The COPA America Centenario begins as the United States, the host nation, takes on Colombia in Santa Clara, CA. The Colombian team is the favorite in the US group, which also includes Costa Rica and Paraguay. Colombia is currently considered one of the best sides in the world, Costa Rica one of the best teams in CONCACAF, and Paraguay just gave Mexico trouble on Wednesday, albeit in a friendly. The United States will have to perform very well to advance out of the group stage.
It’s an important tournament for the United States because many of their stalwart players from the past World Cup cycle are beginning to show their age. Five players who started the friendly versus Ecuador one week ago will be 35 years or older by the time the 2018 World Cup is contested. The US needs younger players to become consistent, impactful performers. Some players to watch include John Brooks in the center of defense. He’s physically gifted, but has had trouble maintaining his place in the back. Bobby Wood is a forward who continues to improve, and he’ll have a chance to impress with regular striker Jozy Altidore out with injury. There is also a lot of excitement around midfielder Darlington Nagbe, an American citizen born in Liberia, who has the vision and talent to change a game. Forward Christian Pulisic, the 17-year-old wunderkind who plays in Germany’s first division Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund, became the youngest American to score a goal for the National Team just this past Saturday against Bolivia (assisted by Nagbe.) These two players have been coming off the bench for the US team. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has said that his target for the COPA is to make the semifinals. With a mix of such aging veterans and untested youngsters playing against some of the world’s best, that goal seems unlikely.