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Copa America Semifinal: USA v. Argentina Preview

The USMNT will face an uphill battle as it takes on an Argentina side led by Lionel Messi.

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The United States Men's National Team faces Argentina in a Copa America semifinal, on Tuesday, June 21st.

Argentina has been unstoppable so far in the Copa America. It went 3-0 in the group stage beating Chile 2-1, Panama 5-0, and Bolivia 3-0. Then, La Albiceleste routed Venezuela 4-1 in the quarterfinals.

The U.S. is coming off of a scrappy 2-1 win against Ecuador in the quarterfinals that saw Jermaine Jones ejected, and yellow cards for Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya. All three will miss this match as a result.

Argentina is currently ranked #1 and is led by the best player in the world, its captain, Lionel Messi.

Despite coming into the tournament with a back injury, Messi has been brilliant. He leads the tournament golden boot race with four goals and has contributed two assists, despite only starting the past two matches.

Messi has almost no offensive weaknesses and is an excellent dribbler, playmaker, and finisher.

La Albiceleste has a wealth of attacking talent, with elite forwards Sergio Aguero and Ezequiel Lavezzi struggling to even get on the field.

While most focus will be on Messi, the USMNT will also need to be wary of striker Gonzalo Higuaín.

Higuaín struck twice against Venezeula and scored a Serie A record 36 goals this past season with Napoli. Higuaín primary strengths are his finishing and hold up play.

Argentina will miss starting winger Nicolás Gaitán due to his suspension for yellow card accumulation. Additionally, the status of Ángel Di María is unclear.

Di María suffered an injury on June 10th against Panama and hasn't featured since. He is expected to be fit for the final, if Argentina makes it, but may not be ready for this match.

Defensively, La Albiceleste is led by Manchester City centerback Nicolás Otamendi. Otamendi is a great tackler and dominates in the air. He should make things difficult for Clint Dempsey.

While Argentina's defense isn't bad, it isn't nearly as good as the offense. Because the Argentines have dominated possession so far in the Copa America, the backline has rarely been tested. However, the Argentine backline can be caught sleeping as evidenced by Venezuela's goal in the last match.

Coach Gerardo Martino will deploy a 4-3-3. The Argentines play a quick, possession oriented style of play.  La Albiceleste will be more skilled, but less physical than Ecuador.

The U.S. will be considered a massive underdog and won't be helped by the multiple lineup changes Jurgen Klinsmann is forced to make.

Expect Klinsmann to continue to use a 4-4-2. The only changes he will make will be in order to deal with suspensions.

Projected Lineup:

With Jermaine Jones suspended, look for Darlington Nagbe to join the Starting XI. Nagbe has the speed and dynamism of Jones, although is probably worse defensively.

Alejandro Bedoya has been playing on the left wing and will likely be replaced by Fabian Johnson. Klinsmann could move Johnson up to his natural position and deploy Matt Besler at left back. The U.S. will need Johnson's attacking talent with Wood, Jones, and Bedoya unavailable.

To replace Bobby Wood, Klinsmann will put Gyasi Zardes up top and use Graham Zusi on the right wing. Zusi is left-footed and typically plays left mid, but he is capable of playing right mid and is the best option.

Up top, Zardes' speed will help to stretch the backline. He will need to play a similar role to Wood that involves making many good runs in order to pull defenders out of position.

It will be extremely difficult for the U.S. defense to contain Messi, but they have to find a way. The USMNT should look to be very physical with Messi, but at the same time can't afford to allow him many set piece opportunities.

Michael Bradley and Darlington Nagbe's battle against Javier Mascherano in the center of midfield will be crucial. Mascherano is a destroyer, but also has a decent passing range.

He will make it very difficult for the U.S. to attack through the middle. Mascherano is card prone and the USMNT should look to lure him into fouls.

Fabian Johnson, and whoever else plays on the left side, will need to attack right back Gabriel Mercado. Mercado is inconsistent and arguably the weakest Argentine starting defender.

The U.S. has met Jurgen Klinsmann's goal of progressing to the semifinals. It will now face arguably the best team in the world, with a chance to progress to the final.

At the very least, the USMNT will play in a third-place match. With three important American players suspended and Argentina's brilliant offense, I expect the U.S. to lose 4-1.