Argentina is in control of the series
These two nations have faced each other nine times in a span of 86-years. The first time they met was in the inaugural 1930 FIFA World Cup in Uruguay. Both nations survived the group stages and faced each other in the semifinals on July 26th at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo.
The U.S. World Cup run ended with a 6-1 beat down. Scottish/American forward Jim Brown scored the United States' lone goal in the 89th minute. Sixty-five years and two games later after their World Cup defeat, the Americans recorded their first victory over Argentina.
The two sides were drawn in group C together in the 1995 Copa America in Uruguay. The United States and Argentina faced each other in the final group stage match on July 14th at the Estadio Parque Artigas.
What happened next was history, as the United States shocked Argentina with a 3-0 victory. Goals from Frank Klopas, Alexi Lalas, and Eric Wynalda secure their passage to the next round of the tournament. The United States went on to finish in fourth place in that version of the Copa America
Four years later, the U.S. and Argentina met again at RFK Stadium. Once again the United States came out victorious with a narrow 1-0 win. Former U.S. striker Joe-Max Moore scored the winning goal to record their second and last victory over La Albiceleste.
Since that 1-0 victory, the best results the Americans have been able to achieve are two draws in 2008 and 2011. The United States' overall record against Argentina is (W-D-L) 2-2-5. When it comes to competitive matches against Argentina, their record is 1-0-3. Just by the historical numbers alone Argentina are favorites to advance to the final.
Argentina has too many weapons
Besides the obvious of Lionel Messi, there are other players on the roster that can easily win a match. Players like Érik Lamela, Éver Banega, Javier Pastore, Gonzalo Higuaín, Sergio Agüero and Ezequiel Lavezzi can be the difference maker on Tuesday.
Even with the suspension of striker Nicolás Gaitán due to yellow card accumulation and the injury of Angel Di Maria Argentina's offense can still rack up goals in a hurry. The pace and creativity of La Albiceleste will give the short-handed Yanks more than they can handle.
However, it does not help the United States that Messi and the rest of Argentines have put their pride aside and are only concentrating on winning an international tournament.
"I don't think I will be in [among the starters], but I don't know how we will line up. Since the Copa started I've been on the bench, and I believe it will continue like this," Aguero said before the quarterfinal match against Venezuela. "I have to just prepare myself for when the team and coach needs me."
The suspensions will hurt the United States
The United States tasks of advancing to the final become more complicated with Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya and Bobby Wood missing this match. The three of them are serving a one-game suspension for different reasons.
Bedoya and Wood are out due to yellow card accumulations after picking up a yellow in the quarterfinal match against Ecuador on Thursday. Jones in the same match was shown a direct red card. Without the three of them, the Yanks will be missing a total of 139 caps, but more importantly the workload that helps the defense and the offense generate chances.
Bedoya, similar to Wood, is an engine that never stops running. The 29-year-old midfielder will make key runs on the offense and work tirelessly on the defense to recover the ball. Plus, he has the vision and the capability to complete passes.
Wood has been one of the main reasons why Clint Dempsey has scored three goals thus far in the tournament. The 23-year-old striker has shown that he is more than just a scorer. Wood can hold the ball to keep the play alive for a few more seconds that will allow Dempsey and the others to get into scoring positions. Plus, he makes key runs in and around the penalty box with or without the ball. Wood also never gives up on a play. The Hawaiian native will chase down defenders until they get rid of the ball or he recovers the possession.
Jones has been the heartbeat of the United States midfield. He helps captain Michael Bradley slow down the opposition's offense. He also fights to regain possession and then will begin an attack with his world class ability to deliver a dangerous ball near or around the box. However, now U.S. head coach Jürgen Klinsmann will have to move past their absences and field the best 11-players to compete and possibly win the game.
How the United States advance to the final
With Wood gone, Gyasi Zardes will most likely be pushed up front with Dempsey. At times, Zardes has struggled to control passes in tight areas in both club and the international level. On Tuesday, he cannot afford to do that; the U.S. will not be able to create a plethora of chances so every opportunity they get needs to be on target.
Argentina's head coach Gerardo Martino will have done his research and will do his best to eliminate Dempsey from the match. That will force Zardes to step up and attempt to beat Argentina on his own. However, besides Zardes having a solid performance, Bradley and the defense has to win their battles.
Bradley has to control the middle since Jones will not be there. He needs to disrupt as many passes and runs that go through this area. He cannot allow the talented Argentinean attack to run through the midfield unopposed.
However, the defense will need to make sure that they do not falter from the persistent pressure Argentina will supply. If they breakdown then it will be a long night for the United States in Houston.
Another key factor for the United States to pull out one of the biggest upsets in U.S. Soccer history is by scoring first. Argentina enters this match with all the pressure to advance and finally win a trophy for the first time since 1993. If they find themselves down early in the game, Argentina will be forced to just attack. The United States cannot just bunker in if that happens. They have to apply pressure in the midfield and force a turnover to allow the speedy Zardes to run at the remaining defenders.
However, in the end defeating the South Americans might prove to be too much for the United States. They need to not only play a near-perfect game, but they also will need a bit of luck to get past Argentina.
A simple plan for Argentine
The Argentines do not need to come up with a complex game plan to get past the United States. Controlling the possession of the ball and attacking from the wings will force the Americans to open up. Plus, the longer they have the ball the more chasing the United States will have to do, which will result in the U.S. getting tired and committing careless mistakes.
Also scoring early will put pressure on the U.S. to respond. That will result with gaps being created in the U.S. defense. The Argentineans can then operate a counter with space and potentially rack up the goals.
The last thing they want is for the match to remain scoreless or close. The U.S. at home will continue to fight and might get a breakthrough. So to just play it safe, Argentina should score a few goals as early as possible to secure their passage to their third consecutive final.