in Piscataway, N.J. Defender Mike Burns headed a ball off the line to preserve the tie. Less than two weeks later, the U.S. would head for Paysandu for Copa America '95.

Sampson: To this date, the 4-0 victory against Mexico remains the biggest margin of victory for the USA in the history of United States vs. Mexico. The way the team played against Nigeria, then completely dominating Mexico, then having to go down to Rutgers to play Colombia. This was after we beat Colombia the year before in the World Cup. I think they wanted to make a statement and certainly everything that happened with (Andres) Escobar (who was assassinated in Colombia) and all the emotion of that event in '94 was playing out in the '95 match in the U.S. Cup. For us to get a 0-0 result in that match to win the U.S. Cup, it built up the confidence of the National Team. I think it began to raise the overall image of U.S. Soccer.

Goalkeeper Kasey Keller: Up to that point it was a one-way rivalry. It was just Mexico really beating up on us for the most part. And not only to beat Mexico, but to truly comprehensively beat Mexico and do it with style and do it with a little bit of flair and score lots of goals. It was something that stepped us forward into a tournament where nobody gave us much of a chance.

Jones: All those tournaments before that, the World Cup and U.S. Cup, it went from us being the underdogs and the understanding that we can compete at any level with any team in the World Cup and get a result. It gave us that bit of confidence, that gave us not a lot, but a little bit of swagger.

Keller: There were no real expectations. We had an interim manager. We were going down to a tournament where you're playing Argentina in our group. It also was a situation where we started previous to the World Cup in '94 we started to find ways to get results at home. We knew we had a good team. We knew we were in good form, but we still had that little bit of apprehension because we were going away from home and we hadn't really proved ourselves.

Sampson: I had to make this decision because two weeks later we were supposed to head down to Paysandu. Everyone in U.S. Soccer expected me to stay in Miami and train the team for those two weeks. Instead, I decided to give those two weeks off to everybody. Part of that was because they had a long club season and they had a very emotional U.S. Cup. I think that decision played very well with the players and then we went down to Paysandu (laughs).

Ramos: Obviously it was exciting for me personally. We were six hours away from the city where I was born.

Caligiuri: You go to Uruguay and you look at your draw and it's Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. It's different than having Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela (in Copa America '93). You could look at traditional South American success, Ecuador and Venezuela not being strong opponents, and you have one solid opponent with traditional Uruguay. Our group was way more tough in '95 than it was in '93.

MAKING SOME HISTORY AGAINST CHILE
The team's three group matches were played in Paysandu, which was just over the border from Argentina and separated by the Uruguay River. The city of 76,000 was in rural Uruguay, some 235 miles northwest of the capital in Montevideo. The hotel accommodations were far from five-star quality. For one player, it was kind of a homecoming. For just about everyone, it was going to be the start of an unforgettable experience that included some intriguing twists and turns.

Many U.S. players figured they would lose to Chile and beat Bolivia, but as it turned out the opposite became reality. The Americans defeated the Chileans at the new 22,00-seat Estadio General Artigas on July 7. Wynalda struck twice within a six-minute span, in the 14th and 20th minutes to give the Americans a surprising two-goal lead. Halftime substitute Sebastian Rozental, who played for the Columbus Crew in 2006, pulled one back against Keller in the 63rd minute. The USA, however, held off its foes to secure a precious three points and win on South American soil against a South American side for the first time since a 3-0 victory over Paraguay at the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930.     


U.S. midfielder John Harkes played so well at the 1995 Copa America that he was voted co-MVP of the tournament alongside Uruguay captain Enzo Francescoli.

Sampson: I decided to have training at 10 o'clock in the morning because we didn't have training all week. We trained on the day of the game and that night we played a team that was incredibly unified. The chemistry was remarkable and they showed that in the way they played.

Wynalda: That first game against Chile was really pivotal. We were in a good mood obviously. We had just come off a good set of results. That was the closest-knit team as far as the National Team that I've ever been a part of. We were pretty hell bent on doing something special. The guys were in good form and we hit the ground running. The first goal, it was really spectacular. It was a great team goal. It really was. I got to the near post and tapped in a great cross by Earnie Stewart but everybody contributed. The ball must have touched everybody.

Keller: When we jumped out to that 2-0 lead, there is that kind of, "Whoa! What's going on here?” We may have scored on our first chance, maybe our second. We didn't necessarily have 10 chances to score two goals.

Wynalda: I still get so upset because I got pulled at halftime. I pretty much lost it on my coaching staff. I just didn't want to come out of the game. I had never scored an international hat-trick. It was somewhere in the back of my mind: "Wow, I might have a shot at scoring three today." You get the first one, you want to get the second one. You get the second one, you want to get the third one. It was probably the right move. It was a long tournament and we planned to be there for a while.

