And the USA achieved that goal. After finishing second in their group, the Americans beat Ecuador 2-1 in quarterfinals before losing to Argentina 4-0 in the semifinals. That defeat was followed by a 1-0 defeat to Colombia in the third place match.
Unlike against Argentina, the USA created chances against Colombia and Klinsmann afterwards bemoaned his team’s inability to finish off any of the several chances.
“Ultimately they were clinical,” Klinsmann told reporters.
“They took their one chance in the first half – we couldn’t take ours. There were enough chances for us to put one in but we just weren’t clinical enough and the players know that.”
However Klinsmann was satisfied with what he described as a successful campaign.
“The players realised tonight that if they raise the level of commitment and aggressiveness they can compete with these kinds of teams,” Klinsmann said.
“Getting in the final four of such a huge competition is a wonderful achievement and they should be very proud of themselves.”
Not sure it is a “wonderful achievement” when you simply met expectations. What Copa America did show was the gulf between the US and soccer’s elite.
The relatively weak CONCACAF region provides the US with a false sense of success, They are one of only seven nations to have qualified for the last seven World Cup. But nobody would consider the Americans to be a world power.
Wins at Italy, Germany and the Netherlands look good on the CV, but those are friendlies. In matches that matter, against the better teams in the world, the U.S. often remains outmatched.
“Today is a good day to judge where we are in program overall,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said outside the locker room after the Argentina defeat.
“We’re obviously a long way off. We knew that going in. But we knew we were a long way off when we beat Spain in 2009 or Germany or Holland last year.”
Gulati and US Soccer must share in the blame here. Gulati has overseen a program where the U.S. under-23 team has failed to qualify for consecutive Olympics. The U-20 team has been a World Cup quarterfinalist just twice since 1993 and the U-17s haven’t reached the quarterfinals since 2005. That is simply not good enough.
“There will be always a step backwards, and then we will go two more forward. That is a part of our process,” Klinsmann said.
“So I told the guys, heads up and just swallow it.”
USA World Cup Qualifying
Sept 6: USA v Trinidad & Tobago in Jacksonsville – Buy USA v Trinidad & Tobago tickets