Jurgen Klinsmann: United States players 'deserve a huge, huge compliment'
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The United States fell 1-0 to Colombia in the third-place match of the Copa America Centenario, but that didn't stop manager Jurgen Klinsmann from hailing his team's performance in this game and the tournament.
The Americans looked much improved from their opening match of the Copa America Centenario, when they fell to Colombia 2-0. The U.S. attack looked much more fluid from the run of play, while the defense -- playing without injured starters Fabian Johnson and John Brooks -- bent but was breached only once.
"I gave the whole team a huge compliment in the locker room," Klinsmann said. "After six weeks being on the road, to pull out a performance like that in a meaningless third-place game in a certain way, I think they deserve a huge, huge compliment.
"Every one of them, the whole team over this entire stretch of time, has kind of grown together, has given each other so much support. It's really fun to watch this team grow. Did we want to win this game? Yes, absolutely, but I think the performance was a wonderful performance.
"I think throughout the tournament, you saw so many good pieces, so many things that make us optimistic looking forward with this group. The back line today, whoever stepped in -- Matt Besler, Michael Orozco -- was outstanding.
"I don't think Geoff Cameron can play much better. DeAndre Yedlin going up and down. You can go through area by area, I think we gave Colombia a really good game, and even Jose Pekerman said after the game, 'Wow, you guys are growing. You guys are getting really stronger.'"
The best chance for the U.S. came in the 51st minute, but Clint Dempsey's free kick was superbly saved by Colombia keeper David Ospina. Bobby Wood later hit the post with another drive, but otherwise, the U.S. forced Ospina to make only one other save.
Colombia created its share of chances, with Carlos Bacca's 31st-minute tally enough to separate the two sides.
"Ultimately, because they were clinical with their one chance in the first half and we were not that clinical, we hit the post or kind of had a couple of missteps right in front of goal," Klinsmann said. "But there were enough chances there to put one in, and the players know that."
Prior to the start of the tournament, Klinsmann said the team's goal was reaching the semifinals. That seemed overly ambitious, especially after the group stage loss to Colombia. The U.S. then recorded wins over Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ecuador.
The U.S. were ousted by a clearly superior Argentina side in the semifinals, but Klinsmann said that what pleased him most was the way some players on the roster grew as the tournament progressed.
"Every day you learn," he said. "You learn about every individual, about your group, about the chemistry, about so many little pieces. Every day is fascinating in our little world.
"Definitely you see players coming through start to bloom. If it's a Bobby Wood, a Yedlin, a John Brooks and others becoming stronger. It's fun to watch some older ones hanging in there like a Clint and Jermaine Jones battling there and having a real impact on these teams still.
"You learn about every individual. You feel for the ones that didn't get that many minutes in the tournament. But they know we are with them, and we help them wherever we can."
As for Saturday's game, Klinsmann said he was pleased with the commitment, aggressiveness, awareness on the field, tactical awareness and discipline "to be very compact and out of that compactness, then play their game going forward."
These are the concepts he has been trying to instill the past five years, and if they continue to develop in these areas, then the U.S. players "know that they can compete with these guys."
Now Klinsmann hopes his team gets another chance to play in this tournament again.
"For us, it was a huge opportunity, and I think we took it really well," he said. "The final four is a big deal, but there is a lot still to learn, and hopefully we can do that in every Copa America from now on."
Cameron echoed his manager's sentiments, pointing toward periods of play in which the U.S. laid siege to the Colombian goal.
"We didn't get played off the pitch tonight," the defender said. "If anything, I thought we dominated the game. I thought we had a lot of chances that we just didn't put in."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.