Copa America Centenario: United States and Colombia kick off tournament
The USMNT will be looking to start the Copa America Centenario with an upset victory over Colombia on Friday at Levi's Stadium. Photo provided by USA TODAY Sports.

The United States and Colombia will kick off the 2016 Copa America Centenario on Friday at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

The eyes of the Americas will be watching

The 100th-year celebration of the prestigious South American tournament will open up with the host nation taking on heavy favorites, Los Cafeteros. The likes of Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado and Carlos Bacca will be taking the field at Levi's Stadium.

The two nations also open up the toughest group of the Copa America. Group A has the United States, Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay. The two nations will be looking to start the tournament with a positive result. A bad start to the tournament can potentially doom both nations of making the quarterfinals since the games only get more difficult after the opener. With that on the table, it is safe to say that these familiar foes will provide some fireworks.

Good history for Los Cafeteros against the USA

The Colombian attack will be looking to kick start the tournament with a big victory over the host nation on Friday at Levi's Stadium. Photo provided by AP.
The Colombian attack will be looking to kick start the tournament with a big victory over the host nation on Friday at Levi's Stadium. Photo provided by AP.

These two nations have faced each other 17 times. When Colombia and the United States clashed for the first time in Bogota, the year was 1961 and the number one song on the charts that year was "Tossin' And Turnin'" by Bobby Lewis. The United States were left tossing and turning after the 2-0 defeat.

After that match, the United States did not face the South Americans for more than 20 years. In 1984 the two sides played each other again and this time, the U.S. was able to win 1-0 in Los Angeles, California with a late goal from Ade Coker.

However, the next 15 matches were completely dominated by the Colombians. Colombia won 10 of those games. The United Staes were shutout six times in the process. The overall record for the U.S. against Colombia is 3-3-11 (W-D-L). The Americans last victory against the South Americans was 11-years-ago. The U.S. enjoyed their biggest victory over Colombia on March ninth, 2005 in Fullerton, California, a 3-0 win. Pat Noonan, Chad Marshall, and Clint Mathis were the goal scorers that day.

United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will be dreaming of the same result former national team manager Bruce Arena enjoyed in 2005. However, in the end, Klinsmann will be just as satisfied to earn a fourth draw or victory against the South Americans.

The United States need to show courage and play smart

Regardless, that the Americans are the host nation of this tournament they will be the underdog in many of the matches. Against Colombia, there is no exception and the U.S. will have to be on their toes defensively. Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson will need to be wary of the fast pace offense.

Carlos Bacca (Center) and Juan Cuadrado (Left) will be major players for Los Cafeteros. Photo provided by AFP.
Carlos Bacca (Center) and Juan Cuadrado (Left) will be major players for Los Cafeteros. Photo provided by AFP.

However, the man who needs to stand tall for the American backline is goalkeeper Brad Guzan. If the 31-year-old keeper fails to have a strong performance, then the Americans will have a long Friday night in Northern California.

However, the first line of the defense for the United States is the midfield. Veterans Bradley, Jones and Alejandro Bedoya will have to move the ball around the pitch. Commit few turnovers and have the ability to recover the ball quickly if they lose it. If the three of them get overwhelmed in the middle of the field, then Bobby Wood and Dempsey will be left chasing for long hopeful passes to score.

Convert the rare chances

The Americans offensive is coming off an impressive showing with their 4-0 victory against Bolivia on May 28th at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas. The U.S. attack will not enjoy the same success on Friday or create that many chances. So whenever Wood, Dempsey, Gyasi Zardes or even Christian Pulisic gets a chance, they have to make it count.

The Colombian defense is not the greatest in the world, but the U.S. attack still has to execute the basics. That means solid touches in or around the penalty box. Completing passes in the final third are crucial for the offense to have any rhythm. Being able to create opportunities when nothing appears is important to keep the defense on their toes and help the American backline catch a breather.

For the USMNT to have any chance of earning points on Friday, Clint Dempsey will need to lead the attack. Photo provided by Getty Images.
For the USMNT to have any chance of earning points on Friday, Clint Dempsey will need to lead the attack. Photo provided by Getty Images.

Colombia has to come out aggressive

The Colombians cannot afford to give the United States confidence. They have to attack early in the match and look for the opener early. If the U.S. go down early, they will be forced to go on the offensive and Colombia will have space to build up a counter-attack and add a few goals.

The last thing Colombian head coach Jose Pekerman wants is for the United States to score early and get the home crowd riled up. There is enough speed on the U.S. squad to potentially double their lead and secure an upset victory. So it is vital that Colombia scores a couple of goals early to discourage the United States.

Prediction: United States 2, Colombia 1

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