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USA vs Argentina, Copa America 2016: Semifinal Preview

The Yanks face #1-ranked Argentina with a shot at the brass ring on the line.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

What more is there to say about tonight's match against Argentina? They don't get much bigger than this but will immediately for the US Men's National Team if they find a way to defeat the Lionel Messi-lead Albiceleste. The 2014 World Cup runner ups have won their last 8 matches by an aggregate score of 19-4 and are undefeated in 10. They do enter this game on two days rest, but they've barely had to extend themselves in their last three Copa America matches as they put their boot down on Bolivia, then Panama, and finally, Venezuela.

The Yanks will be missing three of their go to players this tournament (Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood, and Alejandro Bedoya) through suspension and will have to embrace something of a different approach for the starting lineup and substitutions tonight in Houston. Conventional wisdom has been that an old hand like Kyle Beckerman is a shoe-in to make the lineup tonight. Others (oh please be right) have suggested a provocative, aggressive, almost go-for-broke XI similar to this. If practice the night before (please be a smokescreen), then this may be what Klinsmann rolls out:

Regardless of the lineup, the US recipe for success remains the same. First off, the US better score early. Then, they need to score again. Throughout, they're going to need some heroic defense and goalkeeping. When the game gets chippy, they cannot afford to lose their cool and go down a man; Argentina will carve them up like a turkey. Finally, put 10 behind the ball and hold on tight.

Key player: Gyasi Zardes.

Yeah, you heard me. Zardes will never be confused with Iniesta, but that isn't his job. Be big, be fast, press the defense when they're on the ball and occupy them when they're without it. A greedier version of Zardes playing at his best level today can be a part and/or a scorer of the goals the US needs to win. As good as Brad Guzan's been at this tournament, playing for penalties seems like a slow death.

Prediction: Sweaty feet and palms and a 2-1 US win because I'm a hopeless optimist.