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How to sound smart when talking about the USMNT during the Copa America

Your friends will shower you with adoration this summer as you share your soccer wisdom.

9 min read

You’re at the bar. One of the U.S. men’s national team’s Copa America games is on the big screen. 

The person next to you makes a comment about Christian Pulisic as he dribbles down the left wing. “Pulisic was better when he played through the middle,” they say. The Almighty Rules of Conversation that were established before the dawn of time dictate that you now have to respond with a USMNT take of your own. But what do you say, other than “you’re wrong about Pulisic” (which they are, of course)?

I’m here to help. 

Today, I’m setting the table for you ahead of the United States’ run at the Copa America. This tournament will see the best nations from North, Central, and South America, battle each other — the real battle, though, is the one between your clever observations and the clever observations of those around you. The person with the most smart points at the end of the tournament wins. Those are the rules. I don’t make them. I just enforce them.

To give you a head start, here’s one useful remark about every player on the USMNT’s tournament roster.

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Matt Turner, Goalkeeper

What to say when the camera pans to him: “You know, everybody talks about Gio Reyna and Christian Pulisic, but Matt Turner could be the x-factor for the U.S. once they hit the knockouts.”

Fresh off an 11-save performance against Brazil in the USMNT’s final tuneup before the Copa America, Turner could be a leveling force for the United States when they face teams with higher-quality outfield players. His club season with Nottingham Forest was a disaster, but he’s been essential for the national team. If the U.S. make a run in the knockout rounds, Turner will have a hand — or like, a tip of his right goalie glove — in it.

Ethan Horvath, Goalkeeper

What to say when the camera pans to him: “Turner is the starter, but remember Horvath’s penalty exploits a few summers back? He could be an asset in shootouts.”

While he won’t get minutes unless Turner is hurt, Horvath has a track record of coming up big. He clutched out a win for the USMNT back in the 2021 Nations League final against Mexico, subbing on in the second half for an injured Zack Steffen and making the game-winning save in the penalty shootout.

Sean Johnson, Goalkeeper

What to say when the camera pans to him: “That third goalkeeper spot is more of an extra coach than anything else. Coach Sean John has a good ring to it, I think.”

Johnson won’t see the field this summer, but that shouldn’t be a surprise for the 35-year-old after he filled this same third goalkeeper position at the 2022 World Cup. He's a veteran voice in a youthful team.

Chris Richards, Center back

What to say when the camera pans to him: “Richards is the most well-rounded center back in the pool, but I’m a little worried about his defensive reactions.”

There’s a whole sequence of errors that led to the USMNT’s latest concession, but watch Richards on the play down below. He never seems to get out of first gear to pressure Rodrygo:

Richards is a starter for Gregg Berhalter. If he’s inefficient with his movement defensively, though, there will be problems.

Tim Ream, Center back

What to say when the camera pans to him: “Grandpa Ream is the rock of this backline. As long as he’s not caught in a footrace, he’s reliable.”

At 36, Ream is the eldest member of this Copa America squad. The long-time Fulham center back has grown into a crucial role for the USMNT on the back of his sharp distribution, quick defensive reads, and leadership.

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