After a year of anticipation, it's finally time for the Copa America Centenario to begin. The biggest Copa America yet features not just the powers of South America, but also some of the best teams in North America, including the host United States. The USMNT will hope to get the tournament started in fine fashion with a big win -- but they're starting off with a stern test by having to battle with a Colombia side spoiling for a fight.
No one on the Colombian national team were happy with their finishes in their last two big summer tournaments, falling in the first knockout round to Argentina in the Copa America last summer and losing to Brazil in the World Cup quarterfinals in 2014. They'll be eager to prove that they can indeed play with and beat the best teams around in this year's Copa, and starting off that campaign by soundly thumping the USMNT would be a good way to show that.
Colombia are in good form, having won all three of their matches played this year against Haiti, Ecuador and Bolivia -- but the United States soundly beat Ecuador and Bolivia last week, and they haven't lost to Haiti since the 1970's. Colombia look better in terms of raw talent, but the U.S. aren't far behind and have looked just as good against common foes. This has all the hallmarks of being a fantastic match, and one that many will remember fondly after the tournament -- though one set of fans will certainly remember it with more joy, depending on who wins the match.
Key player -- Clint Dempsey (United States)
Dempsey wasn't exactly impressive during the USMNT's warmup friendlies, and as the man who is replacing Jozy Altidore up top in the attack the U.S. need him to start being impressive as soon as possible. If Dempsey continues to struggle, this tournament is going to be an uphill struggle for the Americans -- and with him facing off against a tough Colombia defense, things might not go very well in this match. Fans can and will hope, though, and if the veteran striker can finally get rolling again, the USMNT will be a much tougher foe to hold down than some of their opponents will be hoping for.
James has the potential to be the best playmaker in this tournament, though his form has suffered ever since the start of last year's Copa America. If he recovers at all, though, he and his fellow attackers will make for an incredible threat, one that Bradley will be working extraordinarily hard to help defend against. While the U.S. have typically started matches with a more straight-up defensive midfielder behind Bradley, his athleticism and work rate will make him the better matchup to track the agile and tricky James than either of the USMNT's more defensive options. How this battle plays out could well determine the outcome of this match.
Match Date/Time: Friday, 9:30 p.m. ET, 6:30 p.m. local
Venue: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California, U.S.A.
TV: Fox Sports 1 (U.S. - English), UniMas, Univision Deportes (U.S. - Spanish), Caracol TV, RCN Television (Colombia)
Online: Fox Soccer 2 Go, Fox Sports Go, fuboTV (U.S.)
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