Obscured by the novelty of the night and by the brave resistance shown by a U.S. team nearing crisis mode was some highly questionable intelligence on display by Jurgen Klinsmann’s team.
All credit in the world to the snow capped U.S. men for finding a way Friday – but if we’re being honest, the game was not managed very wisely.
Foremost, those fouls at the end of the match were ridiculous. Giving Costa Rica three late chances to place balls into the penalty area on restarts was the very height of “asking for it.” It was inexcusable.
So treacherous was the footing on the DSG Park field by then, the only way Costa Rica was going to score was through some gift opportunity, an invitation to clear a little spot of the fluffy white menace and target a ball into the penalty area, where slippery mayhem could ensue.
You could see Jurgen Klinsmann, usually cool as German asparagus over there, losing his mind with the late fouling.
Costa Rican defenders figured it out. Why body up on some attacker when they probably can’t do anything with the ball anyway?
Here’s something else the Costa Ricans figured out: tiki-taka didn’t work. Not even close. So, why, why, why would the United States keep trying to magically make it work? Why where they inviting disaster with 10- to -15-yard passes, attempting to be all smooth and under control, hoping to play through Michael Bradley as if conditions had not deteriorated to historic proportions?
Costa Rica, meanwhile, had it pegged. This game was about 30- to 40-yard passes that could be lifted off the snow. If those lower percentage passes wiggled or squirted away, so what? The Costa Rican passes were going into spots of lesser danger, where the Ticos were prepared to defend if they did lose the ball.
They kept Alvaro Saborio up high and dumped in a series of exploratory long balls, and kept the pressure on the United States by doing so.
A young U.S. side looked like one afraid to improvise as Costa Rica did. Young players seemed afraid to go against the usual Klinsmann way.
But that’s the game. Improvise and adapt. Figure it out.
Let’s hope they do a little better at it tonight Azteca Stadium.