With five head-to-head matches scheduled during a span of 13 weeks, the United States National Teams are on a collision course with Colombia. Raising the stakes, the trio of games on the men’s side carry both Olympic and Copa America Centenario implications.
“We’ll do everything we can to prepare very, very thoroughly for Colombia,” said U.S. Men's National Team head coach and Jurgen Klinsmann. “We can reach out, put the scouting plans together for all of their strengths, weaknesses and their individual players. We can get our homework done and prepare the guys 100 percent for the job.”
Elsewhere, fresh off another dominant Olympic Qualifying Championship title, the WNT will also host Colombia in two friendly matches in April to complete the three-team, five-game string of successive encounters.
All in all, the MNT and WNT are a combined 6-10-4 (20 GF, 21 GA) against Los Cafeteros, with some of the most iconic games of the now simmering rivalry played in the not too distant past.
From the infamous Andrés Escobar own-goal in the MNT’s 2-1 win at the Rose Bowl in the 1994 World Cup to 1990’s 17-round penalty shootout in Miami, the United States and Colombia have a history laced with intensity.
Jozy Altidore stepped up to bury a PK against Colombia when the teams met in 2014.
After the MNT’s narrow loss to Colombia in a London friendly at Craven Cottage in 2014, last year’s Round of 16 meeting at the Women’s World Cup raised the stakes between the two federations, with Colombia doing some trash-talking through the media. The match itself was an intense encounter, featuring a red card and two penalty kicks, as Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd scored to spark the USA toward its eventual world championship with a 2-0 win.
In three previous meetings, the WNT has never scored fewer than two goals against Colombia in a match, holding an 8-0 goal difference against the South Americans. Since 2011 when the women’s programs first met, the USA’s goals against Colombia have come from Lloyd (3), Megan Rapinoe (2), Heather O'Reilly, Wambach and Morgan.
The women’s programs have never played inside the United States, nor have they met outside tournament competition. The first time came during 2011 Women’s World Cup group play, with the USA winning 3-0 in Sinsheim, Germany. The rivalry then added another layer in group play at the 2012 Olympics, with the USA’s 3-0 victory marred by an off-the-ball incident as Lady Andrade hit Abby Wambach in the face, an indiscretion for which she was later suspended after video evidence revealed the punch.
Lauren Holiday (left) celebrates with Megan Rapinoe, who scored one of the USA's three goals vs. Colombia in the 2012 Olympics.
All that history will next come to a boil for the April 6 clash at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Connecticut, which will be the first meeting between the two sides since the Women’s World Cup match and will be followed four days later with a game at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania.
On the men’s side, the Olympic Qualifying playoff for the U.S. Under-23 MNT will be a do-or-die series of two games in four days with the first leg on March 25 in Barranquilla, Colombia, and the second on March 29 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. The 4,140-mile round-trip will determine the USA’s 2016 Olympic fate.
The U.S. hopes to return to the tournament for the first time since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where the U.S. posted a 1-1-1 record but failed to advance past the group stage. The USA’s best showing in the Olympics came at the 2000 Summer Games in Australia when the team advanced past Japan in the quarterfinals and finished fourth.
Many of the expected participants in this year's Olypmic qualifiers were part of the U-20 MNT which eliminated Colombia in the Round of 16 of the U-20 World Cup last summer.
The final match of the five-game series between Colombia and the United States crystalized on Sunday at the Copa America Centenario draw. Jose Pekerman’s fourth-ranked team will face the United States in the opening match of Copa America on June 3 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
Colombia and the United States have met 17 times at the senior level on the men’s side – an amount tied for 10th most of any MNT opponent. The crowd that watched the U.S. victory at the Rose Bowl in the 1994 ranks second all-time for U.S. home matches as 93,689 fans saw Ernie Stewart score in the eventual 2-1 victory that also included the Escobar own goal.
Most recently, the Yanks and Los Cafeteros met in the 2014 friendly in London, with Colombia claiming a 2-1 victory. Jozy Altidore, serving as captain for the match, scored for the USA in that neutral-site showdown, which was welcomed with much fanfare from both countries.
On a personal level, midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, who was born in New Jersey of Colombian descent, will have some family history adding importance to the Centenario match-up. Both Bedoya’s father, Adriano, and grandfather, Fabio, played professionally in Colombia – for Millonarios and Deportes Quindío, respectively.
Alejandro Bedoya previously faced the country of his heritage when the USA took on Colombia in 2014.
After U.S. Soccer’s fifth and final meeting of the year against Colombia – a match that will kick off the 2016 Copa America Centenario – Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad will face Costa Rica in Chicago at Solider Field on June 7 and Paraguay in Philadelphia on June 11 at Lincoln Financial Field to round out group play in the prestigious tournament that celebrates 100 years of the Copa America competition.
Some of the globe’s greatest teams and players will take center stage, including: Lionel Messi, Neymar, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, David Luiz, James Rodriguez, Kaka, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey, who are expected to take part in the four-week soccer festival. The championship game of this historic tournament will be played on June 26 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.