The loss to Mexico is in the past. Was it painful? Sure. Was it a setback? Absolutely. However, the U.S. Men’s National Team is already looking to move on from Friday night’s misstep. They have to, especially given the task at hand on Tuesday night.
Costa Rica provides the USMNT’s latest test, one that will be absolutely vital for the perception of the opening two matches of the Hexagonal round. A win on Tuesday earns back plenty of goodwill while solidifying the USMNT’s spot in the early standings. A loss, meanwhile, would certainly cause plenty of panic early in the World Cup qualifying round.
Michael Bradley says he hasn’t even thought about the option of dropping a second straight game. Likewise, the USMNT captain says the U.S. hasn’t had the idea of feeling sorry for themselves. Instead, the thought process is to build on the positives that came from Friday night’s loss to El Tri.
“We have a group of guys that have experience, that have been in situations like this before, that understand that it’s not always perfect,” Bradley said. “We go through a qualifying cycle and there are going to be moments where you drop points or let a result get away from you. You have to understand that that’s part of it. The group has to know how to pull together tightly in these moments and I think we’ve always found a good way of doing that in the past and I have full confidence that we’ll do the same.”
Like Mexico did on Friday night, the USMNT will be battling history just as much as they are Los Ticos. The U.S. has never won in Costa Rica. Out of all of the World Cup qualifiers played between the two sides in Costa Rica, the U.S. has sealed just one, single, solitary point.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann says winning in Costa Rica is “difficult, but doable”. The U.S. lost, 3-1, the last time the two teams clashed in Central America, but Klinsmann says he remembers the game as one that could have swung towards at least shared points.
Klinsmann also looks back at this summer, when the U.S. toppled Los Ticos, 4-0, in the second match of the Copa America. From that match, Klinsmann noted Costa Rica’s mobility and individual talent, while adding that Los Ticos had the better of the play until the U.S. scored the first goal. Still, Klinsmann is well aware that Tuesday won’t be a cake walk, especially with the harsh atmosphere at the Estadio Nacional.
“The results against Costa Rica over the years, they’ve won their share and we’ve won our share, but we’re not looking back now too many months,” Klinsmann said. “We’re going to look back just a couple of days (to the Mexico match) and say ‘let’s get that energy going that we had in the second half and give them a real game’.”
“It’s not only away games against them,” added Jermaine Jones. “We always know that, when we play them in the Copa America or Colorado in the snow game or in Costa Rica, it’s always tough games. They don’t make it easy for us. We have to be 100 percent, like we showed in the second half of Mexico, that everyone is sharp and working for each other. That’s the only chance you have over there.”
Klinsmann went on to say that he found plenty of positives from Friday’s loss that he hopes to translate to Tuesday’s match. After getting it wrong tactically at the start of the match, the U.S. switched things up midway through the first half and, from that point forward, controlled a majority of the match. Rafael Marquez cornerkick notwithstanding, the USMNT was all but certainly the more attacking team through the second half of Friday’s match.
It serves as a bit of a metaphor for what the USMNT now faces. Following an early blunder, the U.S. must mentally collect and compose themselves in Costa Rica to climb back from an early hole.
“It’s a long path. It’s a road over 10 games and we lost the first one, and we want to correct that right away,” Klinsmann said. “We want to make sure we’re not falling behind so that gives it a little bit more spice tomorrow night. The team is in good shape, the team is positive. We gave away the game with a corner kick in the last minute, but we’re ready to get a result.
“We talked the whole time about Mexico never coming here and winning in Columbus, so maybe we take something out of that game,” Jones added. “We know it’s not easy. The past results always show, but it’s time to break that. Why not this time? I think we have a good roster and a good team, but we have to believe in it.”