Copa America Preview and Prediction: USA vs Colombia

Competition: Copa America Centenario – USA vs. Colombia 

Venue: Levi’s Stadium, California – Saturday, June 4 – 21:30 ET (02:30 BST)

Match Odds: USA 13/8 – Draw 11/5 – Colombia 7/4

Match Preview

USA and Colombia kickstart the 2016 Copa America Centenario on Saturday night as they face off at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California in the tournament’s opening game.

Both sides will have high hopes for this tournament. Colombia will look to continue to impress at international level, while the US Men’s National Team need to repay the passionate support of their fans with strong performances on home soil.

USA come into the game off the back of four-straight wins and it’s important they perform well in this tournament as the nation is desperate to see the national team continue to develop ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

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The big stage has always been the place to show off talent and how progression is going. Jurgen Klinsmann knows that and with USA hosting the tournament, the weight of expectation on a good group of players has been intensified.

A below-par showing may mean that there is time for a change at the helm and so a good start to the Copa America is needed.

Colombia stunned the footballing world with their displays at the World Cup two years ago. The rise of their captain, James Rodriguez was perhaps the most remarkable feat from that tournament and he was rewarded by earning a big-money move to Real Madrid.

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They come into this tournament off the back of three consecutive wins, ending a poor run which saw them win just one of seven prior to their recent turnaround.

Manager Jose Pekerman knows what his side are capable of. They struggled at last year’s Copa America in Chile, winning one game and scoring just one goal in four games before being eliminated on penalties by Argentina in the quarter-finals.

But they enter this tournament as one of the more favoured sides and will need to show the form they did two years ago in Brazil if they are to succeed.

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Colombia are missing notable strikers Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez from their squad, so they may be slightly short up front but they still have quality all over the pitch and are rightly favourites on paper.

This will be the 18th all-time meeting between the two nations. Colombia hold the advantage based on history, winning 11 of the previous clashes. USA have only won three games against the South American side, the most recent of which came in a friendly in 2005.

Team News

USA look set to go with a 4-3-3 setup as they have done successfully in recent friendly games. Clint Dempsey will spearhead the attack, with fellow MLS stars Gyasi Zardes and Graham Zusi fighting for spots out wide along with Bobby Wood. Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley and Alejandro Bedoya look the most likely starters in midfield, though Kyle Beckerman may be considered due to his more defensive capabilities. Tim Howard is expected to start in goal.

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Colombia have tried various formations in recent friendlies but are likely to start with a 4-2-3-1 setup, with Carlos Bacca leading the attack. James Rodriguez will sit in behind him, with Juan Cuadrado and Edwin Cardona likely to play out wide. Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina will start in goal.

Key Points

USA’s last five internationals: L/W/W/W/W

Colombia’s last five internationals: D/L/W/W/W

Key Stat: Colombia are undefeated in the last three matches between the two sides (W2 D1), conceding just one goal in that time.

Key Player: James Rodriguez – James was, in many people’s eyes, the best player at the 2014 World Cup. He has struggled at club level with Real Madrid this season but returning to his key role for his home nation could spell trouble for the USMNT. His vision, as well as the ability to pull off the spectacular at any moment, makes him almost impossible to stop when on form.

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Score Prediction

USA 1-2 Colombia – Opening games always provide excitement and USA will have the benefit of the home crowd in Santa Clara on Saturday. However, Colombia have key players in key areas which should see them edge this one by a single goal. Both will expect to trouble each other’s defences but ultimately, the Colombians have a stronger attacking force and that is likely to show.

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Arsenal suffer blow as Atletico looking to complete move for £25m striker

Atletico Madrid are looking to beat Arsenal to the signing of highly rated FC Porto striker Jackson Martinez, according to A Bola.

The news comes after Juventus manager Massimo Allegri confirmed that Atletico striker Mario Mandzukic will make the move to Juventus in a deal worth up to €18 million, leaving Atletico a little bit light in the striker department.

It was said last week that AC Milan had agreed to pay the €35 million release clause in Martinez’s contract, with a Milan club doctor heading to Chile – where the 28-year-old forward is playing in the Copa America with Colombia – to complete a medical.

