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United States blow chance to shine against Argentina

The USMNT reached their goal of making the semifinals of Copa America Centenario. But on the biggest stage against the world's greatest footballer, the US blew a chance to take their program to the next level.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The first Copa America Centenario semifinal match was never close. From start to finish, Argentina – FIFA's number one ranked team – put on a clinic against the underdog United States, winning 4-0 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Argentina put four goals behind the net against the Americans, just as they did against Venezuela in the quarterfinals. But at least Venezuela created chances to keep the game closer than the scoreline indicated.

The United States never created much in the way of resistance. Even in the second half, when Jurgen Klinsmann brought in 17 year-old Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe, the US couldn't even muster a single shot. Not one.

To be fair, not many people expected the US to advance past Argentina, even though the US has a history of upsetting the top ranked team – including a 2-1 road win last year over Germany and a 2-0 win against Spain at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. But the players at least had the expectations of having a better performance than the one they displayed.

"Did they dominate the game? Yeah you could say that," US defender Geoff Cameron told Dynamo Theory after the match. "We can hold our heads high and be proud that we made it this far, but disappointed in the fact that we didn't put a performance in that we should've or could've. Maybe we were a little nervous because they are the type of team they are and they're number one in the world. Usually we always seem to rise to the occasion, but tonight we're disappointed that we didn't."

The question now looms after the results of Copa America Centenario: is South American soccer that much better than North America?

Last year's Copa America final saw Chile beat Argentina on penalty kicks. In the Centenario, Chile knocked out Mexico 7-0 in the quarterfinals, and Argentina just put four on the US. Those are the two top teams in CONCACAF, just getting worked by CONMEBOL's finest.

"I think its learning from these experiences," US midfielder Graham Zusi said. "To move out of the knockout round is a good step for our program. Sometimes you have to take steps back to move forward, and tonight was one of those instances.

"It doesn't mean we're happy with the result tonight, that we're happy bowing out of the tournament. But to get to the semifinal of Copa America, it says something."

The US has now moved passed the knockout round of the last four major tournaments they've played in: the 2016 Copa America Centenario, the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. Their semifinal mark this year is the highest since reaching the finals in 2009.