Kicking off in the late afternoon heatwave, with temperatures approaching unseasonably and unreasonably warm 90+ degrees here in Santa Clara, CA (a good 20F over the average for this time of year), perhaps the two teams can be forgiven for the low tempo encounter of few quality chances and ever fewer quality football. And that's perhaps the worst news for the US Men's National Team, as Colombia strolled their way to a 2-0 win thanks to an early goal from Cristian Zapata (scored too soon... or not) and a semi-harsh penalty just minutes from half-time on DeAndre Yedlin that James Rodgriguez made no mistake in converting (most dangerous lead... or not).
Any hopes of a US comeback were dashed in the first 15 minutes of the second half, not thanks to any additional goals, but just by Colombia actually coming out and absolutely dominating possession. (Outpassing and outpossessing your opponents when leading is a great way to see out a comfortable win.) When the Americans finally got a foot on the ball, Dempsey first had a header cleared off the line and then saw his free kick saved in rather impressive fashion by David Ospina. The revival lasted maybe 10 minutes, after which Klinsmann introduced a couple subs (Pulisic and Nagbe, who are supposed to be good) and basically destroyed any momentum the US had. Oops.
Colombia could've had a couple more from that point, with Chelsea-linked (very tenuously) Carlos Bacca slamming one off the crossbar and then a last ditch tackle from Yedlin the only thing standing between the ball and the back of the net. The only bad news for Colombia was a shoulder injury to James Rodriguez, especially in a match that didn't need his genius in the least bit. Adding insult to the literal injury was that he did it to himself.
hahahaha yup what a tool pic.twitter.com/U93TSlj3wI— amadí tídíane thiam (@amadoit_) June 4, 2016
What the match did need was a healthy dose of Juan Cuadrado, the man I came here to see. It's been a while since I've watched him outside of highlights, and, well, based on this performance, it's still the same old Cuadrado. Can't teach players in their late 20s new tricks?
Speaking of tricks, there were a few, though mostly of the same kind, the quick flick of the boot to the right and the quick first step to get past his man (Willian's go-to move as well). It worked surprisingly often. Despite playing fairly fast winger Fabian Johnson as a left back, Cuadrado got behind him, and the slow center back on that side (Brooks), with relative ease.
For the first ten minutes of the first half, and then for more regular spurts in the second, Cuadrado was at the heart of all good moves from Colombia, including several good passes in behind the defense for Carlos Bacca, as well as dominating his match-up with the full back 1-v-1. When Colombia looked for him, he was influential. When they didn't, he was a non-entity. And of course, there remains one foolproof way to stop him: physical play. He may have gotten his confidence back in Italy, but he certainly hasn't put on any new muscle. At this point, I suppose, he is what he is. We know what we'll get and that's exactly what was on display today. Other than falling victim to some confirmation bias (leaving open that possibility), I'm not seeing anything here that would make us really push for getting Cuadrado back to Chelsea. Let Juventus pay the 20m or whatever and let's move on.
So, anyway, a rather bad game, played at low tempo and at low quality to start this summer festival of international football. The US fell asleep on one set piece and got a bit unlucky on a penalty and that was that.
Oh, but at least we got witness the launch of a new object into Low Earth Orbit.
"What's that Dad?"— amadí tídíane thiam (@amadoit_) June 4, 2016
"That's the moon."
"That's the North Star.
"Bedoya's shot vs Colombia." pic.twitter.com/GchwZeVO3X