Colombia downs U.S. in Copa America Centenario opener

Action from the Copa America Centenario opener between the host USA (white jersey) and Colombia in Santa Clara, California, USA, on June 3, 2016. (Photo: Mexsport)

SANTA CLARA, California – Colombia scored both of its goals in the first half to earn a 2-0 victory over the United States in the Copa America Centenario opener on Friday at Levi’s Stadium.

Cristian Zapata scored early off a beautifully crafted corner kick and James Rodriguez converted a penalty kick to double the advantage before halftime.

The setback ended the Americans’ winning streak at four games, while Colombia takes the early advantage in Group A.

In their third-ever Copa America meeting, Colombia jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute.  Edwin Cardona delivered a right-sided corner kick towards the penalty spot. Knowing precisely where the ball was heading, Zapata made a curling movement off the left corner of the six-yard box and first-timed past goalkeeper Brad Guzan with his right foot.

The Cafeteros doubled their advantage in the 42nd minute thanks to James Rodriguez’s first-ever Copa America goal.  Referee Roberto Garcia awarded them a penalty kick, when U.S. defender DeAndre Yedlin was whistled for a handball as he jumped to block Farid Diaz’s cross from just outside the 18-yard box.  Rodriguez buried his effort into the right side of the net.

After the break, the U.S. had two solid chances to get on the scoreboard.  In the 60th minute, a Geoff Cameron header was cleared off the line by Sebastian Perez.  Moments later, Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina saved Clint Dempsey’s crisply taken free kick.

Colombia -- which improved to 3-0-0 against the U.S. in Copa America games -- received a scare when Rodriguez left the game in the 73rd minute, following a fall that appeared to cause a left-shoulder injury.

Minutes later, the South Americans could have tacked on another goal, but Carlos Bacca crashed a shot off the crossbar.

Both sides return to action on June 7 with the U.S. taking on Costa Rica in Chicago and Colombia meeting Paraguay in Pasadena, California.

BUDWEISER MAN OF THE MATCH: Cristian Zapata (Colombia)