Donovan of the U.S. leaves the field after losing their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Costa Rica in San Jose

Three things we learned from USMNT 3-1 loss at Costa Rica

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The United States were outpaced, out-passed, out-coached, and ultimately out-played en route to a 3-1 loss to Costa Rica Friday night.

And while it’s only one loss on the road in CONCACAF play – which certainly puts this sole match into perspective – there are still many things that Jurgen Klinsmann can take from this.

First off, it was reaffirmed that Michael Bradley is without a doubt the most important player in the United States squad.  I tackled that in another post, so what else did we come away with from this loss?

1) US defenders need to return to the basics

Very fundamental mistakes proved to be the undoing of the USMNT defenders at Estadio Nacional.  On the first and second goals, marking in the air was a struggle for Gonzalez and Besler.  Not only was jumping an issue, but tracking back with the ball in the air was a serious problem as well – especially on the second goal.

DaMarcus Beasley found himself out of position quite often. It’s not just his fault, as Beasley was often forced to cover for Fabian Johnson, who ran wildly around the pitch in all sorts of positions.  However, Beasley also needs to do his part on the edge, where Costa Rica repeatedly targeted as points of weakness.  The two of them need to figure out where their best and most comfortable position is, and soon. Overall, the organization from the back four wasn’t there.

The final goal was the biggest mistake, however.  Many will crucify Tim Howard for not coming out of goal to collect, but that aside, both Gonzalez and Besler were caught way too high up.  Sure the scoreline had something to do with that, but for a Costa Rican clear to find the feet of an attacker and nobody behind him is unacceptable.

2) The depth, while improved, still isn’t stellar

It’s almost impossible for any team to replace their star anchorman when injured, but the missing pieces were never replaced adequately.  Imagine if – knock on wood – Jozy were to get injured long-term? There’s no replacement up front other than moving Dempsey to striker, where he more often than not gets lost.  Geoff Cameron wasn’t able to come close to filling Bradley’s shoes, and now the US will even be without the Stoke man for Tuesday.

With Besler also suspended, it appears the most likely replacement will be a call up for Clarence Goodson.  The names emerging as tactical substitutions are decent, but when absences are compounded, the squad still looks dangerously patchwork.  It’s a lot better than it used to be, but still has a ways to go to be able to cope with losses of this magnitude.

3) It’s not all so bad

On the surface, most people will remember what stood out – the two goals inside 10 minutes for Costa Rica to begin the match, when they battered and bruised the US into submission, and the visitors were never able to recover.  That may have been the case, but the United States had plenty of bright spots, and if it weren’t for the outstanding goalkeeping of Keylor Navas, this match could have been wildly different.  He saved a bullet volley by Fabian Johnson in the first half which was headed for top corner, and had help from the post on Dempsey’s line drive towards the end.

Given all of the hardships the US were supposed to overcome – Bradley’s absence, Jozy’s fitness, the Orozco right-back experiment (which went poorly), Donovan’s lack of playing time with the first team – it wasn’t a terrible result.   Sure, the first 20 minutes were a train wreck, but once they settled in to match Costa Rica’s blistering start, the build-up was there…sort of.

Right then, it’s on to Colombus. The loss is but one match on the road in a very hostile environment, and with it over the shoulder and in the past, a date with a struggling El Tri looms.  It will be a test for both sides…

Brazilian midfielder Fred has doping ban extended to club, out until June

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - AUGUST 19:  Fred of Donetsk goes for a header during the UEFA Champions League: Qualifying Round Play Off First Leg match between SK Rapid Vienna and FC Shakhtar Donetsk on August 19, 2015 in Vienna, Austria.  (Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images)
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Shakhtar Donetsk striker Fred, a regular for the Brazilian national team, has seen his CONMEBOL doping ban extended worldwide to all competitions.

A FIFA disciplinary committee announced that Fred’s suspension now covers “all types of matches, including domestic, international, friendly and official fixtures.”

The 22-year-old tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide during last summer’s Copa America, and has not played for the Brazilian national team since, having been banned for a year by CONMEBOL. He had been playing for his Ukranian club while FIFA was reviewing the case, making 12 appearances in league play and scoring two goals. He also played six times in the Champions League without scoring a goal.

The one-year ban is back-dated to Fred’s last international squad appearance, when he was on the bench for the Copa America quarterfinals on June 27 of last summer. That date will allow Fred to be eligible for the Rio Olympics, which start August 5.

