Joel Campbell

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Mexico into Gold Cup semifinals with penalty shootout win over Costa Rica

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The game lacked flow, at times lacked quality, and certainly lacked grace, but Guillermo Ochoa produced his own brilliant signature moment when it mattered to send Mexico to the Gold Cup semifinals with a 5-4 penalty shootout victory over Costa Rica after a 1-1 draw.

A game that featured 46 fouls and 12 yellow cards was ended abruptly as Ochoa guessed correctly on Keysher Fuller’s penalty, diving down low to his right and extending his right arm fully to reach the effort and palm it away to seal victory, peeling away in jubilant celebration.

The game was choppy until just before halftime when Mexico went in front on a 41st minute turn-and-shoot from Raul Jimenez whose initial shot was stonewalled by Oscar Duarte but he stuck with it and fired Mexico in front.

Mexico’s lead wouldn’t last long after the break as Costa Rica pulled back level in the 52nd minute when Joel Campbell latched onto a long ball forward having broken between two defenders. On the charge forward, Luis Rodriguez clipped Campbell’s foot just as he went to shoot, and the referee pointed to the spot. Bryan Ruiz cooly buried his penalty with a soft poke left that saw Ochoa wrong-footed and brought Costa Rica even at 1-1.

Overall, the teams put together 37 shots but could only see 10 of them find the target. The fouling was the story of the match, and between all the cautions handed out even the coaches were given cards. Mexico was the more vicious attacking team looking to win the match in regulation, and Costa Rica goalkeeper Leonel Moreira was required to make a spectacular save in the 58th minute on a long-distance effort by Jimenez looking for his second. With just five minutes to go, Mexico again came close as they worked the ball into the box from the left flank and again Moreira was there to leap and tip a shot by Carlos Rodriguez off the crossbar and out.

Ochoa came alive in extra-time, first diving low to his left to stop a 108th minute Jonathan McDonald slicer before his penalty shootout heroics. Mexico went behind straight away as Jimenez’s poor effort was saved by Moreira on the very first penalty of the shootout. It stayed that way until at 2-2 Randall Leal ripped his spot-kick wide. That set up Ochoa for his moment with the score at 5-4 and Fuller at the spot, sending Mexico through and ripping out Costa Rica hearts.

Mexico will meet Haiti in the semifinals after the comeback victory against Canada continued Haiti’s dream run through this tournament. For Costa Rica, it becomes the third Gold Cup in their last four where they have been eliminated in the quarterfinal stage, a disappointing haul for a team with consistent World Cup aspirations.

Player ratings from the USMNT’s 4-0 defeat to Costa Rica

AP Photo/Moises Castillo
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The United States men’s national team was¬†defeated 4-0 by Costa Rica on Tuesday¬†night. Costa Rica scored once in the first half and three times¬†in the second as Los Ticos controlled play throughout the match.

The U.S. now has zero points through two matches in the Hex.

This is how the players fared on a disappointing night for the U.S.

[ MORE: Match recap | Three things ]

USMNT Starting XI

Brad Guzan — 5 — Allowed four goals, but couldn’t have been asked to do much more on any of the attempts. Did make a few saves in the first half.

Matt Besler — 5 — Didn’t get forward often and is clearly more comfortable as a center back.

Omar Gonzalez — 4 —¬†Looked uncomfortable at times with distribution and kept Campbell onside for the fourth goal. Geoff Cameron was sorely missed tonight.

John Brooks — 4 —¬†This was not his night. Brooks was beaten multiple times in one-vs.ones and made too many errors for a player of his caliber.

Timmy Chandler — 5 — Provided some good play going forward.

Fabian Johnson (Off 77′) — 5 —¬†Was not his usual self. Created very little and could have done better with his free kick attempts.

Jermaine Jones &¬†Michael Bradley — 3 —¬†The central midfielders were nonexistent.

Christian Pulisic (Off 70′) — 6 —¬†Attacked Costa Rica’s¬†defense whenever he had the chance. He just didn’t have that many chances.

Jozy Altidore — 6 —¬†Had¬†good holdup play and linked up well with his teammates, but couldn’t create any concrete scoring chances.

Bobby Wood — 6 — Did what he could on a night when he and Altidore did not receive much help from the midfield.


Lyden Gooch (On 70′) — N/A¬†

Graham Zusi (On 77′) — N/A¬†

Costa Rica Starting XI

Keylor Navas — 7 — Did not face much threat from the U.S. offense.

Johnny Acosta — 6 —¬†Pulisic got the better of him, but he was not punished with a goal.

Jose Salvatierra — 6 — Was shaky on a through ball in the first half, but settled down.

