USMNT vs. Bolivia: Scouting report on Copa America opponents, what to know, formation, best players

Written by on June 23, 2024

The U.S. should advance from Group C but there is plenty of pedigree

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The U.S. men’s national team will have to wait until Sunday to get their Copa America campaign underway against Bolivia in Texas but Gregg Berhalter’s men will fancy their chances of a top-two finish in Group C with Uruguay expected to be the main rivals. Going up against Panama before Marcelo Bielsa’s Celeste is ideal as it gives the Stars and Stripes a shot at getting points on the board and a possible quarterfinal place assured before tackling the hardest opponent — on paper. A quarterfinal berth would lead the USMNT towards Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay or Costa Rica with the Brazilians and Colombians the most likely to finish in the top two positions in Group D.

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First, though, everybody needs to advance which means focusing on the USMNT’s Group C rivals.

Bolivia (Sunday, June 23 at 6 p.m. ET)

The USMNT’s first opponent will not strike fear into too many U.S. soccer fans but the Bolivians could be ones to watch in the future with a number of young talents coming through the ranks at present.

  • Formation: 3-1-4-2
  • Ideal XI: Viscarra; Jesus Sagredo, Haquin, Jose Sagredo; Justiniano; Cuellar, Fernandez, Saucedo, Matheus; Menacho, Miranda.
  • Form: Antonio Carlo Zago’s men lost 1-0 to Mexico, 3-1 to Ecuador and 3-0 to Colombia in preparation so that does not bode well and they are second bottom of the CONMEBOL 2026 World Cup qualifiers so do not expect to see them at that either. However, they should not be written off as walkovers or the USMNT could drop valuable points through complacency.
  • Players to watch: Boris Cespedes and Roberto Fernandez are Europe-based talents and some of the most senior figures while Miguel Terceros, Gabriel Villamil and Jaume Cuellar are talented youngsters also plying their trade away from their home nations. Cuellar was born in Spain so is an example of Bolivia starting to naturalize potential talents to form part of this new generation coming through.
  • Style of play: A cursory glance at their formation shows that this is a defensive side which is not surprising given that Zago was a defender himself. Without the recently retired Marcelo Moreno, there is no obvious goal threat which is problematic given his vastly superior scoring record to every other international teammate while active.
  • Strengths: This is a young side which suggests that it can grow towards being stronger in the future and that will be the aim here. However, progress will need to be made and a succession of heavy defeats will not really be considered constructive.
  • Weaknesses: This squad is mostly domestic-based which suggests that it is difficult for much of this talent to develop adequately. Copa America is an ideal shop window for these players so performances could be rewarded with career-furthering moves.
  • Best finish: As 1963 winners, 1997 runners-up and 2015 quarterfinalists, there is pedigree for Bolivia. However, the reality is that three consecutive group stage exits between 2016-2021 make them relative minnows presently.

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Panama (Thursday, June 27 at 6 p.m. ET)

Familiar to the USMNT from the CONCACAF region, this is only Panama’s second outing at a Copa America and they will be firmly expected to finish behind the U.S. and Uruguay. A battle with Bolivia to avoid finishing bottom is most likely.

  • Formation: 3-4-2-1
  • Ideal XI: Mosquera; Harvey, Cordoba, Miller; Murillo, Martinez, Godoy, Davis; Barcenas, Diaz; Fajardo.
  • Form: With a 2-0 win over Guyana, a 3-1 win over Montserrat and a 1-0 loss to Paraguay, a combination of morale-boosting wins met with the reality of a loss to one of the weaker South American nations. The Paraguayans are arguably stronger than Bolivia so that is reason for optimism but there is a gulf between Panama and Uruguay as well as the U.S.
  • Players to watch: Marseille’s Michael Amir Murillo is a key name while Nashville SC’s Anibal Godoy is captain and Yoel Barcenas is a known face from Liga MX with Mazatlan but this is a squad with no domestic-based talent and a scattering of players across various continents.
  • Style of play: Panama aim to be solid and hard to break down which is why much of their approach is midfield-based which is mirrored in the four-man middle in front of three central defenders. It is an approach that has met with success when used by the likes of Atalanta BC and RC Lens in Europe but it requires the necessary quality to pull off.
  • Strengths: As mentioned, having much of the team’s main quality pieces in the midfield makes that their most valuable position. However, the setup also dictates that very fit players are required in order to truly perform at optimum level to make the most of this tactical setup.
  • Weaknesses: Outside of the starting XI and even in certain positions, there is not much in the way of depth which means that any physical issue or suspensions could prove costly.
  • Best finish: There is only one previous outing to point to for Panama with a 2016 group stage showing with one win and two losses to their name.

Uruguay (Monday, July 1 at 9 p.m. ET)

Arguably the main threat to the USMNT and easily the most recognizable side in this group along with the most high-profile head coach, La Celeste are strong enough to be considered favorites for top spot. Bielsa is overseeing a generational change with the likes of Edinson Cavani moving on and Luis Suarez coming to the end of his time as his nation’s talisman. That changing of the guard means that the Uruguayans are a work in progress even if they have undoubted quality in their ranks.

  • Formation: 4-2-3-1
  • Ideal starting XI: Rochet; Nandez, Gimenez, Araujo, Olaza; Bentancur, Ugarte; Pellistri, Valverde, Suarez; Nunez.
  • Form: A goalless draw with Costa Rica and a 4-0 thrashing of Mexico have led into this tournament but Uruguay have also had a fairly lengthy break ahead of their opening game. Currently second in the race for a FIFA 2026 World Cup spot, Bielsa’s men are one of South American soccer’s in-form sides right now.
  • Players to watch: Suarez needs little introduction to a U.S. audience and especially now that he is playing alongside Lionel Messi once again for Inter Miami in Major League Soccer. The former Barcelona and Liverpool star has pretty much won it all yet is still motivated enough to play on. Current Reds star Darwin Nunez is leading the new generation of talent and has helped to ease the blow of Cavani’s retirement. Federico Valverde was a UEFA Champions League winner with Real Madrid and regularly comes up against Barcelona and Ronald Araujo in La Liga where Los Blancos were also crowned champions with Valverde key.
  • Style of play: Typically, Bielsa teams are almost always high tempo and very physical until they break down physically which is what we saw at Leeds United but also Olympique de Marseille. Uruguay’s natural attributes mesh well with this philosophy while this being international soccer makes Bielsa’s approach semi-sustainable which is not the case at club level.
  • Strengths: With so much Europe-based quality, Uruguay have arguably some of the strongest pedigree going at Copa America and recognizable talents in every position. With a head coach of world renown like Bielsa, it is easy to see why many consider them favorites to finish ahead of the USMNT in Group C.
  • Weaknesses: Despite plenty of talent coming through, there is still a bit of an over-reliance on a veteran Suarez in attack. Cavani might be gone now which is one aging talent moved on but this team will only truly be passed the baton once its talisman bids farewell after a stunning career with club and country.
  • Best finish: The Uruguayans are 15-time winners which is a joint-best tally with current holders Argentina and La Celeste most recently won it back in 2011.

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The post USMNT vs. Bolivia: Scouting report on Copa America opponents, what to know, formation, best players first appeared on CBS Sports.


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