Yeltsin Tejeda, Graham Zusi

Costa Rica 3-1 United States: Worst-case scenario as yellow cards, injury compound road loss

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It was about as bad as Jurgen Klinsmann could have hoped for, from before the start to the final whistle as Costa Rica thumped the United States 3-1 at Estadio Nacional.

Things started horribly for the USMNT, when they lost Michael Bradley pregame with an ankle sprain.  It forced Geoff Cameron into action, and the absence of Bradley’s calm and precise passing was evident throughout.

The match started rough as well. In the third minute the ball slotted through and fell to Bryan Ruiz all alone in the box, and he wasn’t able to put it in the back of the net, forcing a save from Howard.  The ensuing corner was beautifully headed in by Jhonny Acosta, taking a deflection off DaMarcus Beasley covering the near post and tucked into the back of the net for an early Costa Rican 1-0 lead.

Costa Rica continued to pinch and collapse their wingers forward into the box, and support them on the wings by launching their wing backs forward.  This flooded the box, and in the 10th minute Celso Borges beat the United States defenders in the air to bury another header past a flat-footed Tim Howard to make it a shock 2-0 scoreline early.

The bombing wing backs targeted Michael Orozco on the US’s right flank.  Orozco was a surprise start at right back by Jurgen Klinsmann over Michael Parkhurst or Geoff Cameron, and it didn’t appear clear why that decision was made.

The US barely had a sniff on goal in the first half, with their best chance coming off the foot of Fabian Johnson in the 27th minute.  The first good buildup from the visitors produced a low cross into the box by Zusi.  Johnson found it and unloaded a laser of a volley to the far post but a fabulous save by Keylor Navas turned it around wide.

Just as Costa Rica thought they were going into halftime with a solid lead, Navas took down Fabian Johnson in the box, who had been threaded through on goal. The ball skidded away, and what looked at first like a legitimate challenge was proved by replays to be all man and no ball.  The referee awarded a penalty, and Dempsey converted for a massive goal on his 100th cap to make it 2-1.

source: ReutersThe second half settled down heavily from the hectic first period, and it took 11 minutes for the first clear chance to rear its head.  Clint Dempsey found himself with space out on the top of the box, neatly cut back and forth until he had an opening, and rifled a shot that clattered the left post.

The United States possession looked cleaner and tighter as the second half progressed.  By the 70th minute, the chances had minimized but the United States were clearly in the ascendency.   It wasn’t to be for the Stars and Stripes though, as a clear miraculously found Joel Campbell who outpaced the center backs caught up too high and he easily slides past Tim Howard for a 3-1 Costa Rican lead.

Matt Besler soon received a yellow card off the ball, and he – along with Geoff Cameron, booked earlier in the match – will miss the meeting with Mexico early next week.  Jozy Altidore will also miss the match in Columbus, with an idiotic yet soft yellow for a shove in stoppage time.

The loss ends the national streak of 12 victories in a row for the United States, and means they drop to second place in the Hex standings, a point behind Costa Rica and two up on Honduras, who shocked Mexico at Azteca.

Lineups:

United States – Howard; Orozco, Gonzalez, Besler, Beasley; Cameron, Jones; Zusi (E. Johnson, 58′), Donovan, F. Johnson (Altidore, 71′); Dempsey (Johansson, 90′).

Costa Rica – Navas; G. Gonzalez, J. Acosta, Umana; Gamboa, Oviedo, Borges, Tejada (Cubero, 73′), Bolanos, Campbell, Ruiz.

Klinsmann wants top-four finish at Copa America, but can the USMNT do it?

KANSAS CITY, KS - MAY 28: The USA soccer team poses for a group photo before taking on Bolivia in the international friendly match between Bolivia and United States on May 28, 2016 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
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With the United States kicking off the Copa America this Friday, Jurgen Klinsmann has made his goal clear:

Reach the final four.

After a disappointing showing last summer in the Gold Cup and a poor finish to 2015, the USMNT heads into the Copa winners of six of their last seven matches and ready to make a run. But can they really reach the semifinal?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

The U.S. faces their toughest test in the opening match against Colombia. One of the most dangerous teams in the tournament, few are expecting the U.S. to get a result against Los Cafeteros. Just a draw would be a great result for Klinsmann’s men, but it will be a big ask against the fourth-ranked team in the world.

The second match against Costa Rica is key. The two CONCACAF foes have plenty of experience playing against each other, and it is a relatively even matchup. The last time these sides met in October, the U.S. put in one of their worst performances ever under Klinsmann, and he must avoid a similar result at the Copa. If the United States wants to secure their position as one of CONCACAF’s top two sides along with Mexico, they cannot afford to drop points against Costa Rica.

