Carlos Bacca’s 31st minute goal stood the test of time as Colombia outlasted the United States for a 1-0 victory in the Copa America Centenario Third Place Match on Saturday night in Glendale, Arizona. Pressure put on the Colombian defense by the Americans was unable to yield them a goal, with Bobby Wood striking the post and Clint Dempsey forcing another stunning save from David Ospina over the course of the 90 minutes at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Each side entered the match on the heels of lopsided semifinal defeats, with the U.S. losing 4-0 to Argentina and Colombia falling 2-0 to Chile.
That being the case, both nations were eager to leave the Copa America Centenario on a positive note with a good showing in their final match.
Michael Orozco and Matt Besler were defensive changes made by U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann for the match, with defenders John Brooks and Fabian Johnson both out due to injury. Tim Howard also made his first appearance in goal for the Americans in place of Brad Guzan.
Jose Pekerman’s only change for Colombia involved the withdrawal of midfielder Carlos Sanchez, after the Monterrey player was sent off during Los Cafeteros’ semifinal defeat.
The United States made a purposeful start to the match in the wake of their performance against Argentina, with the U.S. failing to register a shot on target during that match. Back from yellow card suspension, Wood drove towards the Colombian box and fired over the goal within the match’s opening moments.
James Rodriguez had Colombia’s best early chance, with his effort from the top of the box beaten away by Howard, who made several solid stops during the match.
The former Everton goalkeeper was not at fault for the game’s only goal, which featured good build-up play from the Colombians just after halftime.
Right back Santiago Arias of Dutch club PSV Eindhoven was able to get in behind the American defense and head the ball across the face of goal past Howard. Bacca beat DeAndre Yedlin across the six-yard box to be first to the ball, and provided the deftest of touches to send it into the net.
After comfortably seeing the lead through to halftime, the Colombians were made to work to preserve their advantage in the second half.
Similar to the two teams’ first meeting at the Copa America Centenario, a 2-0 win for Colombia on opening night, Dempsey had a chance to bring the U.S. back into the match from a set piece.
And again like their first match, he was denied by a magical save from Ospina. The Arsenal goalkeeper dove to his left to tip away Dempsey’s strike, which started outside the defending wall and had curved inside the right-hand post before Ospina intervened.
Colombia’s best chances of the second half came on either side of the 60th minute mark. Rodriguez flashed a volley just wide across goal in the 57th minute before Juventus’ Juan Cuadrado struck the crossbar in the 61st minute.
Aiming for an ambitious chip, Cuadrado caught Howard out of his net and nearly lifted the ball into the net from the top of the penalty box, only to see his worthwhile effort crash off the crossbar.
Minutes later both Wood and Dempsey came close to leveling for the United States. Wood held possession well inside the Colombian box before hitting the post with his shot, which had Ospina well beaten. Dempsey meanwhile poked just wide of goal in the 66th minute.
The match settled down following those frantic minutes as the U.S. pressure subsided, although the additions of Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic provided the Americans with more possession in the midfield.
Stoppage time brought some chaos to the proceedings with Orozco and Arias sent off for each side. After being fouled by Arias, Orozco began to make his way to the Colombian penalty box when Arias provided a light headbutt to the forehead of the Tijuana player. Orozco’s reaction to the incident, a shove to the face of Arias, earned him his second yellow of the match and his marching orders.
Noticing the headbutt, match official Daniel Fedorczuk sent Arias off as well, leaving both sides with 10 men for the final seconds.
Nagbe’s free kick from the Arias foul was easily caught by Ospina in the game’s last meaningful moment, with Colombia claiming third place on the night.
The third place finish is Colombia’s best performance at a Copa America since they won the competition in 2001.
The Americans meanwhile equaled their best ever Copa America showing with a fourth place finish, the same position they finished in the 1995 edition.