62516_isi_howardtim_usmntjd06231625 John Dorton/isiphotos.com
Copa America Centenario

Third-Place Game Offers Yanks Crucial Opportunity

While it's hard to get too excited about a consolation match, all signs indicate that Jurgen Klinsmann will pull out all the stops as the U.S. clashes with No. 3-ranked Colombia tonight in Arizona.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
June 25, 2016
10:55 AM

THE UNITED STATES men's national team will play its final game of the 2016 Copa America Centenario when it hosts Colombia (8pm ET, FS1) in the third place game in Glendale, Ariz. In major tournaments, the value of a third-place game is sometimes debatable but all signs suggest that Jurgen Klinsmann will take the match very seriously.

Here are my thoughts on the game

Third-place games offers opportunity 

Of course the United States met its stated objective by advancing to the Copa America semifinal but the lopsided 4-0 loss to Argentina on Tuesday was cause for concern as the Yanks couldn’t even muster a single shot. In New York on Friday, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati told reporters that he believed the United States was making progress against top nations. At Copa America, the U.S. team struggled against two premier sides: third-ranked Colombia and FIFA's No. 1 team Argentina.

Saturday's against Colombia gives the U.S. team a rematch against the team it lost to in the opener and also the opportunity to close out the tournament with a win over a top five team. A victory would initiate a healing process after the Argentina game and allow the team to end the tournament with a positive memory.

Given that, I expect the United States to continue with its core lineup—players who started in the important wins against Costa Rica, Paraguay, and Ecuador.

Klinsmann has been adamant that this third-place game is more than a glorified exhibition and that makes sense. After the mostly successful tournament, ending it on a high note would be great for the program.

Will Tim Howard make an impact?

The most notable change that Klinsmann announced on Friday is that Tim Howard will start in goal. That likely concludes the tournament for Brad Guzan who played every minute in goal so far.

For Guzan it was mostly a good tournament which was important for the Chicago native coming off a rough season with Aston Villa. He made some quality saves, particularly in the wins over Paraguay and Ecuador. Against Argentina, however, he made an error on Ezequiel Lavezzi’s opener in the third minute which set the tone for the 4-0 rout.

Now Howard has the opportunity to make a statement in a game where he will likely be tested against a talented opponent. If Howard can meet the challenge, it could raise speculation that the starting keeper position is still not settled as the U.S. prepares for the Hexagonal next year.

Who starts on the back line?

The U.S. will welcome back Bobby Wood, Alejandro Bedoya, and Jermaine Jones who were all suspended for the semifinal. All thee should return to their starting positions in a similar formation as the first four games of the tournament. 

But there are injury concerns surrounding Fabian Johnson and John Brooks. Matt Besler is almost certain to start if Brooks and Johnson can’t go but it remains to be seen where on the field the Sporting Kansas City veteran would play. Normally a central defender, Besler fit in well at left back against Ecuador in a telling sign that Klinsmann simply does not trust Edgar Castillo in the backline against top teams. With Klinsmann taking the third-place game seriously, Besler seems likely at left back as opposed to central defense.

Likewise, in place of Brooks, the first central defender off the bench so far this summer has been D.C. United’s Steve Birnbaum.

A backline of Besler at left back, Geoff Cameron and Birnbaum in the middle, and DeAndre Yedlin at right back is far from ideal but may be what we see.

Will you watch Saturday's game? What would you like to see from Klinsmann and his men?

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