At a purely objectively level, few people thought the U.S. would open the Copa America Cashgrabenario by beating Colombia. Though FIFA rankings are deeply flawed, this was still the No. 31 team in the world facing the No. 3 team in the world.
But memories of advancing through a difficult group at the 2014 World Cup and months of hype leading up to a special tournament designed specifically to be played in the United States encouraged a uniquely American brand of optimism to grow in the lead-up to the tournament’s first match. And then an underwhelming Colombia beat the U.S. 2-0, with goals from a corner kick and a penalty that resulted from a handball. Oh, and James Rodriguez left with an injury in the 73rd minute.
Though the U.S. had more possession, they only managed two shots on target to Colombia’s seven. And though this was a deflating and uninspiring, if not totally expected, result for the U.S., manager Jurgen Klinsmann claimed to feel pretty OK about it.
Klinsmann: “There was no difference [between the two teams], besides the two goals.” #usmnt
— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) June 4, 2016
That’s like saying there was no difference between Leicester City and Aston Villa this season besides the fact that one won the Premier League title and the other got relegated.
As silly as it sounds, he kind of had to say that, though. If he walked into the press room and said “Yeah, my team’s just not that good right now” after the very first match of this tournament, it would be tough to expect his players to have any confidence at all going into their next two matches.
Clint Dempsey has been out of form all season and is looking every bit of his 33 years of age, and the exciting duo of Darlington Nagbe and 17-year-old Christian Pulisic came off the bench but are only just getting their first tastes of playing in a big tournament. On the whole, this is a team whose best pieces are either too inexperienced or getting too old to inspire faith that they can realize Klinsmann’s goal of reaching the semifinals.
Colombia, meanwhile, should be about as disappointed as you can be in a 2-0 victory. Plus, having 2014 World Cup golden boot winner James Rodriguez suffer a shoulder injury already is downright terrifying for them.
So that’s how the 100th anniversary celebration of the Copa America got underway. Depression for the home nation and a nasty injury for one of the tournament’s biggest stars. But, hey, at least Pitbull wasn’t there.