United States 2016 Copa America: American Men’s Soccer Faces Most Important Game In Team History Against Argentina

The United States Men’s National Team has made a surprising run to the semifinals of the 2016 Copa America Tournament. After a 2-0 loss in their opening game of group play against Colombia, the United States has won three games in a row, including a 2-1 victory over Ecuador in the quarterfinals.

United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann entered Copa America with a lot of pressure on his shoulders. There have been growing questions about Klinsmann’s job security after the United States failed to win the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, losing to Jamaica in the semifinals despite hosting the tournament in the United States.

“We will look at everything after this competition,” United States Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said prior to Copa America 2016.

“It’s the official competitions that matter the most, and we haven’t been up to where we’d like to be,” Gulati said, according to Steven Goff of the Washington Post. “We need to win a few games, whether it’s now or September, October, November … No one has ironclad job security.”

By taking down Costa Rica, Paraguay, and Ecuador consecutively, the United States has likely not only saved Klinsmann’s job, but also put themselves in position to do the unthinkable and make the final of a major tournament.

Standing in the United States’ way is one of the pre-tournament favorites and possibly the best player in the world as they will meet Argentina and Lionel Messi Tuesday night on FOX Sports 1 at 9 p.m. The United States is 2-6-2 all time against Argentina, with the last win coming in 1999 in a friendly. The other United States victory came in the 1995 Copa America, which was also the only other time the United States made the semifinals.

If the Americans are going to pull the monumental upset, the defense is going to have to be at the top of its game in front of keeper Brad Guzan. John Brooks has been one of the best defenders in the entire tournament, but he’s going to need more help from his other teammates. Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin also must be careful to not get caught pushing too far ahead or Messi and Gonzalo Higuain could do major damage.

While the United States will get Yedlin back for the semifinals, Klinsmann will have to alter his lineup as midfielders Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya and forward Bobby Wood will be forced to miss the crucial match. Jones received a straight red card against Ecuador, while Wood and Bedoya will miss due to yellow card accumulation.

It’ll be interesting to see what direction Klinsmann goes in quite possibly the biggest game in United States men’s soccer history. Losing Wood is huge, as he’s been a handful for opposing defenses as his speed and creativity have played a big role in the United States’ success in this tournament.

Look for Klinsmann to insert Kyle Beckerman and Graham Zusi into the midfield for Jones and Bedoya, but replacing Wood will be most difficult for the United States. Klinsmann could turn to Chris Wondolowski, who has the most experience, but he’s 33 and doesn’t offer very much upside.

Another option would be for the United States to deploy 26-year-old Darlington Nagbe in the midfield and then move Gyasi Zardes to the top of the formation in place of Wood. This would provide the United States with more athleticism, and potentially create more opportunities.

No matter what Klinsmann decides, all of the country will be watching tonight to see if the team can do the impossible. It won’t be easy, but the United States surely won’t go down without a fight.

[Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images]