HOUSTON -- Argentina was simply too good for the United States to compete with in Tuesday's 4-0 drubbing in the Copa America semifinals, coach Jurgen Klinsmann said afterward.
"You saw tonight why they are the No. 1 team in the world," Klinsmann said after the Albiceleste utterly dominated the tournament hosts to book a place in Sunday's final against the winner of Wednesday's match between Chile and Colombia. "We just simply hit a far better team tonight."
The Americans didn't help themselves by conceding early in the match, falling behind on Ezequiel Lavezzi's looping header just three minutes in. The goal came so fast that the U.S. had yet to get out of its own half, and it put them in a hole they were never likely to climb out of.
That's how it played out: Lionel Messi scored on a beautiful free kick in the 32nd minute, and Gonzalo Higuain added two more in the second half to complete the rout.
"Once they have a lead, they're not giving that lead away," Klinsmann said. "They know exactly how to organize themselves behind the ball quickly. They pressure high right away when you are in possession of the ball -- that's why we pretty much didn't have any chance to score."
In fact, the U.S. didn't have any chances, period. The home team managed no shots on goal -- either on target or off -- and had just 32 percent of the possession despite being forced to chase the game for 87 minutes. The U.S. completed just 67 percent of their passes, compared to 92 percent for the visitors.
Klinsmann said that after going down almost immediately, his team was too deferential to the two time World Cup champions.
"I think it had to do a bit with the early goal," he said. "That early goal, I think our players could just feel that, probably in every position on the field, they're just better than we are."
Overall, the coach said he was pleased by how his team performed during the tournament, even if they "hit the wall" in Houston. After losing the opener to Colombia, the Americans reeled off wins against Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ecuador.
They still have one more match to play, too: Saturday's third place game in Phoenix against the loser of Wednesday's other semifinal.
The hosts will have Alejandro Bedoya, Jermaine Jones and Bobby Wood back for that game. All three were suspended on Tuesday, which also didn't help the U.S.
"We could not compensate [for] the fact that we missed those three guys," Klinsmann said.
The German manager was under pressure following the Colombia loss, with U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati publicly criticizing the team's results dating to the beginning of 2015. But Klinsmann appeared to solidify his position by hitting his pre-tourney target of a berth in the final four.
After Tuesday's loss, though, Gulati said a full review would come after the consolation match.
"We look at all of this, and we'll do that after the tournament's over and assess where we are and how we've done," Gulati said. "The three consecutive wins were good. Today and the Colombia game were less good."
Gulati also said that Tuesday's loss shows how far the U.S. has to go to truly stand toe-to-toe with the sport's elite countries.
"Today is a good day to judge where we are in the program overall. We're obviously a long way off," Gulati said. "We knew that going in.
"It's a strange feeling right now because we got to the semifinals, which is an accomplishment," he added. "But it's not an easy loss."