US led briefly before Columbia’s goal onslaught
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — This loss did not sting for Michael Bradley, far different from the previous one.
Carlos Bacca, Radamel Falcao and Miguel Borja scored second-half goals to lead Colombia over the United States 4-2 on Thursday night in an exhibition that marked the return of Bradley to the national team following a one-year absence.
“Personally to step on the field again, to have another chance to represent my country, that part never gets old,” Bradley said. “Games like this are an important part of the process. You play against a team like Colombia, if the way you deal with certain advantages they have isn’t quite good enough then they can punish you.”
The captain was dropped from the national team along with most veterans after the loss at Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 10 last year that ended the Americans’ streak of seven straight World Cup appearances. The 31-year-old midfielder, who hopes to play a role in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, made his 141st international appearance, tying Clint Dempsey for third on the American list behind Cobi Jones (164) and Landon Donovan (157).
“On the whole, a very solid night,” interim coach Dave Sarachan said. “Michael is still a guy that has played in big games, nothing fazes him. He’s trying to carry himself and do his job along with making sure he’s helping the guys alongside him. When they started throwing numbers forward, it’s just not on Michael. He needed some help on either side, left and right.”
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan also was back for the first time in a year but the 34-year-old was on the bench as 23-year-old Zack Steffen started his fourth straight U.S. match.
A trio of top young American midfielders missed the game because of injuries: 20-year-olds Christian Pulisic (torn calf muscle) and Weston McKennie (right adductor muscle), and 19-year-old Tyler Adams (back spasms).
Ben Sweat, a 27-year-old left back from nearby Palm Harbor, entered in the 75th minute and became the 19th player to make his debut under Sarachan, who took over when Arena quit after the loss in Trinidad.
“There was a ton of emotion, a ton of passion,” Sweat said. “It’s a special moment.”
Sarachan thought Sweat had good moments and indecisive ones.
“It’s a hard game to come into,” Sarachan said. “As a defender with the likes of the players they have, you get out of a little Volkswagen and you get into a Ferrari pretty quick.”
The U.S. has three wins, three losses and three ties under Sarachan, who also will lead the team for Tuesday’s exhibition against Peru in East Hartford, Connecticut. A new coach is expected to be hired later this year, and Gregg Berhalter of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew is the favorite.
The Americans had not allowed four goals since 4-0 loss at Costa Rica in a November 2016 World Cup qualifier that caused the U.S. Soccer Federation to fire coach Jurgen Klinsmann and bring back Bruce Arena.
“We let ourselves down a little bit in terms of that middle part of the second half,” Bradley said.
Before a crowd of 38,631 that was about three-quarters pro-Colombian, James Rodriguez put the visitors ahead with a pretty curling shot from just inside the penalty area in the 36th, but the U.S. regrouped and took a 2-1 lead on goals by Kellyn Acosta in the 50th minute and Bobby Wood in the 53rd.
“I thought the response beginning the second half to put the game back in on terms was very good,” Bradley said. “Nobody should feel defeated in any way. It’s experience, it’s understanding what it’s like when you play against these teams.”
Bacca tied the score three minutes later, and Falcao put Colombia ahead in the 74th on a counterattack begun by Rodriguez’s clearance that went nearly half the length of the field. Borja scored on a scissors kick while falling in the 79th.
Colombia, eliminated by England on penalty kicks in the World Cup’s round of 16, went ahead on Rodriguez’s 22nd goal in 67 appearances, his first since a World Cup qualifier at Peru on Oct. 10 last year.
Bradley helped in the build-up to the equalizer, playing the ball to Antonee Robinson. The left back made a long cross into the penalty area and Davinson Sanchez headed the ball in a clearance attempt. Acosta beat Sanchez to the ball with his right foot from 7 yards for his second international goal.
Just three minutes later, Julian Green stole the ball and fed Tim Weah on the left flank. Weah saw Wood streaking in and passed to Wood, who one-timed the ball past goalkeeper David Ospina from the right side of the penalty spot for his 13th international goal.
Didier Moreno entered in the 82nd minute for his Colombian debut.
By Mark Didtler of the Associated Press.