Despite the doom and gloom, some of it understandable, stemming from the USMNT’s 2-1 loss to Mexico on Friday, the US Soccer world has not ended for Jurgen Klinsmann and his Yanks.
It’s far from ideal to drop points at home, and it stings to do it in Columbus against Mexico, but let’s circle the Hex records of CONCACAF’s third place team over the last few cycles.
2014: Honduras — 4W-3D-3L (15 pts)
2010: Honduras — 5W-1D-4L (16 pts)
2006: Costa Rica — 5W-1D-4L (16 pts)
2002: USMNT — 5W-2D-3L (17 pts)
1998: Jamaica — 3W-5D-2L (14 pts)
[ MORE: How will USMNT line up vs CRC? ]
So while there’s plenty of reason to feel desperate for three points in Costa Rica, this is not incredibly dire. The U.S. has never won a qualifier in Costa Rica, true, but the Americans are also playing two of their three toughest outings to start the Hex (See full U.S. Hex schedule here).
Consider the Hex broken up into two blocks. The Americans play three home matches and two road in the first five outings, kicking off the second block at Azteca on June 9.
Judging by the above, at a minimum the Yanks need to win the Hex series against four teams to get through (minimum 16, maximum 24 points) or win three and have a at least a winning split in one more (minimum 15 points, maximum 21).
Furthermore, the U.S. has taken 7, 7, 7, 5, and 6 points from road venues in previous Hexes, all of which led to a World Cup berth. Those totals count two losses from each cycle except 1998 (three draws).
So, no, it wouldn’t be the end of it all if the U.S. loses in Saprissa on Tuesday, and a win would put them on fine track to qualify. This more about spirit, as the team and its support would have to wait four-plus months to host Honduras and visit Panama. The urgency to be a winning team and feel good about the program is real.
That said, what can we expect from Costa Rica? Los Ticos worked hard to get a win at Trinidad and Tobago, scoring in the 65th minute before picking up another goal in stoppage time.
Since a Sept. 2012 loss to Mexico, CRC has only lost once on home soil (last October against South Africa). Admittedly, that’s a span of less than a dozen matches because Los Ticos have played several “home” friendlies in the United States, but it still shows a difficult place to snare a point or three.
While Christian Bolanos (Vancouver Whitecaps) has been the national team’s best scorer in recent history, Los Ticos have found their goals through 10 different scorers in 2016.
It was a 5-4-1 for Costa Rica against Trinidad and Tobago, and the U.S. can only hope Los Ticos opt for the same formation at home. The U.S. has the attackers to handle that, and Jurgen Klinsmann would also be buoyed by the freedom to bomb his fullbacks forward.
Kickoff from the Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose is set for 9 p.m. ET Tuesday.