SANTA CLARA (California) • Jurgen Klinsmann is still in search of a coherent style for the United States national football team and, after losing to Colombia in the Copa America opener on Friday, he is also in search of points.
A 0-2 loss to the third-best team in the world - by Fifa's estimation at least - is hardly a disgrace, but the lack of creativity shown by the US players on a sweltering evening in Santa Clara was worrying and will do little to give their fans confidence the hosts can make any real impact on the tournament.
AC Milan's Cristian Zapata and Real Madrid's James Rodriguez struck in the first half before a sell-out 67,439 crowd at the Levi's Stadium in northern California to puncture American hopes of emerging top from a difficult Group A.
The Colombians took the lead after only eight minutes, when US defender Geoff Cameron was caught ball-watching as Edwin Cardona's corner was curled in. Zapata duly stole in front of his man to thunder home the finish.
The US struggled to build any sort of momentum after that, with Colombia flooding the midfield and pressing relentlessly.
The hosts were dealt a killer blow in the 42nd minute when DeAndre Yedlin flicked a hand out to block Farid Diaz's cross.
The US players protested but Mexican referee Roberto Garcia was in no doubt and pointed to the spot.
Rodriguez stepped up to stroke home the spot-kick and Colombia were in total control.
"The hand ball was not a hand ball," Cameron, who plays for English club Stoke, said. "We're disappointed. But I thought we were the better team."
The US showed fight late in the second half, but were unable to finish the few chances they created.
Clint Dempsey produced their best scoring opportunity with a 63rd-minute free kick that Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina saved at full stretch.
Still, their manager tried to put a positive spin on their efforts and said he was happy with how they successfully controlled possession against the 2014 World Cup quarter-finalists.
"We were okay with the team performance. Against a quality team, if you don't score a goal to get back in the game and equalise, it's tough," said Klinsmann. "But overall, we were totally even and we didn't give them anything."
The Americans finished fourth in last year's Gold Cup and suffered a deflating defeat by Guatemala in March that led to calls for the German to be dismissed.
They next face Costa Rica in Chicago on Tuesday, while Colombia remain in California to take on Paraguay later that same evening.
Costa Rica reached the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals without losing a match in regulation.
Another problem for Klinsmann to ponder.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE