Copa América hopes die day before Colombia match.
By Gary Davidson
(Thursday, July 5, 2007) -- The United States men will be playing for pride when they face Colombia tonight to conclude their Copa América Group C schedule at Estadio Metropolitano FdL in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, in a 6:30 p.m. (ET) match televised by GolTV and Spanish-language TeleFutura.
Following that match, Argentina will face Paraguay to decide the Group C winner. That 8:45 game will also be broadcast by those two networks.
The U.S. and Columbia, who are 0-2, were effectively eliminated from moving to the quarterfinals when Mexico drew Chile 0-0 and then officially out of contention when Brazil edged Ecuador 1-0 in Group A.
Eight of 12 teams advance to the second round -- the top two teams from each group and the two third-place teams with the best records. Since Uruguay and Chile, the third-place finishers in Groups A and B, respectively, both have four points, the U.S. and Colombia are left trying to avoid last place in Group C.
The U.S. might have expected its fate when it decided to retain only nine players from its Gold Cup championship team to compete in Copa América. The Copa squad was particularly inexperienced with 16 of the 22 players having appeared seven or less times in international competition. Three players -- striker Herculez Gomez, and defenders Marvell Wynne and Drew Moor -- earned their first caps in Venezuela, while five other players made the trip having represented the Red, White and Blue only once. Defender Bobby Boswell, who has yet to play in Copa América, has two caps.
The fact that the U.S. did not send its "A" team to Copa América did not please officials from CONMEBOL, the South American confederation which operates this event, the longest running international soccer competition in the world, held for the first time in 1916 in Argentina.
The U.S last played in Copa América in 1995, the year before the start of Major League Soccer, whose season starts in April and concludes in November, conflicting with the August-to-May schedules of most of the leagues in the world. While most of the top players of other Copa América participants were available because they were in their offseasons, MLS players miss extensive time with their clubs to participate in summer competitions.
The Americans, who were invited here with Mexico as guest teams, might not be asked back to Copa América soon. "We like for the continent's most important competition to be respected with the best players," CONMEBOL general secretary Eduardo Deluca told The Associated Press yesterday. The U.S. "opted to send a team with some players who aren't their regulars. That doesn't please us."
Even having lost 4-1 to Argentina and 3-1 to Paraguay, the Americans (10-2-1 in 2007) have performed better than expected. Argentina trailed briefly and needed 64 minutes to take the lead for good against the U.S. The Americans, it might be argued, outplayed Paraguay, but was undone by dreadful finishing as chance after chance went wasted.
"The result is difficult for us tonight," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said after the Paraguay match. "We feel that the effort of the team was strong, nonetheless we didn't do very well with some of the chances that we created, and we certainly made a mistake that Paraguay was able to take advantage of."
The U.S. is 3-8-3 (.321) all-time against Colombia, but the Americans won 3-0 in the last meeting March 9, 2005, in Fullerton, Calif. Three players on the current roster appeared in that match: midfielder Eddie Gaven, and forwards Eddie Johnson and Taylor Twellman. Midfielder Ben Olsen is the only other U.S. player to face Colombia, entering as a reserve in a 2-2 draw February 19, 2002, in Miami, Fla.
Against Paraguay Monday, Moor became the 16th player to earn his first career cap in 2007, the most in any year since Brad Friedel, Cobi Jones and Joe-Max Moore were among the 21 to accomplish the feat in 1992. The record is 49 players to earn their first cap in a calendar year, that being in 1973.
With defender Jonathan Bornstein and midfielder Benny Feilhaber each earning 10 caps in 2007, it was the first time two players have made double-digit appearances in their first year with the national team. Midfielder and captain Claudio Reyna, who retired from international competition after the 2006 World Cup, became the fifth American to open his career with 10 or more caps in the first year, appearing in a rookie record 19 times in 1994.
Bornstein leads the team in minutes this year with 900, having played every minute of all 10 games in which he has appeared