Though that doesn’t appear to have happened and Atletico Madrid are now looking to pounce.

Arsenal have been strongly linked with the Porto captain with Martinez previously admitting he was a boyhood Gunners fan: “I cheered for Arsenal when I was a kid – I love their style of play,” he said back in 2014.

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Martinez told A Bola: “Arsenal are a great team, playing in one of the best leagues in the world.”

Atletico Madrid have been known to do swift business with FC Porto in the past, with Radamel Falcao making the move from Portugal to the Spanish capital back in 2011.

Both Atletico Madrid and Arsenal can offer Champions League football after finishing third in their respective leagues, whereas AC Milan have failed to qualify for European football for the second season in a row.

That would imply Martinez has a choice to make between both Atletico and the Gunners, but any decision is likely to be made after he returns from the Copa America.

Should Jackson Martinez look to sign for Atletico Madrid or Arsenal?

Stats: Why Radamel Falcao will only make Chelsea stronger

Chelsea are close to securing a season-long loan deal for AS Monaco striker Radamel Falcao and Louis East looks at why the Colombian will only improve Jose Mourinho’s title winning side next term.

Radamel Falcao is expected to be announced as a Chelsea player in the next few days as AS Monaco have agreed to let him spend a second consecutive season on loan in the Premier League.

Falcao endured a challenging season with Manchester United during the 2014/15 season as he registered his worst goals-per-game ratio of his career, and as a result, he has been subject to bundles of criticism from English football fans and the press alike.

But that hasn’t deterred him from the top flight of English football as the 29-year-old is set to take a huge pay cut to join Chelsea and try and prove he still has what it takes to be one of the most lethal strikers in world football.

A move to Stamford Bridge will see Falcao link up with Jose Mourinho and a title winning squad who are favourites to retain their crown next May. That in itself presents a completely different scenario to the one he walked into at Old Trafford last summer as there was enormous pressure on the former Atletico Madrid man to fire a transitional United team back to the top of the table.

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As it turned out, things didn’t go to plan in Manchester. Falcao netted just four league goals in 26 games under Louis Van Gaal, hitting the net as many times as centre-back Chris Smalling.

But a move to Chelsea will see him replace Blues legend and MLS-linked Didier Drogba. That doesn’t mean he is walking in as Mourinho’s star striker, but that will alleviate pressure from the outset, and he will certainly offer the team more than the ageing Drogba could last term.

Loic Remy‘s future is still unclear as a move away from Stamford Bridge could well happen, but statistically Falcao proved he can still be effective, even when enduring the worst campaign of his career.

Stats (EPL 14/15 – via Squawka)

Appearances Goals Assists Key Passes Passing Accuracy (%) Shot Accuracy

Headers Won (%)

Radamel Falcao

26 4 4 14 86% 55%

27%

Didier Drogba

28 4 1 13 60% 36%

49%

Loic Remy

19 7 0 5 82% 59%

35%

The Colombian scored as many goals as Drogba in two less appearances last term, and registered three more assists than the Ivorian and Remy combined.

He also made more key passes than either Chelsea player and recorded a better pass completion statistic as well, highlighting his ability to bring others into play.

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Diego Costa only recorded three assists last season and so Falcao will give Mourinho a completely different outlet in attack, as the likes of Eden Hazard, Willian and more importantly, Juan Cuadrado could benefit greatly from Falcao’s addition to the side.

The 2014/15 campaign was one Falcao will have already put behind him, and although football fans won’t forget quite as easy, the 29-year-old is set to be given the perfect platform to prove himself as a worthy addition to the strongest team in English football.

How do you think Radamel Falcao will perform at Chelsea? 

New Chelsea star Juan Cuadrado ‘still adapting to life’ in England

Chelsea‘s Juan Cuadrado has revealed that he is still in the process of adapting to life in England and the intensity of the Premier League.

The Colombian international joined the Blues from Italian side Fiorentina on transfer deadline day in February for £23.3m and has admitted that English football is different.

“Of course I need to adapt to the style, and the pace of the game is quick. There is a quick transition from defending to attacking but I am hoping to adapt as fast as possible. I just need to train hard every day,” he told Chelsea’s official website.

