Tonight, “Junior” Team USA will play Argentina in their first game of Copa America 2007. Argentina is the favorite to win the whole tournament, fielding some of the best players in the world (most notably wunderkind Lionel Messi). The Americans won the Gold Cup, including an impressive showing against Mexico. However, because they are an invitee, European clubs did not have to release their American players, and therefore we arrive without many of our best players. We bring a talented (if inexperienced) team to Venezuela, including Benny Feilhaber, but most fans are just hoping that we don’t get embarrassed tonight.
8:47 pm: The American national anthem was cut short. Normally I wouldn’t think anything of it, but this is Venezuela. Hmmmm….
8:48 pm: Team USA is wearing some alternative uniform. I don;t think much of them now, but if we win this game, I will say that they look fantastic.
8:52 pm, 3rd minute: The game has begun. So far, neither team has made an aggressive move.
If you did not know this already, expect a lot of flopping from Argentina.
8:54 pm, 5th minute: Argentina makes the first move, as Messi makes a break into the box. Jimmy Conrad is able to prevent a score.
8:55 pm, 6th minute: USA’s first offensive move is (correctly) called offside.
8:56 pm, 7th minute: Eddie Johnson breaks away from the defense, before being tripped up. The referee awards us a penalty kick versus goalie/old man Abbondanzieri.
8:58 pm, 9th minute: GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLL!!! Eddie Johnson gets the penalty kick, and he gets it past the keeper on the right side of the net.
Unbelievably, USA is leading 1-0! WHOOOOO!!!
8:59 pm, 10th minute: Early, it’s looking like Riquelme is the man in midfield that the Argentinans are relying on for direction.
9:00 pm, 11th minute: GOOOLLL! Well, that joy of a lead lasted about two minutes. A good free kick by Argentina and a huge defensive oversight by the Americans lead to a two man breakaway against Kasey Keller. he didn’t stand a chance; Hernan Crespo scores easily. The game is tied at 1-1, and I am once again nervous about how quickly this game could take a turn for the worse.
9:04 pm: After the first few minutes, Argentina’s passing has gotten much better. Riquelme remains the driving force of their attack.
9:06 pm, 17th minute: USA knocks on the door from the left side, but a bad cross removes any threat for the South Americans.
9:07 pm, 18th minute: Feilhaber has been getting the most touches in our midfield so far.
9:08 pm, 20th minute: Jimmy Conrad has been doing a fairly good job defending Messi so far. I expected him to get run into the ground; that may still happen.
9:10 pm, 21st minute: I am concerned that we haven’t gotten any good opportunities on offense aside from the breakaway that led to the penalty kick.
9:12 pm, 23rd minute: After two corner kicks, Riquelme is left a lot of space on the left side, but ends up kicking a cross that goes well out of bounds, ending any threat and wasting a good opportunity.
9:14 pm, 25th minute: Bornstein passes to no one in particular, killing any momentum from making Messi turn the ball over 45 seconds before. What the heel kind of pass was that, John?
9:18 pm, 29th minute: Argentina is trying to do some fancy passing near the opposing goal. Aside from the free kick, the US defenders have yet to be fooled.
9:20 pm, 31st minute: Javier Mascherano is called for a foul on Taylor Twellman. Feilhaber or Mapp will free kick.
9:22 pm, 33nd minute: Feilhaber hooks the kick way too far to the left, and Argentina gets a goal kick.
The crowd has been loud (and certainly pro-Argentina), but on TV it doesn’t appear as intimidating as I thought it would be.
9:25 pm, 36th minute: The good news: so far in the game, Argentina has only had one shot on goal, which is less than team USA’s two and a sign that our defense is holding up. The bad news: that one shot was an easy goal off of a huge defensive lapse. What happens in the remainder of this game is when (or if) our defense makes another big mistake.
9:30 pm, 41st minute: We’re almost at halftime, and this game is still very much within our reach. To be honest, I did not expect this at all.
9:32 pm: 43rd minute: It must be karma; just after I type that, Veron hits a great strike, and only the post and the out stretched hands of Kasey Keller stop a goal. Off the corner kick, Keller must make another great save to keep Argentina from taking the lead.
9:35 pm, 45th minute: Benny Feilhaber gets a good shot from outside the zone. Abbondanzieri is there to makes the solid stops, and the first half ends.