Paraguay will be the USMNT’s final opponent, a very intriguing matchup for Klinsmann. Paraguay’s recent form doesn’t look threatening on paper, as Ramon Diaz’s side has not won since November, taking just two wins from their last 12 matches overall. However, they reached the quarterfinals in last summer’s Copa, earning a draw against Argentina and knocking out Brazil in penalty kicks.

[ MORE: Klinsmann excited about USMNT’s promising youngsters ]

The two sides that advance from Group A will face off against Group B in the quarters. Brazil are the heavy favorites in that group, paired with Ecuador, Peru, and Haiti. The U.S. beat Ecuador last week, defeated Peru in a September friendly, and are strides above Haiti, arguably the weakest team in the field. With Brazil likely to win Group B, a second-place finish in Group A would give the U.S. a brutal matchup in the quarters. Brazil embarrassed Klinsmann’s side in Massachusetts last fall, walking over the U.S. en route to an easy 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Mexico’s Pulido fought off kidnappers to call police for help ]

With the prospect of potentially facing Brazil in the quarters, the U.S. needs to put all their focus on winning Group A if Klinsmann really wants to reach the semifinals. The only match that the U.S. is not expected to take points from is the opener against Colombia, meaning a surprise result, however unlikely it may be, could kickstart a nice little run for the Stars and Stripes.

Firm issues plan urging companies to let employees watch EURO 2016

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MAY 27:  Wayne Rooney of England celebrates with team mates after scoring his team's second goal of the game during the International Friendly match between England and Australia at Stadium of Light on May 27, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Worried about trying to balance work with EURO 2016 this summer? Acas is here to help.

Acas, a British conciliation firm that helps companies maintain good working relationships with their employees, has called for bosses to allow their staff to watch EURO matches.

[ MORE: Bellerin to make Spain squad ]

Some matches, including England’s Group B showdown with Wales, kick off during the workday at 3 p.m. London time.

Sir Brendan Barber, who is the chairman of Acas, believes workers should be given some time off during games, or work later hours on other days to allow time to watch the EURO.

The EURO 2016 tournament is an exciting event for football fans but staff should avoid getting a red card for unreasonable demands or behaviour in the workplace during this period.

Employers should have a set of agreements before kick-off to help ensure their businesses remain productive while keeping staff happy too.

Our guidance can help managers get the best from their teams, arrange substitutions if necessary and avoid unnecessary penalties or unplanned sendings off.

With the tournament getting underway on June 10, I suggest printing out Acas’ statement and seeing if your boss will follow the sage advice of Sir Brendan Barber.

VIDEO: Payet scores sensational free kick winner for France

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - MARCH 25:  Dimitri Payet of France in action during the International Friendly match between Netherlands and France at Amsterdam Arena on March 25, 2016 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Don’t let Dimitri Payet get a free kick, because he’s probably going to score.

After scoring four of his 12 goals for West Ham from dead-ball situations this season, his touch has carried over to the French national team.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s EURO coverage ]

With France playing Cameroon and the match tied 2-2 in the 90th minute, Payet stepped up from about 30 yards out and did this:

While there may be some suspect goalkeeping on this one, it’s a stellar strike that found the top corner perfectly from a tough angle for a right-footed shot.

[ MORE: Saints set to give Long new contract as Liverpool, Spurs show interest ]

Payet has three goals for the French national team, with two of them coming from free kicks. After being named to the PFA Team of the Year this season, Payet will be a key member of the France squad that has high hopes as the host nation for the upcoming EURO.

El Tri striker Pulido fought kidnappers, used cell phone to call police

HYERES, FRANCE - JUNE 01:  Alan Pulido (no.19) of Mexico celebrates his goal during the Toulon Tournament Final between  Mexico and Turkey at Stade Perruc on June 1, 2012 in Hyeres, France.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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More details have been released regarding Alan Pulido’s kidnapping in Mexico.

The Mexican international and Olympiakos striker was taken at gunpoint early Sunday morning in Tamaulipas. He was then freed on Monday after a police “rescue operation.”

Seen leaving the police station with a bandaged hand, officials have now given information on how Pulido was injured.

[ MORE: PSG defender Aurier arrested ]

The 25-year-old striker cut his hand while punching through a glass pane in an attempt to escape. Officials also said Pulido fought his kidnapper, doing enough to grab a cell phone and notify police of his whereabouts.

From BBC News:

State prosecutor Ismael Quintanilla said the masked gang had taken Pulido to a house in Ciudad Victoria where he eventually found himself alone with one of his abductors.

“They traded blows. He takes it [the phone] and calls [emergency number] 066. It all happened very quickly,” Mr Quintanilla told Imagen radio.

An official report of the calls Pulido made to the emergency operator, obtained by the Associated Press, revealed that he threatened and beat the kidnapper while on the phone, demanding to be told where they were.

In one of the calls, Pulido said police were outside and starting to shoot so he described what he was wearing to avoid being mistaken for a kidnapper.

A wild situation, but the most important thing is that Pulido is safe while one arrest has been made.