Keller: There was a response from Chile. They came at us in the second half. Going into it, we would have been very happy with a point but when you're two-nil up, you think here's an opportunity and seizing that opportunity. I had to make a save or two in the second half. I was busy, but not like crazy busy. I just remember everybody fighting for everything.

Ramos: What stands out for me was the intensity of the team. Now that we had the experience of the World Cup, we had the experience of having gotten some major wins over the previous two or three years, and our program in general was on the rise. I know the team was working really hard. The team was happy and ready to give a good effort.


U.S. forward Eric Wynalda conjured a memorable performance against Chile in the 1995 Copa America.

STUMBLING AGAINST BOLIVIA
Buoyed by the early and surprising result, the Americans were hoping to make it two in a row against Bolivia at the same stadium three days later on July 11. A win would have clinched a spot in the quarterfinals, and a draw would have gone a long way in securing one of eight quarterfinal berths.

Ramos: Bolivia had been in the World Cup the year before so they had done well. They had a good generation of players. At the same time, we felt we had been coming along and we really had a better team.

Sampson: I'm thinking to myself, Marco Etcheverry at the time is probably one of the best players in the world. We just came off playing an exceptional game against Chile. Do I mark him man-for-man and just have him covered by one player for the entire match, or do I just play our style and close him down whenever he got the ball in the midfield? I chose to play our style and not to pay too much attention to it; 20-20 hindsight, that was a mistake because Etcheverry picked up the ball in midfield and went on a 40-yard run and put the ball into the back of the net.

Ramos: These are the kind of games that we continue 20 years later to have difficulty with. We have been the country over the years that can get the big result against teams that we are not supposed to. Then we go on to the field and we play a team that we're supposed to beat, we don't. This was something that was disappointing about this tournament.

Keller: I remember the disappointment. It was a very even game. Coming after the win, a draw would have been huge going into play Argentina the next game if we wanted to advance in the tournament.

Wynalda: We really outplayed them. We could have easily scored two or three goals that night. The feeling was, "Oh great, how we kind of shot ourselves in the foot."

Jones: It's funny how that happens, isn't it? You have expectations and everything goes out the window once the whistle blows (laughs). That's soccer. That's how it goes. The team was playing well and the team was together. Yes, not the result we expected. It slipped around a little bit. But it still got us to the point to put ourselves in the proper position to move forward. That's what it was all about.

THE FABULOUS FANS OF PAYSANDU
Off the field, something special was building around the American team. As the USA experienced more success in Paysandu, the more the locals took to the team. It certainly did not hurt that the Americans’ hotel, Hotel Boulevard, did not have a restaurant, so they could not eat there. After the Argentina game, thinking it was probably heading toward another Uruguayan venue for the quarterfinals, the team unfurled a 25-foot long banner that said: "Gracias, Paysandu," accompanied by the words, U.S. Soccer. As it turns out, the Americans played there in the quarterfinals as well, and they repeated their goodwill gesture after eliminating Mexico.

Sampson: We were staying at this one or two-star hotel. Certainly nothing to what our National Team players were accustomed to, but it was not a big issue for us. There was rust all over the bathroom and the faucets. The federation had nothing to do with it. That was the organizing committee for Copa America.

Klopas: I remember pulling up the first day. The kids and everyone in the city came out. They were around our hotel all the time. All the players, we gave so much stuff away: clothing, hats, extras to the kids. We became their team. It's different times now.

Lalas: We were a curiosity, but this also was a very big deal for this town to have this tournament and to host it. There was a responsibility and an incredible pride that they had. We recognized that early on.

Ramos: The lobby downstairs was the only place you could be out of your room, but the lobby was surrounded by glass walls. So when we were in the lobby, we were exposed to the public. Whether the guys were playing cards or doing whatever, we were completely exposed.

Friedel: They had a little area in the front where we used to play cards and had coffee and stuff like that, downstairs in the reception area. When we first got there, people really didn't take notice to us. But after we won the first game, they started taking notice of us.

Klopas: The expresso machine, that's where we spent most of the time, the cafe downstairs. How many times can you listen to Alexi Lalas sing songs on his guitar?

Keller: I remember playing a lot of backgammon.

Caligiuri: We would literally go from our hotel and drive three blocks to go eat lunch or dinner. Get back on the bus, drive three blocks, get out of the bus and back in the hotel. But as the time went on, instead of walking through the tunnel of guards to our bus 10 steps from the hotel front door, we went through the barrier and did our thing, didn't have that fear and started walking the streets in Paysandu. People walked with us and talked with us.