At halftime, the game is tied at 1-1. I did not expect team USA to be this competitive against Argentina; it makes me wonder how we would have fared playing our best team. Not only have we played well against one of the best teams in the world, but we have a chance to tie or win in the second half. In order for us to get a good result, our defense must continue to nip Argentina’s offensive chances in the bud. Most importantly, we cannot beat ourselves. I cannot help but wonder that, at some point, we will make a mental mistake that could cost us the game. Argentina will take advantage of any opportunity that we might give them.
9:52 pm: The second half begins. Argentina has the ball.
9:55 pm, 48th minute: USA is still doing a good job of stopping any good scoring chances for Lionel Messi.
9:57 pm, 50th minute: Messi seems to be a little frustrated right now. Still, I don;t know how long our defense will be able to keep this up before they run out gas and the floodgates open.
10:00 pm, 53rd minute: Twellman draws another free kick very close to the Argentinan goal. I
10:01 pm, 54th minute: Justin Mapp’s free kick is strong, but too high. Argentina gets a goal kick.
I never thought we would be getting good offensive chances against one of the best teams in the world with MLS players.
10:05 pm, 58th minute: Our first sub, and it’s Argentina. Aimar comes in for Cambiasso.
10:06 pm, 59th minute: Gabriel Milito gets a yellow card for Argentina, the first of the game. USA’s ensuing free kick doesn’t threaten the goal.
10:08 pm, 61st minute: Messi is finally staring to get good opportunities. Luckily, his shot went just wide of the goal, but the Americans make their first substitution. Eddie Gaven replaces Ben Olsen in midfield.
10:11 pm, 64th minute: NOOOOOO!!! The American defense finally breaks. Messi sets up another scoring chance, this time making a great pass to Crespo, who scores from the right side, his second goal of the night. Argentina lead, 2-1.
10:14 pm, 67th minute: Saw the replay of the goal. We still had a chance to make the save, but Crespo completely faked out our goalie. The defense was unable to offer any help; it looks like they’ve lost a step or two from the beginning of the game. They need to make a substitution on defense.
10:16 pm, 69th minute: Instead, they make an offensive sub, replacing Twellman with Hercules Gomez.
10:18 pm, 72nd minute: It’s pretty much been all Argentina in the second half. They’re holding the ball a larger percentage of the time, they’re getting more scoring chances, their chances, are much better than anything that the Americans have been getting.
10:22 pm, 75th minute: Off the free kick, Argentina comes very close to putting this game away. Keller is there to make the grab before an attempted header.
10:25 pm, 78th minute: Aimar puts the game away off a great cross from the left side. Argentina now leads, 3-1, with less than 15 minutes to play.
Well, the thought pulling this one out was fun while it lasted, but We ran out of gas or Argentina figured out how to thread through our defense. Either way, they are clearly the better team, as much of an effort as we put into this game.
10:30 pm, 83rd minute: It’s worth noting that we haven;t had a real scoring opportunity since about the 60th minute, when a yellow card drew a free kick.
10:32 pm, 85th minute: Tevez was offside, but it doesn’t affect the ultimate outcome. The American defense falters again, and the fresher Argentinan team scores again. 4-1, Argentina.
I wasn’t expecting to win this game, but I hoped that we would keep it close. Most American sports fans are watching the NBA Draft; they’re just going to see the final score and think “We got clobbered”. Our defense played very well in the first half, and through the first 60 minutes the result was very much in doubt. However, the same problem that befell us in the World Cup is impacting us now: we are getting few if any, opportunities to score. When you can’t score, you can’t win. Eventually, our defense ran out of gas, and the Argentinan offense took full advantage.
10:39 pm, 90+ minutes: As the game is about to end, you can see it the American players’ eyes: They had absolutely nothing left in the tank.
10:41 pm: The game comes to an end, as Argentina wins 4-1. The score doesn’t tell the whole story. Our team played very well in the first half, but they couldn’t keep up with a superior Argentinan side in the second half. As we got tired, our weaknesses became more apparent, and Messi, Crespo, Aimar and Tevez exploited them to the fullest. For 60 minutes we did just enough to keep it close, but we failed to produce any offense, and Argentina dominated for the final 30.
It stinks to see us lose this way. Thankfully, our next two opponents should not be as daunting.