Michael Umana — 7 —¬†Did well to deal with the physicality of Altidore and Wood.

Ronald Matarrita — 7 —¬†Sent a perfect ball over the U.S. defense to¬†assist on Campbell’s second goal.

Kendall Waston — 6 —¬†Got beat a few times and nearly fouled Pulisic in the box.

Randall Azofeifa (Off 70′) — 6 —¬†Contributed to Costa Rica’s overwhelming dominance in the midfield.

Christian Bolanos — 8 —¬†Was all over the field. Assisted on Venegas’ goal and scored one of his own.

Celso Borges — 6 — Helped solidify¬†the midfield which allowed¬†Bolanos to roam and create scoring chances.

Bryan Ruiz (Off 83′) — 7 — Had a bicycle kick saved in the first half and assisted on Bolanos’ goal in the second.

Johan Venegas (Off 67′) ¬†— 8 —¬†The most consistent threat on the U.S. goal in the first half and capped the half off with a great finish to open the scoring for Costa Rica.


Joel Campbell (On 67′) — 8 —¬†Scored two goals after coming on the field and could have scored a third.

Yeltsin Tejeda (On 70′) — N/A

Rodney Wallace (On 83′) — N/A

Total concession: USMNT humiliated in a change-worthy blowout in Costa Rica

AP Photo/Moises Castillo
  • Ticos 9W-1D at home vs. USA
  • Bolanos, Venegas score
  • Campbell bags substitute brace

A woeful performance from the United States men’s national team, the type that’s been known to force change, saw Costa Rica humiliate the visiting Americans with a 4-0 blowout¬†Tuesday in the second matchday of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The Americans are now 0-2 after two Hex matches, with a CONCACAF-worst minus-5 in goal differential.

Christian Bolanos (Vancouver Whitecaps) found Venegas (Montreal Impact) for an all-MLS opener just before halftime.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Costa Rica had a bevy of dangerous chances thanks to a wet pitch, questionable USMNT back play, and a lot of room given by the American center midfielders.

The first chance went to the Yanks, who won a corner through Timmy¬†Chandler. Brooks’ header wasn’t on goal, and Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas claimed the next cross.

Brad Guzan received his first test when Venegas megged Brooks and tried to toe poke a shot past the keeper, but Guzan made the save and Brooks dealt with the ensuing corner.

[ MORE: Messi, Argentina team to boycott media ]

Chandler scooped up a yellow card in the 11th minute, giving each side a caution. He won’t play against Honduras in March.

Costa Rica was on the doorstep minutes later, as Guzan stopped Ruiz’s close-range bicycle kick with his face.

Waston then dropped Pulisic on the left edge of the 18, and Johnson’s right peg was in a very promising spot. His rip beat the two-man wall but curled over the goal.

Jones and Pulisic did pretty work down the left, and Navas gobbled up Wood’s slight deflection of Pulisic’s pass. Jones will also miss Honduras after picking up a yellow in the 38th minute.

The Yanks could’ve led against the run of play when Wood torched the Costa Rican back line and sent a ball through the six that was absent receiver.

Then came the goal, as Omar Gonzalez allowed Bolanos to race onto a long pass and cross into the heart of the 18. That’s where Venegas headed past Guzan.

No changes came at the break, and it took more than 10 minutes for the first real danger. Guzan stopped Venegas on a break.

Despite the struggles of Timmy Chandler, he remained in the game and Klinsmann was frozen. No subs, and Chandler was victimized by Bolanos on the second goal, as the MLS man met Ruiz’s cross at the doorstep.

Brooks bungled a long ball, and substitute Joel Campbell danced past the defender with a nutmeg before sidefooting Guzan. He’d add another with a 1v1 break on Guzan minutes later.

Total concession.

How USMNT can beat Costa Rica on the road in the Hex

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The U.S. national team is 0-8-2 all-time on the road against Costa Rica. Welp.

[ MORE: How big is game vs. CR? ]

It’s a daunting task to face Los Ticos on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET on NBC Universo and online here) and especially after the demoralizing, if not too unexpected, home defeat to Mexico last Friday.

Even if the USMNT opens up the Hexagonal with two-straight defeats, it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom. Jurgen Klinsmann’s men will have eight more games in the final round of 2018 World Cup qualifying to turn it around and finish in the top three and they’ll be the heavy favorites for most of those matches.

That said, what the USMNT has to have is a clear game-plan for these kind of tough tests on the road in central America.

Here’s a look at three ways the U.S. can shock everyone and beat Costa Rica for the first-time ever on the road.