Keller: That little bit of freedom was part of that looseness that this team had. Guys were pretty focused on what they were doing and they had the freedom to grab a beer if you wanted. You can only look at the same guys in the hotel lobby so often before you start banging your head against the wall. 

Klopas: You go outside and you see the fans there whenever we went. When you have guys like Alexi, Marcelo and Cobi on the team, they were easy to recognize. We were connecting with the fans and the people in that city as we continued to do well. We were the favorites. We became their team against Mexico.

Sampson: It was great for the image of the National Team. That wouldn't happen today with all of the security issues. When we walked from one place to other, no bodyguards, no police escorted us. We were on our own. There were no issues. A different time, no question. 

Jones: It was ridiculous. The Uruguayans, (Argentina's) their rivals, they were all behind us, giving us tremendous support so it was great to see. You still have players to this day that remember it. We can talk about things that happened, being in the hotel, the training sessions, everything. 

Caligiuri: Paysandu will always have a special place in my heart. I think it has to do with beating Argentina. Also, through the basic interaction. They got to see American people are friendly, are open. We're kind.

Lalas: If it were not for Copa America 1995, I'm pretty sure I would not have been to Paysandu, Uruguay, let alone heard of Paysandu, Uruguay. It was amazing to see the reaction of the people of Paysandu. They were a huge part of our success.

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MNT Jun 6, 2016

MNT Takes Positives from Colombia and Sets Sights on Costa Rica

United States Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann wasted little time on his frustrations as he spoke in the depths of Levi's Stadium on Friday.

The opening night of Copa America Centenario did not generate the desired result, but Klinsmann pointed quickly to the silver linings in the 2-0 defeat to Colombia with one eye on the challenges and the possibilities ahead.

The result stung, yet he found plenty of encouragement in the manner of the setback. The two teams were even on the night and that parity offered his players an important boost with a vital match ahead against Costa Rica in Chicago on Tuesday (8 p.m. CT, FS1, UniMas, UDN), according to Klinsmann. 

“I think that the players take a lot out of this game,” Klinsmann said in his post-match press conference. “Obviously, there is even more hunger toward the second game now because we are with our backs against the wall. We need three points against Costa Rica. But there are a lot of positives coming out of it.”

Most of those positives stemmed from how the Americans functioned on the ball. They enjoyed the advantage in possession (53 percent possession share, according to Opta statistics) and moved the ball precisely in the middle third (84 percent passing accuracy).

Those efforts in possession restricted Colombia’s effectiveness on the counter and underpinned the structure of the side, but Cristian Zapata and James Rodridguez pounced from dead ball situations to secure the points.

"For the most part, I thought we did really well," U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. "The guys in front of me they put in absolutely great shifts in. At the end of the day it's two set piece goals."

The performance did not deliver the desired rewards on opening night, but it did provide a sturdy foundation as the Americans shift their focus toward CONCACAF rivals Costa Rica, according to Klinsmann.

“I think the players, coming out of that game, they see, it was the number three [team] in the world, we can play with them, we can damage them,” Klinsmann said. “It didn’t happen [on Friday], but, hopefully, next time.”

Klinsmann and his players brought forward when they returned to the training field at Avaya Stadium in San Jose on Saturday to prepare for the Ticos.

The circumstances – plus the prospect of playing against a Costa Rica side predicated on solidity first and foremost – increase the need to create more opportunities from the run of play.

"The challenge now is to go into the Costa Rica game and win," Guzan said. "Before this game even started, we knew that the second game in the tournament was always going to be as big as the first. In that sense, nothing changes."


Starting U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan

Klinsmann praised his players for their application and diligence as they attempted to break down the Colombians, but he also underscored the need for more incisiveness in the final third in the second Group A encounter.

At this point, the emphasis falls squarely upon finding a way to translate the careful work in possession into gilt-edged opportunities in the final third. It is a task that requires a combination of creativity between the lines and ruthlessness inside the penalty area.

“Those traits did not rise to the fore against Colombia, but Klinsmann said he hopes those frustrations pave the way for a breakthrough on Tuesday and set the U.S. on course for a place in the quarterfinals.

“The key is to find ways to play through a very compact, very well organized Colombian side,” Klinsmann said. “We have to find ways there to find the forwards up front, find spots to go through. It doesn’t really matter what system you play. We have to find those opportunities against Costa Rica and finish them off.”

According to defender Geoff Cameron, the team is already looking ahead.

“It’s a big game against Costa Rica coming up and we’ll keep our heads held high. We know what we have to do.,” Cameron said. “We did show some good things. We’re playing better soccer than we have in a long time. … It will come.”

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MNT Jun 4, 2016
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