SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) _ Cristian Zapata scored his first international goal, James Rodriguez added a 42nd-minute penalty kick and Colombia beat the United States 2-0 Friday night in the opener of the Copa America.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann spoke about the importance of a strong showing in this special edition 100th anniversary Copa to create buzz for a potential 2026 World Cup bid. Instead, the 31st-ranked Americans began the biggest tournament at home since the 1994 World Cup with a dud as FIFA President Gianni Infantino watched among the announced sellout crowd of 67,439.
Geoff Cameron lost his mark on the first goal, and following a turnover by U.S. captain Michael Bradley, DeAndre Yedlin left a raised arm that led to a hand ball call and Rodriguez’s penalty kick. Colombia dominated, with Carlos Bacca putting a shot of the crossbar in the 77th minute.
“That penalty decision had a big impact,” Klinsmann said.
The Americans will look to rebound on Tuesday against Costa Rica at Chicago, then close their group stage four days later against Paraguay at Philadelphia.
Clint Dempsey, a 33-year-old veteran of three World Cups, had the three best U.S. chances.
“Clint was a warrior out there giving everything he had,” Klinsmann said. “He was really fighting that fight very positively til the very last second.”
Klinsmann started eight players who appeared in the 2014 World Cup, joined by goalkeeper Brad Guzan and forwards Gyasi Zardes and Bobby Wood. Trying to spark the attack, he put in 17-year-old Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe in the 66th minute.
Rodriguez came down hard on his left shoulder in the second half after tripping over Bradley, and Rodriguez exited in the 73rd minute.
No. 3 Colombia, a World Cup quarterfinalist two years ago, went ahead in the eighth minute on an unseasonably warm night when Zapata volleyed from about 10 yards out off a corner kick from Edwin Cordona. With Bradley marking Daniel Torres, Zapata circled around the pair to get away from Cameron, and the defender scored his first goal in 42 international appearances.
Mexican referee Roberto Garcia awarded the penalty when Yedlin, just inside the penalty area, jumped and turned to try to avoid a cross by Farid Diaz but left his right arm elevated as the ball hit.
American midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, whose father was born in Colombia, argued with Garcia to no avail, and Rodriguez fired a left-footed penalty kick past Guzan, who had dived the other way, for his 15th goal in 43 appearances. Guzan was picked by Klinsmann to start in the tournament over Howard, the Americans’ goalkeeper at the last two World Cups.
Dempsey had a shot from the top of the area that went just wide in the 37th minute, and his header in the 60th minute off Bradley’s corner kick was cleared off the line by Sebastian Perez. Dempsey curled a free kick around a defensive wall in the 60th minute that was parried by goalkeeper David Ospina.