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The 26-year-old has yet to score his first goal for Chelsea but has only been used sparingly with just 175 minutes of game time under his belt and is still trying to settle in.

“I am still adapting to life here. I need to learn the language and life is different. Every country has its own culture and the weather is quite cold here, especially compared to Colombia. The people here are nice, life is good and I like the city.

“I always do my best on the pitch. Obviously there is pressure but the important thing is to go on the pitch and play with happiness,” Cuadrado added.

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Chelsea are currently six points clear at the top of the Premier League table with a game in hand over the chasing pack.

It remains to be seen how much action Cuadrado can expect in the last nine games but he could become a Premier League winner within his first three months of being at the club – add that to his League Cup winners medal and it isn’t a bad start to life in London.

Will Juan Cuadrado be an important player for Chelsea next season?

Does Radamel Falcao need to leave Manchester United?

Radamel Falcao has struggled to adapt to the Premier League since joining Manchester United last summer. Lewis Addley explores whether a move away would revitalise his career…

Since joining Manchester United Radamel Falcao has not lived up his expectations, scoring just four goals in 19 appearances for the Red Devils.

The Colombian earned himself a staggering £52 million move to AS Monaco in 2013 after impressive spells at both FC Porto and Atletico Madrid, but he hasn’t been able to replicate that form whatsoever since moving to United on loan.

Manchester United paid over £6 million just to bring the 29-year-old striker in on loan this season and have the option to permanently sign him for £43 million at the end of the campaign, though that is highly unlikely now.

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Falcao cannot hide behind a lack of first-team opportunities as a reason for his below-par performances as he has had the backing of manager Louis Van Gaal throughout. Wayne Rooney has even been shifted to a midfield role just to accommodate the Colombian forward.

In a side full of attacking class Falcao is not the main man at United. His spells at Monaco, Atletico and Porto saw him spearhead the attack to devastating effect and he has just not done that in England so far.

Radamel Falcao's career stats and a look at his games-per-goal ratio at each club (Stats via Transfermarkt)

Radamel Falcao’s career stats and a look at his games-per-goal ratio at each club (Stats via Transfermarkt)

His time at United has seen him average a goal almost every five games in what is by far the worst goals-per-game ratio of his career.

Falcao could be rejuvenated with a move away from the Premier League, possibly back to La Liga where he netted 70 times in 90 appearances for Atletico, but a hefty price tag will make it difficult for many sides to offer up what Monaco will be expecting.

He has come under criticism from a number of important figures in the game and isn’t looking anything like the player he once did, which seems a familiar story after big money moves for strikers as we saw with Fernando Torres at Chelsea, who is now incidentally looking more like his old self in La Liga with Atletico.

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Falcao needs to get his head down and keep plugging away. If he can find the net a few more times this season it could attract a club to come in for a possible move. He is seemingly out of favour with Monaco and is unlikely to return to France next year.

If the United man stands any chance of making his move to the club permanent then he must try to find his feet and prove the doubters wrong in the final few months of the season. But seeing how the United move has been for him up to now, Falcao could be best suited to opting to ply his trade elsewhere come the next campaign.

Does Radamel Falcao have a future at Manchester United?

How will Sebastian Velasquez fit in at New York City?

New York City have acquired the services of Colombian midfielder Sebastian Velasquez from Real Salt Lake and he will now be reunited with former manager Jason Kreis.

Kreis left Real Salt Lake at the end of the 2013 campaign but has taken on the role of manager at New York City ahead of their first season.

Velasquez has been used sporadically at Real Salt Lake since his maiden season as a rookie in 2012, so it’s not a major surprise that he’s now moved on.

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However, the 23-year-old saw most of his game time when Kreis was at the club in 2013, so it would appear that the boss is a fan of the young midfielder. He made 24 appearances under Kreis compared to just 10 appearances in 2014.

It’s been a bit of a waiting game for Velasquez, but what better way to start fresh than with a move to a brand new club where he will be hoping to fully prove himself and gain regular first-team action.

Velasquez stats

The Colombian possesses natural ability, great technical skill and can be used as a striker, but more commonly he’s deployed as a winger.