Men In Blazers podcast: Irvine Welsh Pod Special

Men In Blazers - Sept. 22
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Rog talks with “Trainspotting” author Irvine Welsh about his new novel “A Decent Ride,” unconventional career arc, and love for West Ham United/Hibernian.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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LA Galaxy newcomer Ashley Cole takes responsibility for previous MLS quote

CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Ashley Cole #3 of the Los Angeles Galaxy speaks after he was introduced during a news conference at StubHub Center February 5, 2016, in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Wireimage)
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During Ashley Cole‘s introductory press conference today, where the former Chelsea legend was officially unveiled by the LA Galaxy to the media alongside Belgian defender Jelle Van Damme, a predictable question came his way.

Cole was asked about comments he made a year and a half ago when he joined AS Roma, where he said he turned down offers from Major League Soccer because he didn’t want to go “relax on the beach.”

The 35-year-old took responsibility for the quote, saying, “Of course, I hold my hands up, it was said.” However, he defended himself saying he was baited into the comments by the Italian reporter.

“I’m not going to come here and try to defend myself,” Cole said. “It was said, but it was for sure taken out of content. I was talking to the reporter, and he kind of said it to me, ‘We’re glad to have you at Roma. We didn’t expect you to be here, we thought you would go and relax on the beach.'”

“Of course you have to understand, I was at a new team, I have to tell the fans at Roma I was here to fight, I was there to win things and play in the Champions League.”

Cole said he spoke to Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and Robbie Keane about the league before deciding to join Major League Soccer. “I know it’s going to be hard for me for sure, but I’m happy to be here, I’m going to work as hard as I can, change a few views on me being here, and we’ll see. I’m a winner, I always want to win, I didn’t come here to sit on the beach – to rest – I’m here to play football and work hard. I’m not a diva, I’m not this egotistical guy that comes and thinks he’s bigger than anyone.”

3 key battles for USMNT against Canada

CARSON, CA - JANUARY 31:  Jozy Altidore #17 of the United States chases down a pass against Iceland during the first half at StubHub Center on January 31, 2016 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The United States takes on Canada in the second of two matches throughout January camp to test those brought in and see who stands out.

They took out Iceland in the first match, and now the Canadians stand in the way at the Stubhub Center in Carson, CA at 10:30 on Friday night.

[ PREVIEW: Get the full look at US vs Canada ]

Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann no doubt has already run through is list of positives and negatives in the win over Iceland. While the win is nice, the overriding purpose here is to both evaluate certain players and determine the best formula for success moving forward into World Cup qualifying, the Copa America, and the Olympics.

So, with that in mind, here are three key matchups to keep an eye on as the USMNT players battle both Canada and each other for spots on the roster in future meaningful games.

1) United States attack vs Canada’s organization

The US was solid in possession against Iceland, but it came against an opponent that showed a more attacking intent and also appeared to have limited motivation. Canada would not be what you call a “defensive” team, but they are very organized under Benito Floro, and it shows. They’ve conceded 1 or 0 goals in each of their last 13 matches, losing just once across that time. Their goalscoring numbers have suffered, but it’s translated into marginal success.

To hold the ball against Iceland, the US used a slow build-up process beginning with Jermaine Jones (who stayed surprisingly composed and centralized during his time on the field) who fed Michael Bradley and Lee Nguyen further up the pitch. That tactic may not be as effective against a less erratic opponent, but it will be interesting to see how Klinsmann decides to break down the Canadian defensive unit. The wide areas may be vital.

The 0-0 scoreline has been a fixture in this matchup, finishing goalless the last two times and in four of the last eight, so the US will no doubt be looking to break that deadlock early lest they get frustrated as time progresses.

2) USMNT full-backs vs wide play

Michael Orozco and Brad Evans were sent back to their clubs, leaving the United States incredibly thin at a position the nation has already been weak at for years. Jurgen Klinsmann has been searching far and wide for an answer to this question, and with young Kellyn Acosta slightly out of his depth or potentially star-struck in his debut against Iceland, there are a few other question marks.

The options are limited. Acosta could get another shot if Klinsmann likes what he sees in training, or he could move to the likes of Brandon Vincent or Matt Polster. The latter logged 30 matches for Chicago last year as a rookie, while Vincent was just drafted by FC Dallas and has yet to even make a professional appearance. Either way, it’s likely Canada targets the wide areas as a point of weakness for the US, so whoever plays will be in the spotlight.

[ VIDEO: Bobby Wood scores skillful goal for club ]

3) Central defenders vs Akindele and Larin

Whether Floro decides to play Larin centrally by himself, or partner him with Akindele, the striker(s) will be the main target for Canada’s attack. Larin and Akindele both have not seen the scoresheet since a 4-0 win over the Dominican Republic in World Cup qualifying last June, so they will be itching to get back on board. Should one be deployed centrally, look for the lone wolf to split the central defenders and receive service from wide areas where Canada may exploit the aforementioned weaknesses along the outside of the US back line.

How do you see the US matching up against Canada, and visa-versa?