The United States men's national team is in trouble after losing 2-0 to Colombia in their Copa America opener. They'll still advance to the quarterfinals if they win their next two games, but they didn't want to be in a position where they were potentially facing two must-wins. And worst of all, they're in that position after Jurgen Klinsmann eliminated a lot of the common scapegoats for the Americans' woes.
Stats show the USMNT completing 84 percent of their passes, more total passes than Los Cafeteros, and gaining 54 percent of the possession. This is, statistically, what everyone wants to see from the Americans, and yet it meant nothing.
Klinsmann defied his critics by sticking with roughly the same lineup he used in two warm-up friendlies before Copa America, save for some minor experiments and rest for a few players. Despite constant complaints about how he doesn't know who his core is and he doesn't let them grow together, he picked the exact starting XI that everyone expected. It didn't matter. They didn't look cohesive anyway.
Michael Bradley got a start as a deep-lying playmaker, in the "No. 6" role most believe is his best. He had a lot of very good passes from that spot, and plenty of bad ones too. One of those bad passes led to this.
You can't see it in that clip, and you won't see it in any highlights of the match, but Bradley turned the ball over in his own half to start this move, under minimal pressure, when he had multiple passing options. His turnovers led to Colombia counter-attacks many times in this game, and on this particular occasion, it led directly to a goal. This was one of Bradley's worst competitive matches in a USMNT shirt.
To some degree, he was let down by the five players in front of him. Klinsmann tried to rectify that by bringing in Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic, a pair of young talents that a lot of fans wanted to see start the match, in the 65th minute. They did very little with their time on the pitch, looking lost and lacking chemistry with their teammates.
And all of this happened against a poor Colombia side that was there for the taking. Their goals came off an early corner kick and a lucky (though correct) penalty. James Rodriguez didn't create scoring chances and Carlos Bacca wasn't dangerous until the USMNT abandoned all defensive shape with 20 minutes left in the game. Colombia didn't threaten from open play. This was a very beatable team.
So against a poor opponent, using a passing style, a consistent lineup, Bradley at the 6, and Nagbe and Pulisic getting a chance to make an impact, the United States did ... nothing. Nothing at all. They didn't scare Colombia one bit, despite Klinsmann doing many of the things fans have been clamoring for.
That's not to say Klinsmann was flawless, and there aren't things he could have done better. Clint Dempsey's center forward role didn't make much sense, for instance, and it's not clear if he really has a place in this team. Jermaine Jones might be too far past his prime to be worth starting. But it's not fair to pick out these things as the reasons the USMNT didn't perform against Colombia, because we've been down this road before -- scapegoating Bradley's position, or the lack of a real first-choice lineup, or inability to pass at a high percentage, or anything else you might have criticized Klinsmann for over the last five years.
There is no magic fix. There is not one substitution or one formation change that will make the USMNT click. If we learned anything on Friday night, it's that their problems run deeper than one tactical tweak.