The move to New York presents a great opportunity for Velasquez to cement his place as a first-team player as competition for places will be sky-high and nothing will be guaranteed for anyone in the first few months as they try to work out their best starting XI.

Will Sebastian Velasquez be a success at New York City?

Playoff Preview and Prediction: New York Red Bulls vs New England Revolution

The Eastern Conference Final kicks off on Sunday night with New England Revolution travelling to Red Bull Arena to take on the New York Red Bulls in the first-leg.

The Revolution have never won at Red Bull Arena and lost twice to New York during the regular season.

But the Revs are expected to come into the game at full strength seeing as Jermaine Jones and Lee Nguyen came home early from the USMNT’s mini-UK tour after facing Colombia last Friday.

The Red Bulls should be much of the same with their illustrious front three of Lloyd Sam, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry firing on all cylinders. While Peguy Luyindula will look to continue his fine run of form in the playmaking role.

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New York have made Red Bull Arena a bit of a fortress of late, having won nine out of their last ten at home. And have won back-to-back playoff games at home too as the days of home playoff losses could be over. New England will need to perform as they have been in recent weeks to change that.

New York Red Bulls Home Form: Played 19 – Won 12 – Drawn 4 – Lost 3

However, the Revs come into the game unbeaten in their last seven. And with the emergence of Charlie Davies and his recent proficiency, they haven’t had to rely on the outstanding Lee Nguyen as much.

Don’t Miss: Stats: Thierry Henry vs Lee Nguyen – Which playmaker will make the difference on Sunday?

The MVP candidate has stayed sharp from his trip to the UK with the National team and will look to be the difference-maker once more.

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New York are the favorites here though, seeing as their home form has been superb. And they will want to lay down a marker for the second-leg while remaining tight at the back to try and ensure away goals don’t become a deciding factor.

Red Bull Arena is expected to be at full capacity as the club revealed they had sold out the stadium ahead of the first-leg this Sunday.

New England’s Away Form: Played 18 – Won 7 – Drawn 2 – Lost 9

The Revs have netted a staggering 11 goals in their last four away games and with Lee Nguyen in the form of his life, it would take a brave man to back against them getting at least one in New York.

This should be a cracker!

Key Player: Lee Nguyen – ‘MVLee’ scored 18 goals in the regular season and is integral to any MLS Cup hopes the Revs have. Classy player, always expect the unexpected.

Key Stat: New York have not lost to New England in 11 home games. The Revolution’s last win against the Red Bulls in MLS was in July 2012.

Prediction: New York Red Bulls 2 – 1 New England Revolution

Taylor Twellman talks up future of U.S. soccer

Ex-international Taylor Twellman was at Craven Cottage to commentate on Friday night’s game as the USMNT suffered an agonising 2-1 defeat at the hands of Colombia thanks to a late winner from Teófilo Gutiérrez.

Despite the result, there were yet more positives to take from the performance of a nation that is growing in the game faster than any other has before.

In his programme notes, Twellman mentioned how Major League Soccer has “grown considerably” and that it would be “foolish to compare the league I played in when I returned in 2002 to what we see today”.

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[Taylor Twellman enjoyed a successful career with New England Revolution before retiring in 2010]

It’s another example of a well respected figure recognising the continuous evolution of soccer in the USA and how the game is only going to continue to push on for better things.

“Off the field, with stadia and fans, everything has evolved. With team expansion the game has grown a lot and that’s just in the years since I retired. For the USMNT to be successful, MLS has to be successful.

“Talking to players like Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane and Tim Cahill, they will tell you how much the league has grown. It’s a great statement to see the likes of Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley returning to MLS as they’re in a great stage of their careers and playing on home soil, helping the growth.”

There is such a great feeling around soccer in the USA right now and it’s on a roller coaster journey that is heading in a very successful direction, so hold on to your hats everyone, because it’s not stopping anytime soon.

Will Major League Soccer become one of the strongest leagues in the world?

Who is Rubio Rubin and what does he offer the USMNT?

Friday night marked 18-year-old Rubio Rubin’s full USMNT debut and the young striker didn’t look out of place against the No. 3 ranked side in the world.

