Takeaways from the USMNT's back-and-forth friendly against Colombia

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James Rodríguez celebrates his first-half goal in Colombia’s 4-2 win over the United States on Thursday. (EFE/Gerardo Mora)
James Rodríguez celebrates his first-half goal in Colombia’s 4-2 win over the United States on Thursday. (EFE/Gerardo Mora)

A shorthanded and outclassed U.S. men’s national team lost to Colombia, 4-2, in a back-and-forth friendly on Thursday in Tampa, Florida.

In front of a heavily pro-Colombian crowd at Raymond James Stadium, Cafeteros headliner James Rodriguez opened the scoring  with an all-world goal in the 36th minute. The Americans took the lead, entirely against the run of play, with back-to-back strikes by Kellyn Acosta and Bobby Wood shortly after halftime. But Carlos Bacca equalized almost immediately before Radamel Falcao, Colombia’s all-time top scorer, found the winner with about a quarter-hour to play. Miguel Borja would add a fourth five minutes later to put the game beyond the hosts’ reach. 

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Here are three quick thoughts on the match:

1. James Rodriguez is ridiculous

It’s hard to call a guy who led a World Cup in goals and who plays for Bayern Munich on loan from Real Madrid underrated, but Rodriguez might actually fit the bill. After winning the Golden Boot at Brazil 2014, the 27-year-old’s upward trajectory seemed unstoppable. But his stock slipped significantly at Real, where he often found playing time hard to come by.

An injury on the eve of the 2018 World Cup meant that Rodriguez wasn’t at his best in Russia. But he’s been among Bayern’s top performers this season, and his curling beauty of a goal on Thursday was a reminder of what he’s capable of when he’s healthy and in form:

2. Americans overrun defensively

The U.S. was always going to miss injured ground-eating midfield pair Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie who, along with attacking star Christian Pulisic, withdrew from the roster for this match and next week’s versus Peru after being named to it originally.

Partly because of those absences, interim U.S. coach Dave Sarachan opted for a more aggressive game plan, with four dedicated attackers in striker Wood, wingers Tim Weah and Kenny Saief, and Julian Green in Pulisic’s central playmaking role. it didn’t work.

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The Americans created little going forward; they were sloppy on the rare occasions they had the ball, with the visitors holding 62 percent of possession by the time it was over. The formation shift was always going to leave the U.S. vulnerable defensively, but Colombia expertly picked apart the home side time after time, with wave after wave of counterattack, many of them down young left back Antonee Robinson’s left side.

The defenders struggled both as a unit and individually. Falcao got the better of John Brooks early to set the tone, and as amazing as Rodriguez’s strike was, Brooks also have him far too much space to pick out the corner of Zack Steffen’s net. He wasn’t alone.  “There were a lot of individual mistakes that created their chances, and we got punished,” Sarachan said after the match.

The U.S. allowed 17 shots in all and seven on goal, more than in last month’s matches against Brazil and Mexico combined.

3. USMNT must rebound against Peru

Up until Thursday, this incredibly young U.S. squad — even with the recall of veterans Michael Bradley and Brad Guzan, the average age of the roster remained under 24, as has been the case over the last seven U.S. games — had punched above its weight.

September’s 2-0 loss against Brazil was respectable enough (even if you got the feeling watching that it could’ve been 5-0 had Neymar and Co. wanted). The U.S. beat blood enemy Mexico. Tied World Cup champ France.

This game exposed the Americans for what they are: a highly inexperienced group that has a long way to go against not just to beat the very best teams on the planet, but also the sort of sides that fall just outside the global elite, such as Colombia.

That’s not to say there weren’t positives. Kellyn Acosta got a start with Adams and McKennie out and made the most of it despite some early nerves. Wood scored and held the ball up well. The pass from Weah on Wood’s goal was almost as pretty as Rodriguez’s strike:

That has to be good for the 18-year-old Weah’s confidence, which can’t hurt since he’s stopped making match day rosters at Paris Saint-Germain lately. Green had his second strong game in a row. Besides, this team has already shown some resilience. After the Brazil game, the Yanks earned the Mexico result a few days later.

With another friendly coming up against Peru on Tuesday in Connecticut, the U.S. can still end this fixture window on a high. But they’ll have to be far sharper than they were on Thursday, with different personnel on the field. “There are plans to make a number to changes for Tuesday,” Sarachan said.

“We need to do better.”

Doug McIntyrecovers soccer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter@ByDougMcIntyre.

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