- Brooks the USA's standout performer of the Copa 100.
- USMNT face Argentina in last four.
- Have never gone further than the semi-finals.
Hertha Berlin centre-back John Anthony Brooks will be tasked with keeping Lionel Messi under wraps when the USA take on Argentina in the semi-finals of the Copa America Centenario in Houston on Tuesday (kick-off: 21:00ET/ 04:00CEST+1 day).
The towering 23-year-old has provided the backbone of the USMNT's stellar run to the last four and has demonstrated all the credentials necessary to shackle a player who has registered a goal every 41 minutes of the tournament.
Brooks 'more mature'
"I think [John's] just now realising the sky is the limit for him," US head coach Jürgen Klinsmann said. "He's getting calmer. He's becoming more mature communicating with the whole back line. As a centre-back you need to keep a high level of aggressiveness because you are there to intimidate those strikers. So he does all those little things better and better. Doesn't mean he is perfect, but he is really maturing his game and it’s fun for us coaches to watch."
Brooks has kept five clean sheets in seven appearances for the USMNT this calendar year - including two in recent Copa America group stage wins over Costa Rica and Paraguay. He has put in some heroic last-ditch challenges and is already many fans' pick for player of the tournament. Little wonder Klinsmann believes "he will only get better".
Brooks has consistently topped the post-match rankings, but the contributions of his fellow Bundesliga representatives have been no less important. Borussia Mönchengladbach utility man Fabian Johnson has excelled on the flanks, while new Hamburger SV striker Bobby Wood has led the line superbly well, registering a goal and assist against Costa Rica on Matchday 2.
Wood is suspended for the Argentina game, although the U.S. Soccer Federation have appealed the yellow card he picked up in the quarter-final win over Ecuador. Should German football's record single-season American goalscorer miss out, there could be an opening for Borussia Dortmund starlet Christian Pulisic. The 17-year-old has only made one substitute appearance so far at the Copa, but Klinsmann would not think twice about unleashing him on an Argentina side currently top of the FIFA World rankings.
"He has certain characteristics in his game that can make a difference," he said of the breakout Dortmund talent. "That's why he played already [European football] overseas. He's fearless. He takes people on, so he's always there to surprise the opponent. We've come so far now and now we get even hungrier for the next step. We'll give everything we have."
Coach: Jürgen Klinsmann
Argentina: Romero - Mercado, Otamendi, Funes Mori, Rojo - Fernandez, Banega, Mascherano - Messi (c), Higuain, Di Maria
Coach: Gerardo Martino