Playing against World Cup quarter-finalists Colombia at Craven Cottage, Rubin more than held his own against a strong Colombian defence.

At 5ft 9in he isn’t the biggest of strikers, yet he has a great deal of core strength and an ability to draw fouls that got the USA out of trouble on a few occasions.

He ran the channels very well and was a constant nuisance for the Colombians alongside Jozy Altidore.

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Rubin is a product of the IMG Academy – the academy that has produced international stars such as Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley to name a few. So he certainly has lots of potential.

Having graduated from the IMG Academy, he then joined the Portland Timbers academy to further his development. However, he signed a four-year deal with Dutch club FC Utrecht on his eighteenth birthday in March.

So far this season he has started eight times for Utrecht and supplied four assists. Unfortunately he has yet to open his goal account.

The future looks bright for Rubin and he has a lot to offer the current USMNT squad as well as future ones.

It will be interesting to see how Jurgen Klinsmann manages his current crop of strikers, with Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Aron Johansson, Bobby Wood and Terrence Boyd all pushing hard for starting berths.

One thing is for sure, this USA side will only improve, and Rubio Rubin will hope to be a part of that bright future.

How good can Rubio Rubin become?

USA can take positives despite Colombia defeat

Jurgen Klinsmann watched his USA side lose 2-1 late on against a talented Colombian side at Craven Cottage last night, but there were positives to be taken despite the defeat.

The first of the USMNT‘s final two games of 2014 ended with a loss. A late Teofilo Gutierrez header sent a Colombia-filled Craven Cottage into raptures as they finally broke the spirited USA resistance.

Jozy Altidore had given Klinsmann’s side an early lead from the penalty spot after Pablo Armero handled in the box, and they took their 1-0 lead into halftime.

However, the yellow surge of Colombian talent kept driving in the second-half and Carlos Bacca’s goal in the 60th minute turned the game on its head.

Colombia were lifted by the goal and their relentless pressure eventually paid off as Gutierrez guided his header past Brad Guzan in the 87th minute to seal the victory.

Klinsmann will be unhappy with the result, but the performance his players gave will leave him with plenty of positives to take:

Panoramic view of Craven Cottage ahead of kickoff between USA and Colombia on Friday.

Panoramic view of Craven Cottage ahead of kickoff between USA and Colombia on Friday.

1. Jermaine Jones was immense in the centre of defence

Jones was once again started at centre-back despite failing to convince in the previous friendlies against Ecuador and Honduras. But the New England Revolution powerhouse put in a dominant display against the no.3 ranked team in the World and was at the centre of everything the USA did defensively. Klinsmann’s experiment looks to have paid off and Jones could be given more and more time at the back as a result.

2. Jozy Altidore led by example with another goal

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Altidore took the captains armband for the game on Friday night and impressed as he led the line well and got on the scoresheet yet again. His goal came from the penalty spot but take nothing away from his performance as he worked tirelessly up top and proved once again that he should be getting opportunities at club level with Sunderland.

3. Kyle Beckerman bossed the midfield again

Playing against a player of the calibre of James Rodriguez would test even the best holding midfielder in the world, but Beckerman wasn’t phased and looked calm in the middle of the pitch. The Real Salt Lake veteran broke the play up on several occasions and his ability to remain calm at all times helped the team to escape pressure throughout. Another excellent display by the 32-year-old.

4. Rubio Rubin makes good start to life with USMNT

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The 18-year-old forward was handed a starting role against Colombia and didn’t look out of his depth on his international debut. He worked hard and looked more than capable of holding his own against experienced defenders. He had a great chance to make it 2-0 after the break but his header just flew past the right-hand post. His positioning to get the chance was encouraging though and Rubin looks set for a bright future.

5. Lee Nguyen can cut it at the top

Nguyen was brought on late in the second-half for his first USMNT appearance for seven years and he didn’t look out of his depth one bit. The New England Revolution playmaker found space in the final third when he came on and nearly set up a wonder goal with a lovely back-heel flick in a promising move late on. The MLS MVP candidate looks set for an increased number of minutes for Klinsmann’s side in upcoming games.

What did you make of the USA’s performance against Colombia on Friday?