TAMPA — The United States brought a relatively young squad into Thursday night's exhibition match.
Colombia, on the other hand, brought 12 players who played in the World Cup over the summer.
Experience won out as Colombia defeated the Americans 4-2 in front of 38,631 at Raymond James Stadium, a record crowd for a U.S. national team match in Tampa. Three of the goals were scored in the second half.
Palm Harbor's Ben Sweat earned his first cap as a member of the U.S. team when he entered the game in the 76th minute as a left back. Captain Michael Bradley played for the first time with the national team since it was eliminated from World Cup qualifying a year and a day ago. It was his 141st cap, which ties Clint Dempsey for third on the all-time appearance list.
Midfielder James Rodriguez had a goal and an assist to lead Colombia.
"This is a great example of when you play a team like Colombia that has been together as long as they have and has the experience that they have,'' U.S. coach Dave Sarachan said. "They will punish you when you make mistakes, and we saw that tonight.''
The Americans made their share of mistakes, especially in the first half. Colombia led 1-0 and had several other close calls. But two nice goals early in the second half gave the U.S. team a brief lead.
In the 50th minute, Antonee Robinson lofted a perfectly placed pass into the box from the left side. It fell onto the foot of Kellyn Acosta, who was able to redirect it from nine yards out to tie the match at 1.
Three minutes later the Americans struck again, and again it was the result of nice pass. This time Tim Weah dropped a ball between two defenders to Bobby Wood. Wood's redirect found the net to make it 2-1.
That was the end of the highlights for the United States.
Colombia tied it in the 56th minute on a Carlos Bacca goal off an assist from Santiago Arias. In the 74th minute, Rodriguez found Garcia, who scored from 9 yards out for a 3-2 lead.
And for some insurance, Rodriguez passed to Miguel Angel Borja about 7 yards from the net. His bicycle kick rolled into the left side for a two-goal lead.
"I thought we were sloppy in the first half,'' Sarachan said. "Our approach and quality improved in the second half.''
Colombia controlled the game for most of the first half and had several scoring chances. That changed in the 36th minute. Rodriguez showed why he is one of the most coveted midfielders in the world when he scored on a perfectly placed shot.
Rodriguez gained control in the left corner of the 18-yard box, then worked his way around defender John Brooks and launched a left-footer that curled into the upper-right corner of the net. U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen could only watch as the ball hit the net.
That started a flurry of Colombia chances before halftime, but the Americans were able to keep it at 1-0.
Sweat played the final 14 minutes in front of the home crowd. He hopes its the start of many more matches with the national team, but he also realizes this match was special.
"There was a ton of emotion, a ton of passion," he said. "Even more so when you're representing your entire nation. It's a special moment."
The United States is 4-2-1 in national team matches played in Tampa. It continues its kickoff series Tuesday against Peru in Hartford, Conn. Peru is ranked 20th in the world.