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…