USMNT prepared for “physical” Colombia showdown in pre-Copa America friendly

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It’s been 17 months since the U.S. men’s national team faced off with a CONMEBOL opponent and unlike their last showdown with Colombia back in January 2023, Gregg Berhalter’s squad will be using Saturday’s meeting as a major building block for what’s on the horizon.

The USMNT welcomes Colombia to Commanders Field on Saturday in the first of two pre-Copa America friendlies for both countries. After winning the CONCACAF Nations League title for the third-straight time last March, the Americans are ready to get back to work ahead of a competitive tournament this summer.

While a strong showing in the Copa America is a major goal for Berhalter and his players, many believe this summer’s tournament will be a good test for what’s to come at the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

“This is preparation for the World Cup,” defender Chris Richards said to media about the Copa America and June friendly schedule. “Of course whatever tournament, whatever game we’re playing in we want to win. But we’re playing for something bigger. We’re trying to get ready for the World Cup.”

“For us, this isn’t the end all, be all. Our goal is the 2026 World Cup…This is a building step for us to get there,” USMNT forward Haji Wright said. “To get on the pitch against high-profile teams that are of great we can build as a group and have that experience when we come into the 2026 World Cup.”

The Americans have plenty of European talent back at their disposal this summer including Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna, and Antonee Robinson. Unlike their January 2023 showdown with Colombia (which came outside of a FIFA international window), the USMNT will face a much tougher test against an opponent ranked just three spots behind them in the World Rankings.

Colombia hasn’t lost a match in its last 21 opportunities, winning six-in-a-row, which featured World Cup Qualifying triumphs over Brazil and Paraguay last November. Nestor Lorenzo’s squad have earned 12 points out of 18 available in World Cup Qualifying so far, remaining as the only CONMEBOL nation to have not yet suffered a defeat.

Luis Diaz, Rafael Borre, and James Rodriguez headline a dangerous trio of attackers for Colombia while Davinson Sanchez and Santiago Arias anchor an experienced defensive corps.

“Colombia is a very difficult opponent, every game they play with a lot of intensity,” midfielder Yunus Musah told reporters. “They are very physical, especially in the defense, and I think they [have] a lot of talent in attack too.”

“You look at their playmakers like Luis Diaz and it is a tough group,” Berhalter said Friday in his pre-match press conference. “They haven’t gone undefeated in 18 matches for nothing. They are a really physical team, really strong defensively. What I really like is how they recover when pressure is broken. They get 7-8 guys back immediately in front of the penalty box to make it really difficult to penetrate. I think it’s going to be a great test for us.”

Despite being on the mountaintop of recent CONCACAF competitions, the USMNT will certainly have pressure on them over the next month. The Americans finished fourth in the 2016 Copa America, suffering a 4-0 hammering to Lionel Messi and Argentina in the semifinals before being blanked 1-0 by Colombia in the third-place match.

Only Pulisic and goalkeeper Ethan Horvath were part of the 2016 roster, while many others were still waiting to earn their first senior caps with the program. The USMNT might not be favored to win the Copa America on home soil, but a strong performance against Colombia could be the perfect start of defying those odds.

“You always want to perform to the best of your abilities. That’s something you want to do. But for us, the focus is on performance,” fellow defender Cameron Carter-Vickers said. “Obviously Colombia is a good team..It’s just about trying to find that good performance level..just trying to maximize the most learning that we can.”

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Publish date : 2024-06-07 15:24:56

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Author : theamericannews

Publish date : 2024-06-09 17:22:42

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