International Fixtures

USMNT vs. Colombia Breakdown

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The United State’s Men’s National Team entered its January camp under clouds of controversy. Head coach Gregg Berhalter, whose contract as manager of the senior men’s national team expired at midnight on Dec. 31, found himself as the focus of an active investigation over a domestic violence incident involving his wife in 1991.

Former USMNT Under-20 manager Anthony Hudson was appointed the role on an interim status for the January camp and its two international friendlies, including last Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of Serbia in Los Angeles. It appears, however, that the decision on a permanent head coach won’t come anytime soon.

No Decision Expected Until Summer

Chances are that we’re going to be deep into 2023 before a successor to Gregg Berhalter is hired, yet Berhalter himself is still in the mix. These matters are only complicated by the fact that there are two other vacancies at the top of the men’s national team.

In a Thursday press conference, US Soccer Federation President Cindy Parlow Cone, who won her re-election bid last March amid the backing of the United State’s Women’s National Team, revealed that Anthony Hudson would remain onboard as interim head coach until a permanent hire is made. USMNT Sporting Director Earnie Stewart, who selected Hudson as interim manager, will depart, along with General Manager Brian McBride.

At Least Several More Windows of Hudson as Head Coach

After Saturday’s match against Colombia (7:30 pm ET/ 4:30 pm PT, TNT [English}, Peacock/ Universo [Spanish]) concludes, the USMNT will return to the pitch on March 24, when they’ll travel to play Greneda in the third group stage match of the 2022-2023 CONCACAF Nations League. Depending upon the team’s performance in the last two games of Nations League play, 2023 could very well be a busy summer for the Americans.

Should the USMNT advance to the CONCACAF Nations League Final, it would be played this coming June. An exact day and date have yet to be announced. This year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup will begin on June 24, running through a tournament final on July 16.

Thursday’s announcement ensures that Hudson will remain in charge of the USMNT through at least the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final. Even though Gregg Berhalter is among the names listed among contenders, he isn’t presently working for US Soccer.

Cindy Parlow Cone Wants “A Clean Canvas”

Given that the investigation of Gregg Berhalter is very much active, Cindy Parlow Cone has opted for neutrality throughout this process.

“We have agreed that we need to let the investigation play out before we can make any determinations [on Berhalter and the future of the program],” Parlowe Cone said. Given that Parlow Cone has made these types of comments, plus the fact that Berhalter is not currently employed by the US Soccer Federation, it’s all but certain that Gregg Berhalter coached his last match three weeks before Christmas in Qatar.

“I know this moment feels a bit uncertain for you in the media, for our staff, and our players,” Parlow Cone said. “What it actually is, is a clean canvas.” The federation looks to have the sporting director vacancy filled by July.

A final prediction on the USMNT’s head coaching vacancy: The US Soccer Federation will have a new manager installed on or around Aug. 31.

They’ll be utilizing Sportsology Group, an internationally-known consulting firm in both sports and the working world, to aide in the hiring process of a new sporting director. A sporting director would be hired ahead of any head coach.

Thus, it could be prior to Labor Day before the door is closed on this matter.

The Game Itself

Meanwhile, on the pitch, the USMNT closes out its January window this Saturday night. Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, CA, dubbed by the great Mauro Ranallo as “The Punch Bowl” on Showtime Championship Boxing, will play host to an international friendly between the Americans and Colombia.

The match will be the first contest played by the Colombian national team since failing to qualify for last fall’s World Cup. You’d have to turn back the clock to last March to find the last time this team played a match.

Flashback to Colombia’s Last Game

On March 29, a dismal COMNEBOL World Cup qualifying cycle ended in victory. That night, the Colombians scored a 1-0 victory against Venezuela. Midfielder James Rodriguez converted a penalty kick in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time for the only tally on the evening.

Upon the Colombians failing to qualify, they, like the Americans currently are, were in need of a head coach. To quote rock group Three Days Grace, “Misery loves my company.”

First Match in Charge For Nestor Lorenzo as Colombia Manager

After World Cup qualifying came and went without Colombia securing a berth in the field, Reinaldo Rueda was dismissed as manager in April of last year. That June, Nestor Lorenzo assumed permanent managerial duties.

Lorenzo’s got World Cup experience. Prior to taking the job with the Colombian national team, he was employed as an assistant for his home nation of Argentina during the 2006 World Cup and Colombia in 2014 and 2018.

While Nestor Lorenzo is a familiar name for fans of the Colombian side, will he be able to lead the national team back to the World Cup? We’ll find out over the next four years.

USMNT Cannot Afford Sluggish Play

One reason why the USMNT exited Wednesday’s game against Serbia in defeat is the fact that they were too slow out of the starting blocks in both the first and second halves of the match. Kyle Martino, who served as the match analyst for the English-language telecast on HBOMax, pointed this as a key reason as to why the game ended as it did.

If the Americans don’t come out aggressively right from the opening whistle on Saturday, it could very well be a long 90 minutes for the side. As previously stated, this match will be the USMNT’s last before a competitive affair versus Grenada in late March.

The first quarter-hour of the match is going to be a crucial one for the United States. While this may be just the second match in a four-year cycle and all roads lead to a co-hosted World Cup in the summer of 2026, they’ll have to play much better on Saturday than on Wednesday.

Is This Game Winnable?

Despite the shortcomings of the national team on Wednesday night, the United States have a decent shot at coming away with a victory in Saturday’s game. Again, the first 15 minutes or so of the game will be critical for their chances at a win.

If the USMNT is forced to play catch-up on Saturday as it was on Wednesday, they just might be in trouble all over again for the second time in 72 hours. The USMNT currently sits with the No. 13 ranking in all of FIFA, while Colombia is the No. 17-ranked team. Only time will tell as to if the Americans win over the weekend.

Final Thoughts

The USMNT should have eked out at least a draw in Wednesday’s game, but despite the team’s aggression late in the second half, a favorable result wasn’t in the cards. They’ll have to display the same aggression from the opening kickoff against Colombia on Saturday.

Even though this match is an exhibition, dropping two straight games to begin a new World Cup cycle is far from ideal for the US Soccer Federation as its search for a potential permanent successor to Gregg Berhalter continues. In order for the vacancy to become more savory, the USMNT has to string together wins.

It starts Saturday.

Prediction USMNT 1, Colombia 0.

Main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about MMA since the spring of 2018. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew enjoys a good game and an even better fight. When he's not writing, you can find him playing video games and listening to music.