The U.S. Men’s National Team is set to continue the knockout stage of the Copa America Centenario – a tournament celebrating the 100th anniversary of the historical Copa America tournament, the championship of South America – in a semifinal matchup against No. 1-ranked Argentina on Tuesday, June 22 at NRG Stadium in Houston (9:00 p.m. ET – FS1, Univision, UDN). Here is what you need to know about the #USMNT heading into the win-or-go-home match against La Albiceleste.
The USA is 9-2-0 in 2016 and has won six of seven games since reporting for camp in mid-May leading up to the tournament. The road to Copa America Centenario included friendly victories against Puerto Rico (3-1), Ecuador (1-0) and Bolivia (4-0). In the group stage, the U.S. dropped its first game 2-0 to Colombia, but rebounded with consecutive shutouts including a 4-0 win against Costa Rica and a 1-0 shutout against Panama, despite playing 42 minutes with just 10 men. The MNT defeated Ecuador 2-1 in the quarterfinals last Thursday with goals from Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes to advance to tonight's semifinal. With a win tonight, the U.S. would advance to the Final at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on Sunday evening. If the USA were to lose, they will compete in the Third-place Game in Phoenix on Saturday night.
Dempsey leads the team with three goals - which is tied for third in the competition - and paces the tournament with three assists. Having scored in the home of his club team, Seattle Sounders FC, last game, Dempsey returns home to the Lone Star State, less than 150 miles of his hometown of Nacogdoches for the semifinal.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s team has improved to 52-23-17 under his watch. He ranks second on the MNT’s all-time list for wins behind Bruce Arena with 71. He ranks first in U.S. history with a winning percentage exceeding .700 in official competition.
The U.S. deployed same starting XI for all three matches in group phase, but was forced to change course in the quarterfinals due to DeAndre Yedlin's suspension on a red card. Though Yedlin is available against Argentina, the MNT will be without Alejandro Bedoya, Jermaine Jones and Bobby Wood due to yellow card accumulation.
The MNT is also in the process of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. The U.S. sits in second place in Group C in the Semifinal Round of Qualifying with two matches left to determine the participants in “The Hex”, the final round that begins in November.
The U.S. roster for Copa America Centenario is made up of three goalkeepers, eight forwards and 12 midfielders/forwards.
There are 14 players from the 2014 FIFA World Cup squad, and a total of 19 who have already appeared in qualifying for Russia 2018. The group includes Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Matt Besler, Michael Bradley, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Clint Dempsey, Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones, Chris Wondolowski, DeAndre Yedlin, and Graham Zusi.
The team has combined for 967 caps, good for an average of more than 42 per player. Dempsey leads the team with 128 appearances, and his 52 goals rank second in USA history. He notably scored his 50th in the group stage at Soldier Field in Chicago, the same site he also scored his first. Meanwhile, 20-year-old goalkeeper Ethan Horvath is the lone player on the roster without a senior team cap.
12 players on the roster come from MLS, along with four from the German Bundesliga, three from the English Premier League, two from Liga MX (Mexico) and one apiece from the Scottish Premiership, Ligue 1 (France) and Tippeligaen (Norway).
Christian Pulisic is the youngest player on the roster at 17 years, 9 months and 3 days old as of the semifinal matchup with Argentina, while Tim Howard is the oldest player on the roster at 37 years, 3 months and 15 days old. They are separated by a span of 19 years, 6 months and 12 days.
While the roster consists primarily of players with FIFA World Cup experience, it also includes a bevy of young newcomers. Up top, speedy attackers Bobby Wood (23) and Gyasi Zardes (24) have impressed offensively since becoming regular contributors in the past year and a half. After playing in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, defenders DeAndre Yedlin (22) and John Brooks (23) have become consistent starters with Brooks having earned Man of the Match twice in three group stage games. Leading up to the tournament, Pulisic (17) and Darlington Nagbe (25) drew headlines for their creative play and goal-scoring ability. The team also features former 24-year-old D.C. United teammates in Perry Kitchen and Steve Birnbaum. In goal, 20-year-old shot stopper Horvath saw significant time with the U-23 U.S. MNT side throughout Olympic Qualifying, but has yet to debut with the full team.
Guzan is the Goalkeeper
Two weeks prior to the tournament, Klinsmann announced Guzan will be the MNT’s primary option in goal for the tournament. Guzan, 31, stopped 16 shots and recorded two clean sheets in the group stage. He has not allowed a goal in the run of play in six games, dating back to May 25. Guzan has now posted 11 shutouts in 23 career matches in official competition, as well as five in eight total appearances this year.
The Homer Glenn, Ill., native started 13 of 20 matches for the U.S. last year, including all six matches in the Gold Cup. Guzan also started all three friendlies leading up to the tournament, allowing just one goal over 225 minutes of play.
“The Polar Bear” was selected second overall in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft and earned MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors in 2007. In 2008, Guzan transferred to Aston Villa, where he has since made 167 appearances across all competitions.
Leaning on Prior Experience
This summer marks the fourth time the U.S. has participated in a Copa America tournament, having previously done so in 1993, 1995, and 2007. The MNT defeated Chile, Argentina and Mexico en route to a fourth-place finish in 1995, but was eliminated in the Group Round in both 1993 and 2007. Guzan and Beckerman both played for the U.S. in 2007.
The U.S. has found itself in a semifinal of a major competition set to face the No. 1-ranked team in the world as recently as the 2009 Confederations Cup when the MNT defeated Spain 2-0. They will look to repeat history against Argentina, in what would surely go down as one of the most significant wins in U.S. Soccer history.