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


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…

MLS Cup Playoffs: FC Dallas 2-2 (3-5 agg.) Portland Timbers

Fanendo Adi, Portland Timbers FC
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The game in 100 words (or less): The Portland Timbers are headed to their first MLS Cup in club history after defeating FC Dallas, 5-3 on aggregate, in the Western Conference finals (2-2 draw in the second leg). Fanendo Adi scored in Sunday’s second leg, giving Caleb Porter’s side a 4-1 aggregate lead before Ryan Hollingshead and Blas Perez scored inside the last 25 minutes to give Oscar Pareja’s bunch a late lifeline, but Lucas Melano’s spectacular tap-in sealed the Timbers’ trip to MLS Cup. The third seed heading into the playoffs, Portland bounced Sporting Kansas City in an epic penalty shootout in the knockout round and outlasted the Vancouver Whitecaps in the conference semifinals before knocking off the West’s top seed over two legs to advance to MLS Cup 2015. No matter who advances from the East finals later on Sunday, Portland will play away in MLS Cup, to either the New York Red Bulls or Columbus Crew SC.

[ MORE: Previewing the MLS weekend ]

Three Four moments that mattered

54′ — Adi fires past Gonzalez to make if 4-1 — Oscar Pareja elected to go with Walker Zimmerman at center back on Sunday, dropping regular starter Zach Loyd to the bench. On the game’s opening goal, it was Zimmerman who wound up on the ground as Adi received the ball, turned and fired a massive away goal past Jesse Gonzalez.

68′ — Diaz’s magical ball curled home by Hollingshead — Mauro Diaz is a wonderful magician capable of playing the kill through ball from anywhere on the field — this we’ve known for quite some time. His chipped through ball to set up Hollingshead’s goal was extraordinarily brilliant, even for him.

73′ — Perez heads home the free kick to pull within one — Would you be surprised to hear that it was Diaz who set up FCD’s second goal? His free kick was Perez-finding missile and found the head of the Panamanian striker at the top of the six-yard box, where 34-year-old headed home with ease.

90+5′ — Melano rounds Gonzalez, seals MLS Cup berth — Poor Jesse Gonzalez. Absolutely schooled and posterized by Lucas Melano. What a way to sew up a place in the championship final.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Mauro Diaz

Goalscorers: Adi (54′), Hollingshead (68′), Perez (73′), Melano (90+5′)

La Liga & Serie A: Real Madrid bounce back; Juventus on the charge

Gareth Bale, Real Madrid CF
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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights:

Eibar 0-2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid bounced back from back-to-back La Liga defeats with a 2-0 victory away to Eibar on Sunday. Gareth Bale (below video) and Cristiano Ronaldo (penalty kick) provided the goals to keep Rafa Benitez‘s bunch (27 points) third in the league, two points behind Atletico Madrid and six behind leaders Barcelona.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Getafe 2-0 Villarreal
Rayo Vallecano 0-3 Athletic Bilbao
Sevilla 1-0 Valencia

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup ]

Roma 0-2 Atalanta

Losing at home to sides currently in a relegation battle — rarely a good idea, especially if you fancy yourselves title challengers, but that didn’t stop Roma from doing just that on Sunday. Alejandro Gomez and German Denis scored the goals to knock off a 10-man Roma side (Maicon – 81st minute) and keep Rudi Garcia’s bunch (27 points) from gaining ground on any of the three teams currently ahead of them — Inter Milan, Napoli and Fiorentina — all of whom play on Monday.

AC Milan 4-1 Sampdoria

M’Baye Niang scored twice, while Giacomo Bonaventura and Luiz Adriano (below video) added single tallies for AC Milan (23 points) to keep pace with the top-five pack in Serie A. After 14 rounds of games, the Rossoneri sit sixth, a point outside fifth (UEFA Europa League) and five points out of third (UEFA Champions League).

Palermo 0-3 Juventus

Don’t look now, but here come Juventus. Sunday’s 3-0 triumph over Palermo makes it four straight wins in the league for Massimiliano Allegri’s side — a run that pushes them all the way up to fifth in the league (24 points), just six points off the pace of leaders Inter, who play on Monday. Mario Mandzukic (below video), Stefano Sturaro and Simone Zaza scored the goals for the world’s most frightening fifth-place team.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Torino 2-0 Bologna
Chievo 2-3 Udinese
Frosinone 3-2 Hellas Verona
Genoa 1-2 Carpi
Empoli 1-0 Lazio

Monday’s Serie A schedule

Sassuolo vs. Fiorentina (1 p.m. ET)
Napoli vs. Inter Milan (3 p.m. ET)

Arsenal’s injury crisis — add Sanchez, Cazorla, Koscielny to the list

Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC
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From title challengers to just hoping to hold on to a top-four place while Arsene Wenger is forced to play reserves and academy players because half of his star players are currently out injured — the annual story of Arsenal.

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Oct. 27, when Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both went down with injuries in the same game, marked the unofficial start of Arsenal’s 2015-16 injury crisis, but things didn’t really get going full bore until the last seven days, when five more players — four of them full-time starters — picked up injuries that will keep them out of action for anywhere between three weeks and three months.

Added to the list last weekend: Francis Coquelin (knee – three months minimum), Mikel Arteta (calf – three weeks)

Added to the list on Sunday: Alexis Sanchez (hamstring – MORE DETAILS), Santi Cazorla (knee), Laurent Koscielny (hip)

Following Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Norwich City, Wenger said Koscielny “could not walk” due to the hip spasm that forced him out of the game after just 11 minutes. He also divulged that Cazorla, who could not be subbed off because Wenger had already used all three subs late on, played the second half “on one leg.” Sanchez came into Sunday injured after picking up a hamstring injury in Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Sunday’s PL roundup — Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs all draw ]

Arsenal fans were up in arms during the summer transfer window — let’s be honest, the following is true of every transfer window the last five years — crying out, “We must buy, we must buy.” Have a look at Arsenal’s complete injury list at the moment, and try to say, “They didn’t need to buy in the summer.”

In chronological order: Danny Welbeck (knee – early 2016 return), Tomas Rosicky (knee – Christmas time return), Jack Wilshere (leg – Christmas time return), Theo Walcott (calf – December return), Mikel Arteta (calf – three weeks), Francis Coquelin (knee – three months minimum), Laurent Koscielny (hip – to be assessed), Alexis Sanchez (hamstring – to be assessed), Santi Cazorla (knee – to be assessed)

WATCH: PL Download — Crystal Palace: South London and Proud

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Check out the latest episode of Premier League Download, a look inside Crystal Palace and the club’s passionate supporters.

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Win, lose or draw it’s always a party for the fans of Crystal Palace and Roger Bennett travels to Selhurst Park to learn how the beloved team went from Championship strugglers to a Premier League success story.

[ WATCH: Past episodes of PL Download ]