Last night, the United States Men’s National Team took down Ecuador to book a trip to the semifinals of the Copa America. They’ve made it further than Brazil, Uruguay, and one of Mexico/Chile will, and for a team that struggled to score legit goals for most of 2016, a noble loss in the semis is a more than decent result. The U.S. most likely has Argentina next, and they are easily the best team in this tournament, with the best player in the world, and they’ve barely lost in the last year. There is, however, a chance that a stout Venezuela side can upset the Argentines and give the USMNT an easier (although not easy) path to the final and a shot to win their first major tournament ever (fuck the Gold Cup).
That would be the coward’s way.
I don’t want the U.S. to stroll into the final by avoiding Brazil and Argentina. Getting to the semifinals is enough of a moral victory to satisfy expectations. The United States is already playing with house money, so why not hope for a chance at the world’s best? There is a minuscule chance that the USMNT can actually beat Argentina, but hosting a semifinal against a prime Lionel Messi is never going to happen again in the United States. I hope we get our shot, faint as it is.
Yes, the USMNT will probably lose. Yes, they’ll be without three starters. Yes, a team made up of the dudes Argentina left at home could have made it out of the U.S.’s group and beaten Ecuador. Yes, Clint Dempsey is 214 years old. I don’t care. If the U.S. somehow beats Argentina (I dunno, we beat Spain in 2009; soccer is weird), it will be arguably the biggest win in American soccer history. You don’t advance as a soccer nation by twisting through tournaments and getting lucky bounces. You have to force your way onto a bigger stage and take your licks at the world’s best when you can.
There isn’t a rational soccer argument to be made about how the USMNT should or even can beat Argentina, but the good thing about soccer is that it’s an irrational sport. Sometimes, shit just breaks and Celtic beat Barcelona in the Champions League. Upsets happen, and it would be wonderful if the U.S. trades better odds at safe passage through to the final for a slim chance to topple the world’s best player. Argentina rule, but they can eat shit. Christian Pulisic won’t get a better opportunity to throw Messi in the trash, and the United States won’t find themselves at home against a juggernaut like this in a competitive game again for a long, long time. Bring on Argentina.