GETTING OFF ON THE WRONG FOOT USA drops Copa opener to Colombia, 2-0
Clint Dempsey had the USA"s best scoring opportunities in the loss.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The tournament is barely 90 minutes old and already the United States finds itself in a hole at Copa America Centenario.
Colombia struck twice in the opening half and held on to hand the Americans a 2-0 Group A loss in the opening match of the tournament before a sellout crowd of more than 68,000 at Levi's Stadium Friday night.
Goalkeeper David Ospina, who had a relatively quiet opening half, played a strong final half to record the clean sheet as the USA suffered its sixth consecutive loss in Copa.
"Disappointed, obvious," center back Geoff Cameron said. "I thought we were the better team."
The Americans will have three days to their wounds and ponder what went wrong as they will try to get back into the tournament against Costa Rica at Soldier Field in Chicago Tuesday. A loss could eliminate the USA from the competition.
"We have the ability to win the games coming up," Cameron said. "We'll bounce back."
The Colombians scored twice from the penalty spot in the first half, once off a corner kick, the other off an actual penalty kick.
It did not take long for Colombia to draw first blood, striking off an Edwin Cardona corner kick in the eighth minute. Cardona swung the ball in from the right corner to Cristian Zapata, who fired a right-footed 10-yard effort into the net past goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
It was Zapata's first international goal in 42 appearances.
The South American side doubled the lead on a controversial handball in the box on right back DeAndre Yedlin. The ball hit Yedlin while he was turning and referee Roberto García Orozco pointed to the penalty spot despite protests from the Americans.
James Rodriguez, the Golden Ball winner at the 2014 World Cup, drilled a left-footed shot into the lower right corner for his 15th international goal as Guzan guessed wrong and dove the other way to lift Colombia to a two-goal advantage in the 42nd minute.
The USA had only a handful of opportunities. Its best came in the 34th minute when Clint Dempsey whacked a curling shot from 20 yards that just missed the left post.
They Americans wasted several free kick opportunities. Either Michael Bradley or Dempsey smashed their attempts into the defensive wall or some kicks from distance wound up off the mark.
As the second half began, Colombia played as though it was trailing team, forcing the issue while the USA chased the game.
Cardona tested Guzan from distance in the 51st minute as the keeper made a save, leaving a rebound in the area. Geoff Cameron managed to clear before it became a dangerous opportunity.
On the hour, the USA came close to slicing its deficit in half as Dempsey headed a one-bounce header on goal that a defender slid to keep out of the net.
Four minutes later, Dempsey came tantalizingly close to bringing the USA back into the match when he forced Ospina to make a leaping, two-handed save to the upper right corner to preserve the shutout.
His side desperately needing a goal or two, USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann brought on Darlington Nagbe and 17-year-old Christian Pulisic for Jermaine Jones and Bobby Wood, respectively, in the 66th minute.
They gave the USA fresh legs and some energy on the attack, but not enough to score.
Colombia suffered a tough break in the 73rd minute when Rodriguez was forced from the match with a left shoulder injury. His condition for the rest of the competition is still to be determined.
In the 77th minute, the USA dodged a bullet when Carlos Bacca found himself alone racing down the left side of the field before he rammed his shot off the crossbar.
Hardly playing like a man of 33, Dempsey continued to work hard trying to pull one back for the hosts as he sent a shot wide left in the 79th minute.