1. Go back to the 4-4-2

We all saw how much better the U.S. was when they switched to a 4-4-2 against Mexico after 30 minutes last Friday. Yes, it may have coincided with Mexico’s star midfielder Andres Guardado also being injured, but there’s no doubt Klinsmann’s side looked more solid defensively and more capable in midfield to shut down space for opponents. It was a big gamble to play 3-4-3 (basically a 3-5-2 but Klinsmann disagrees) against Mexico and it is not one Klinsmann should repeat in a hurry.

My formation and personnel would be the following: I’d like DeAndre Yedlin to¬†get the nod over Timmy Chandler at right back and I think Michael Orozco will add balance at center back but I wouldn’t be surprised if Matt Besler starts ahead of him as the U.S. continues to suffer from the loss of Geoff Cameron. In midfield it is all about continuity and having Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones’ experience is essential in a road World Cup qualifier. There’s an argument to leave out Christian Pulisic for a tough game in a tough environment, but the youngster is easily the USMNT’s most creative player so surely he has to start to help keep the ball and ease some pressure when the U.S. is defending. Up top, the duo of Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood picks itself. Speaking of that…

—– Guzan —–

— Yedlin — Orzoco¬†— Brooks — Johnson —

— Bedoya — Bradley — Jones — Pulisic¬†

—– Wood —– Altidore —–

2. Keep Altidore and Wood together

The biggest plus to come out of the loss to Mexico was the combination play between Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood up front. Due to Altidore’s injury this summer it has been very rare to see this duo line up together up top. Their movement mirrors one another and with Wood more willing to run into the channels and Altidore able to operate centrally and hold the ball up, their partnership is showing very promising signs. Altidore has been on his own up top for many years with Clint Dempsey hovering around just underneath him. Now, he has a bonafide striking partner and the U.S. looked very dangerous in the second half against Mexico.

Altidore’s hold up play and clever through ball set Wood up to equalizes against Mexico and the power and pace they possess will blow other CONCACAF opponents apart in the Hex. With Altidore 27 and Wood 23, if¬†both¬†stay fit this partnership has the makings of the U.S. forward line for the next five years.

3. Deny Ruiz and Campbell space

Okay, so Bryan Ruiz is an injury doubt after limping off in Costa Rica’s impressive 2-0 win away at Trinidad and Tobago last Friday. However, let’s assume he starts and if he does the U.S. has to stop Costa Rica’s skipper getting the ball in advanced positions. That’s easier said than done but defending with a deep line is something the USMNT is very good at and that was demonstrated throughout¬†the Copa America Centenario this summer and in the 4-0 win against Costa Rica in Chicago.

Locking down Ruiz’s Sporting Lisbon teammate Joel Campbell is very tricky too.

The pacy striker can run the channels and latches onto balls from Ruiz so simply put you have to deny them the space centrally and you can’t allow them to get in-behind. It will be a dangerous game for the U.S. to play because basically they will say to Costa Rica ‘fine, have the ball, you can’t get past us anyway…’ and then rely on set pieces and counter attacks to get at Los Ticos. That sounds likes tactics which have worked well for the U.S. in the past, right? Aiding a deep back four should be Bradley and Jones sat just in front of them to plug gaps for Ruiz to find Campbell.

Make no mistake about it, a point on the road at Costa Rica would be a big boost for the U.S. If they follow the three points above, it may just get them a valuable win and put them back on track in the Hex before the next batch of qualifiers in March.

CONCACAF World Cup qualifying preview: Beyond USMNT-Mexico

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Outside of the United States’ rivalry match with Mexico — just about everything you need to know for that is here — CONCACAF’s other Hex contestants debut on Friday as well.

[ CONMEBOL: Argentina in trouble ]

Panama opens up its Hex at home with a visit from¬†Honduras.¬†Panama’s six MLS players star with longtime LA Galaxy keeper Jaime Penedo and captain Felipe Baloy. Contrast that veteran squad with what’s across the field: a Honduran corps that mixes veteran savvy in the form of Boniek Garcia, Maynor Figueroa, and Roger Espinoza with electric young Olympic stars Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. That one kicks early, at 3:35 p.m. EDT.

Costa Rica¬†is on the road before its Tuesday home match with the U.S., and its destination for Friday’s opener is¬†Trinidad and Tobago.¬†Los Ticos¬†still rank ahead of the United States in FIFA rankings at 18th, and new coach Oscar Ramirez has a Hex-experiences squad including Keylor Navas, Bryan Ruiz, Michael Umana, Celso Borges, and Joel Campbell amongst others. Kickoff from Costa Rica is scheduled for 6 p.m. EDT.

T&T takes the place of Jamaica, and will hope for a better fate than the Reggae Boyz of 2014. Jamaica scooped up just five draws in finishing six points shy of the interconfederation playoff spot.