Carlos Bacca's first-half goal was enough to give Colombia a 1-0 victory over the United States in the third-place playoff at the Centenary Copa America in Arizona.The winning goal came after half an hour when Colombia forged a well-worked move down the right with Juan Cuadrado slipping the ball inside to James Rodriguez, who chipped forward for Santiago Arias to head across goal for Bacca to slide home.
Bobby Wood came closest to scoring for the US when he hit a post in the 62nd, one minute after Colombia’s Juan Cuadrado hit the underside of the crossbar. The US matched its previous best finish in the tournament, when it lost to Colombia in the 1995 third-place game at Uruguay.
After the Americans lost to Jamaica in the semifinals of last year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup and struggled in the semifinal round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, US coach Jurgen Klinsmann was hoping his team would rebound in the Copa, when right back DeAndre Yedlin, central defender John Brooks, midfielder Gyasi Zardes and forward Bobby Wood solidified their positions as regular starters.
Darlington Nagbe and 17-year-old Christian Pulisic again entered as second-half subs, two more players who could break through and replace veterans during the remaining 16 months of World Cup qualifying.
Colombia finished third for fourth time but first since 1995. Argentina play Chile for the title on Sunday night in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Both teams finished a man short, when American defender Michael Orozco and Colombian defender Santiago Arias were ejected for a confrontation in the third minute of second-half stoppage time. Orozco is suspended the US’s World Cup qualifier at St Vincent and the Grenadines on September 2, and Arias for Colombia’s qualifier against Venezuela.
Klinsmann inserted the 37-year-old Howard into his lineup in place of Brad Guzan, who had started the previous nine games. Matt Besler was in central defence instead of Brooks, who was bothered by knee inflammation, and Orozco was at left back because Fabian Johnson has a sore groin.
Midfielders Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya returned to the lineup along with Wood after the three served one-game suspensions.
Colombia scored after Juan Cuadrado, from along a flank, cut the ball back to James Rodriguez, just outside the penalty area. Arias made a run to get by Bedoya, and Rodriguez lofted a pass to Arias, who jumped at the edge of the six-yard box and headed the ball across Howard’s goal to Bacca. The forward slid ahead of Yedlin to nudge the ball in for his 13th international goal, his second of the tournament.
Clint Dempsey, who led the US with three goals in the tournament, nearly scored on a free kick in the 51st minute. Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina dived left and lifted his right arm to tip Dempsey’s effort wide.