The loss comes as U.S. Coach Bob Bradley started six players who had played in 10 or fewer international matches. While getting the international experience is important for the young American players, the loss to Paraguay will pretty much ensure that the United States will not advance to the knock out rounds of Copa America. With the United tates sitting in third place in Group C of the tournament and with -5 goal differential, advancement will depend on two things. The U.S. must win over Columbia on Thursday and win big, with at least three or more goals over Columbia (who lost to Paraguay 5-0 and to Argentina 4-2) and will need either Uruguay or Chile to lose by three or more. These are difficult odds at best.
On the bright side, the Americans did not play poorly, but made some mistakes. As veteran U.S. Goalkeeper Kasey Keller (who earned his 102nd cap) put it:
"I feel very good about the young players that we have here with us," said U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller after the game. "We played very well, we just gave them a couple of easy chances, and when you give a good team and good players, easy chances, they are going to beat you. This is why we are here. We are here to give these guys this experience. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to make mistakes to learn. Hopefully now as we go forward in this tournament and into future games, we have learned from this experience and will be better for it."Once again, though the problem for the Americans tends to be finishing. The U.S. had many quality chances to score, but failed to capitalize. Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo) scored his first international goal late in the first half. Of all the U.S. attackers in the game, I was most impressed with Justin Mapp, who plays professionally for the Chicago Fire made a great deal out of his limited playing time.
Still for all the skills these young players are showing, the U.S. needs to find a hard core striker. Taylor Twellman has played well, but has not found the back of the net with enough effectiveness and regularity to solidify his standing as a world class striker. Eddie Johnson can run like the wind and has teh speed to blow past defenders as if they were standing still, but seems too timid at times to be considered a world class threat. Although not playing in this tournament, Brian Ching and Clint Dempsey has shown a taste for the net, but again, not regularly enought. Among U.S. goals scorers, only Landon Donovan has been a consistent threat to score whenever he takes the field, but far too many sides the U.S. will face have one or two solid defenders who can take Donovan out of a game.
If the U.S. can harness a killer instinct and get some goals early in the game, they can truly compete with the top teams in the World Cup and advance far along in the quadrennial tournament. The U.S. has the defenders in Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Frankie Heyduk and increasingly Jonathan Bornstein and Bobby Boswell. The U.S. midfield is strong and fast, with players like DeMarcus Beasley, Pablo Mastoeni and Donovan. Benny Feilhaber has also developed well and has shown skill in the middle. Finally, the U.S. has some of teh best goalkeepers in the world with Kasey Keller and Tim Howard in the net. If the U.S. can find a couple more "go to" goal scorers, particularly up front to complicate matters for other teams, the U.S. is in a position to go far.