A look at the big picture of USMNT after lopsided loss to Argentina

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United States goalkeeper Brad Guzan (1) reacts during the second half against Argentina in the semifinals of the 2016 Copa America Centenario soccer tournament at NRG Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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So the United States men's national team got hammered.

It took less than three minutes for Argentina to score the only goal it would need to advance to the Copa America Centenario championship game – their third major tournament final in three summers. Fabian Johnson cleared a short corner right to Lionel Messi, who chipped it over the back line from the top of the box, where Ezequiel Lavezzi ran away from Kyle Beckerman and nodded it over goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who stood rooted to the ground.

[ Messi stars in Argentina's prime-time show | USA-Argentina Live | Match stats ]

Considering that the U.S. didn't muster a single shot all game, that was all it took. Even though La Albiceleste would score three more goals anyway to humiliate the Americans 4-0 in Houston on Tuesday and end their dreamy run into the final four of this one-off championship of the Western Hemisphere.

[ COPA AMERICA | Predictions | Scores/Schedule | Standings | Teams ]

Chris Wondolowski took a heavy touch after half an hour, chased the ball down to his own half and then fouled Messi, who whipped in a preposterously perfect free kick from 25 or so yards – breaking Argentina's all-time scoring record. And John Brooks lost Gonzalo Higuain and then refused to chase after him, giving the Napoli striker two cracks at Guzan in order to make it 3-0. And then Messi intercepted the ball high up the field and laid it off for Higuain, who got a simple second.

These are the facts.

It's also true that only Opta and Yahoo's stats services counted an American shot, although most interpreted the attempt by Christian Pulisic as a pass – either way, it was blocked far from goal. And that the Americans were utterly incapable of holding onto the ball, claiming just a third of possession as they could formulate no answers at all for Argentina's high pressure. Then there's the Yanks' horrid pass completion percentage, which at one point stood at just 58, before climbing to a still-woeful 72 percent.

The first-half passing chart was particularly unsightly.

So, yes, the U.S. got hammered.

Now what?

What does it all mean? Where do we stand?

Here's the thing. In the grand scheme of things, it was a bad day, an embarrassing display, but it wasn't some kind of larger referendum on the state of the national team program.

The U.S. played – and took a beating from – the best national team in the world, which is now 5-0-0 in this tournament, scoring more than 3.5 goals per game while conceding 0.4, and which lost the 2014 World Cup final in extra time and the 2015 Copa America final on penalties. This Argentina is one of the best national teams in years, perhaps going back to the height of Spain's dynastic Euro-World Cup-Euro trophy three-peat.

"You saw tonight why they are the No. 1 team in the world," U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "I think that's what the players realized on the field as well. You've got to give them huge credit. I told the guys, 'There's nothing to be ashamed of,' after the game."

Well, the Americans had an ugly night. Wondolowski didn't work out as a stand-in for the suspended Bobby Wood. Kyle Beckerman wasn't Jermaine Jones. And Graham Zusi wasn't quite up to Alejandro Bedoya's high standards, even though he at least made sure that there was still a man bun out on the field.

But it was one game. A very poor one, yes. But just one. And it was one in which what little chances the Americans had were frittered away in less than 180 seconds.

"At this stage it's all mental," Klinsmann said. "And that's when you already lost your mental battle. Once we were 1-0 down we had far too much respect. After that first goal, they feel like in every position on the field they are better than we are."

There were far too many mistakes made against an opponent that committed almost none. That's grievous.

"You play against a very good team, you know you have to take care of every little detail in the best possible way. And I don't think we did that tonight," captain Michael Bradley said. "Ultimately, you play against a very good team and they make you pay."

But if this game was one for the Americans to forget, their larger body of work in this tournament isn't. When you increase the scope of the sample size of the performances from one, the takeaway is overwhelmingly positive. Not only did the USA reach the semifinals of a loaded tournament, it played well in three of its five games – beating Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ecuador – and competed in a fourth – a 2-0 loss to Colombia in their opener.

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of Klinsmann's time in charge, they finally forged a recognizable playing style, identity and lineup. They played out of the back, pressed high and pulled off swift exchanges going forward. This bodes well, a positive that far outweighs a hiding taken at the hands of the world's best team.

"There will be always a step backward and then we'll go two more forward," Klinsmann said. "That's a part of our process. We swallow it. It's a special team, Argentina."

After the Colombia loss, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati had hinted that a failure to reach the quarterfinals – a goal exceeded, in the end – could cost Klinsmann his job.

"We got outplayed badly by a very good team," he said Tuesday. "When they score so early it kind of changes everything."

But Gulati added that the loss, while lopsided, doesn't necessarily change the distance between where the program is and where it wants to get. Just as previous wins against world powers didn't shroud the many challenges remaining.

The United States took a step back against Argentina. But it had already taken several forward earlier in the tournament.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.