TAMPA, FL — The United States Men’s National Team fell 4-2 to Colombia after holding a lead in the second half. Colombia dominated the majority of the match and the U.S. struggled in basic defending. There were signs of promise from the young Americans, but not enough talent in front of 38,631 fans in Raymond James Stadium, a U.S. soccer record attendance in Tampa.
“The fixtures that we put together in the fall were excellent fixtures and tonight was a great example of when you play a team like Colombia that’s been together as long as they have, and the experience they have, and the technical speed and quality that they have, they’ll punish you,” USMNT Head Coach Dave Sarachan said. “There were a lot of individual mistakes that created their chances and we got punished. That’s part of the process from playing great teams like this and I think we’ll learn a lot from this.”
In his first appearance in 2018 and 141st overall – tying Clint Dempsey for third on the all-time list — Michael Bradley started and wore the captain’s band. Zack Steffen made his sixth appearance of the year – tying a USMNT record for most appearances by a goalkeeper in their debut year – and Bobby Wood, the nation’s top goal scorer this year, got the nod up top.
The U.S. started the match trying to play an open game but when the Yanks pushed forward they left Colombia to hit them on the counter. This was a huge problem as the Americans’ defending was poor and Colombia was able to break them down with ease.
The U.S. had a few chances early on. In the ninth minute, Julian Green hit a shot from about 25 yards out that went inches wide. Six minutes later, Kenny Saief won a free kick by the corner flag but his service in was poor. He had a shot at redemption in the 29th minute, but his shot from distance sailed over the bar.
As the game went on Colombia gained more and more confidence, with each attack looking more threatening than the last. Antonee Robinson was constantly caught too high up the field and the Wall of Brooks looked like it had a huge hole in it. This culminated in a spectacular goal from James Rodriguez in the 36th minute.
“Obviously they’re a good team and they found ways [to get chances],” said Matt Miazga. “What we have to do now is go back, review some video, and make some adjustments in training and learn from it. That’s all we can do. We have to give credit to Colombia. They’re a good side, they attack well, and there were some difficult moments to defend.”
Saief was lazily defending Rodriguez, who made one move and got free. Brooks was then too slow at moving up to James and the Bayern Munich star curled it into the top corner.
WHAT. A. GOAL. JAMES RODRÍGUEZ. pic.twitter.com/FkC1VMJYrs— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 12, 2018
James nearly doubled up just five minutes later. He easily got around Robinson and fired a shot. Steffen got a piece of it and Matt Miazga stopped it on the line. Robinson then cleared the ball away, ending the chance and the game went into halftime at 1-0.
“At halftime we addressed the fact that I thought we were pretty sloppy in terms of possession,” Sarachan said. “We were a little impatient. At times I think we could’ve really slowed the tempo and I thought we played the ball a lot on their terms in the first half.
“Really pleased with the second half start. Obviously, getting the goals was good but I thought our approach and quality improved.”
The beginning of the second half had a completely different feel to it. The U.S. brought an energy out of the locker room after the half and Colombia looked to possess the ball and not force anything. Then, out of nowhere, the Yanks tied it up. Robinson put in a cross. The ball deflected off of Colombian defender Davinson Sanchez and Kellyn Acosta was there to put it in the back of the net.
Track that run!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 12, 2018
Kellyn Acosta scores the USMNT's first goal of the night against Colombia. pic.twitter.com/tFNzWJF6i3
Three minutes later, Wood gave the Americans the lead. Wood tried to start a counter attack but lost control of the ball. Luckily for him, Green was there to win it back. Green got down the field and passed it off to Tim Weah and the youngster played a perfect ball to Wood, who had no trouble finding the back of the net.
“Early in the game we found some success,” Miazga said. “If we stayed in a compact shape they would make mistakes and we would take those chances and get some opportunities. You saw early, early in the first half we had some possession high up the pitch. Later in the first half that kinda went away. We went into the locker room [at halftime] and said, ‘look. If we stay compact we’re going to get chances.’ And then you saw in the beginning of the second half we took a 2-1 lead.”
That pass from Tim Weah = WORLD. CLASS. pic.twitter.com/ilxjnrygmc— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 12, 2018
Down a goal, Colombia started pushing forward and the U.S. then had no answers to stop the powerful attack and the Yanks’ lead lasted just five minutes.
Carlos Bacca levels the score for Colombia! pic.twitter.com/dFhSO1Ez5h— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 12, 2018
With the game tied at two, Colombia was still not happy and kept pushing up the field. In the 74th minute, it quickly got down the field, exposing weakness all over the Yanks’ defense, and Falcao was wide open at the top of the box after beating Marky Delgado in a footrace back to goal. Falcao eased the ball into the back of the net and Steffen had no chance at saving it.
EL TIGRE!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 12, 2018
Falcao finishes off the counter-attack as Colombia retake the lead. pic.twitter.com/3exOhCC2ir
Colombia killed the game off four minutes after that. James had the ball at his feet inside the box and put a great ball in for Cristian Borja, who hit it off the volley. Steffen got his fingers on it but could not do enough to keep it out and the U.S. went down 4-2.
Another GOLAZO from Colombia!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 12, 2018
Miguel Borja with the scissor kick finish on a James assist. WOW. pic.twitter.com/e8OUSO2Tc4
“When you play against good teams, when you play against teams with good players, if your reading of situations isn’t good enough, if your ability to put out fires, both individually and collectively, isn’t good enough, then all they need is an inch to be able to slip a pass through a little window, to get off a shot, to finish off certain plays,” Bradley said.
After that goal, the U.S. could not muster much more and the game was ultimately over. There were signs of promise but Colombia had little difficulty in beating the Americans. Colombia finished the game with more shots (17-5), shots on target (7-2), and corners (6-3) than the U.S. and held 62% possession.
The Yanks are back in action again on Tuesday against Peru in East Hartford, CT. Sarachan stated “that there are plans to make a number of changes on Tuesday.”