USA 1-5 Colombia: U.S. gets ‘wake-up call’ after second-half defensive collapse

The U.S. men’s national team’s game against Colombia was always meant to be a tune-up for Copa América this summer. A series of two games, ending Wednesday in Orlando against Brazil, is the last chance for the U.S. to test options before the tournament. On Saturday in Landover, Maryland, the U.S. had plenty to take away on what not to do.

The U.S. was sloppy in the back and gave Colombia several chances. Los Cafeteros did not waste them.
The result was an ugly 5-1 scoreline that leaves the U.S. knowing they have plenty of work to do before the Copa América starts — especially considering Colombia is a potential knockout round opponent if the U.S. advances from the group stage.

“It’s a tough situation, obviously,” U.S. winger Tim Weah said on the TNT broadcast after the game. “We have to be professional and get back in the lab and kind of work on some things.”

The concern about this U.S. team was whether they could beat big opponents on big stages. This game only enhanced those concerns.

Before the games, two crucial absences complicated the USMNT depth: the existing ACL injury to Sergino Dest that has left the U.S. without its first choice right back and the recent load management of forward Josh Sargent, who was ruled out of the Colombia game on Friday. Head coach Gregg Berhalter opted for Florian Balogun to start as center forward. His combination play with Tim Weah produced the USMNT’s lone goal. Defensively the issues steamed beyond the question of right back.

Paul Tenorio breaks down some of the main talking points from the game.

Should fans worry about the U.S. defensively?

Simply put, it was one of the worst performances in recent memory we’ve seen from the U.S. backline.

Part of that might be chalked up to the level of the opponent, but there were also far too many mistakes from players who are considered some of the most reliable in this U.S. pool. The U.S. made errors that gave far too many chances to Colombia, and Colombia finished those looks easily and gratefully.

The issues weren’t isolated to one or two players. Center back Tim Ream wasn’t as clean as we have come to expect in a U.S. uniform. Part of that might be because he played just one Premier League game for Fulham since February 17. If Ream is going to be the starter in the Copa, getting these minutes in the friendlies is vital, but the hiccups probably aren’t unexpected. Antonee Robinson, who has been one of the highest-floor players for the U.S. in the last three years, had an off day. Cameron Carter-Vickers had a poor giveaway that led directly to a goal in the second half. Johnny Cardoso struggled in midfield starting at the No. 6 in his biggest opportunity so far in a U.S. jersey. Even goalkeeper Matt Turner, who didn’t play much this year for Nottingham Forest, looked shaky in net, giving up a couple of goals at the near post. Colombia’s third goal saw seven U.S. defenders in the box, yet none picked up the late Colombian runners for an easy finish.

The attacking side for the U.S. has typically been the area we’ve spent most of our time analyzing. Against Colombia, there were just too many bad moments that gave Los Cafeteros easy looks at goal in transition and it led to a blowout loss.

The U.S. is going to have to be much, much better against Brazil on Wednesday, and in the Copa after that.

U.S. digs early hole

The frustration for the U.S. wasn’t just about the hole they found themselves in 20 minutes into Saturday’s game against Colombia. It was how they found themselves there.

Robinson went to the ground to prevent a ball from sliding in behind him, but there was no run coming. That led to an easy first goal. Then, Tim Ream’s mistake playing out of the back eventually led to a corner kick that wasn’t cleared and was finished by Borre at the back post. Again, a preventable goal.

The U.S. was lucky to avoid a third when Antonee Robinson turned it over in the 61st minute inside his own half and the counter led to Luis Diaz’s shot hitting off the inside of the post, rolling across the face of goal and out.

The U.S. is very much still the underdog against teams like Colombia and, on Wednesday in Orlando, Brazil. The U.S. was 3-13-5 all-time vs. Colombia going into the game, their second-worst record against any opponent. The worst? Brazil. The USMNT is 1-18-0 against the Seleção all-time. Considering the records, considering the opponents, the U.S. has to play a clean game. They can’t give away easy half-chances. If they do, the result is what we saw against Colombia: Two mistakes from the back line, and two goals for Colombia.

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Weah was a rare bright spot for the U.S. against Colombia. (Photo by Greg Fiume/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Tim Weah’s goal a lone bright spot

When we talk about core players for the U.S. men’s national team, so often the same names come up: Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams. Weah, though, has been one of the most consistent starters and performers for the U.S., putting in quietly dangerous outings in qualifiers, Qatar, where he scored the first goal of the tournament for the U.S., and Nations League.

So much of the damage Weah has caused for the U.S. has been through his verticality on the wing. He takes defenders on, can beat you to the end line and is also dangerous arriving in the box to finish. On Saturday, he showed a bit more of what he can do.

Weah dropped centrally to get on the ball, turned after receiving a pass from Gio Reyna and curled a pass wide to Folarin Balogun. Weah then sprinted into the box, signaling to Balogun where he wanted to get it back, then blistered a shot to the far post when Balogun laid it out to him.

With the right back spot somewhat open, there has been talk about playing Weah there considering he has played right wingback for Juventus. His goal against Colombia showed some of the attacking edge you might lose by dropping Weah deeper on the field.

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Pulisic left the game at halftime due to managing his minutes. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

We got just one half of Christian Pulisic for the U.S., as he was pulled at halftime in a planned substitution to manage his minutes ahead of the Copa America tournament, but there were a few important takeaways from the 45 minutes.

First, Pulisic wore the armband. While Tyler Adams was the captain at halftime, we’ve seen Pulisic take on more and more of a leadership role with this U.S. team beyond just his on-field performances. He seems willing to embrace other aspects of leadership, and though this is not the first time seeing him wearing the captain’s armband I think it’s taking on more significance for the team’s biggest star.

Secondly, Pulisic was the most dangerous player for the U.S. in the first half, and that is what the USMNT is going to need to see from the winger if they want to be successful in the Copa. Pulisic was the best attacking player for the U.S. in Qatar and tends to step up on the biggest stages. Coming off of a career club season, the U.S. will need him to carry it over. Against Colombia, he hit the post on a header and also served in a dangerous cross in the 42nd minute.

One thing we didn’t see that I wonder if we will during the Copa: Pulisic and Weah switching sides during the game to unbalance opponents, especially considering Pulisic’s success playing on the right for AC Milan.

What next for USMNT?

Wednesday, June 12: Brazil (Camping World Stadium, Orlando), friendly, 7 pm ET

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(Top photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

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