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USA 2, Costa Rica 2: A Look Back

Jozy Altidore ( 

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Costa Rica scored two beautiful first-half goals and thought it had done enough to finish off the U.S. national team. Apparently the 'Ticos' hadn't been watching the Americans play lately.

If they had, they might have known that a deficit would only inspire them, and that they wouldn't stop until they found a way to erase Costa Rica's lead, or until the final whistle blew.

Jonathan Bornstein's equalizer came in the final seconds and capped the latest inspired performance 
from a team that has made a habit of stepping up and delivering when things look toughest.

For those of you who missed it, here is my story on the match for

 Here are some more overall thoughts on Wednesday night's match:

Jozy Altidore was a man possessed. We all know the teenage striker has tons of talent, but on Wednesday night we say a player who combined both talent and a determination to win. He acknowledged after the match that he is determined now to make the most of every chance and every game because it can all be taken away at any moment.

“Charlie’s really close to all of us and I just realized that at any single second you might not be able to play like you would so you have to make sure you take every opportunity,” Altidore said. “I realized that, and I realized that the hard way, by my friend not being able to play for five or six months. I’m going to try and make sure that from now on, when I step on the field I will play like its my last because you never know.”

As devastating and sad as Davies' situation is, there is comfort in knowing that he has inspired teammates, including Altidore, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Altidore goes to Hull City now and becomes a force.


Jonathan Bornstein ( 
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Jonathan Bornstein has proved me wrong. I'm never afraid to admit when I'm wrong and when it comes to left back Jonathan Bornstein I missed the mark. After his performance in the El Salvador match I wrote pretty clearly that he wasn't good enough to be the starting U.S. left back. All he has done in the three games since is play with confidence and help solidify the position. Even before his game-winner, Bornstein had held his own on the left and his willingness to fly into 50/50 challenges as well as get forward show me that he's growing into the role. He's still far from the finished product, and will still make mistakes, but I think he has shown to be much better equipped from the role than most, including myself, could have imagined.

And if all that wasn't enough, Bornstein is a national hero in Honduras now.


The fans at RFK were amazing. Maybe it's the fact that D.C. United and Red Bulls fans have had little to cheer for, or more likely it was a combination of all the emotion surrounding Charlie Davies' accident and the U.S. team's gutsy performance, but the USA fans at RFK Stadium were unbelievable and arguably the best I've seen at a USA game.

What made Wednesday's display even more impressive was the fact that there were actually a good number of Costa Rican fans in attendance, and after the two Ruiz goals, you heard them pretty loudly, but as the Americans kept pushing and pressing and fighting to comeback, the USA fans gained more and more energy and capped the night with a display I know USA players were left amazed by.

USAFansDavies ( 

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Jose Francisco Torres was extremely sharp. Benny Feilhaber struggled to make his mark on the match (I think part of the reason was that he's not as adept at playing in a deeper midfield role, which is where he spent a lot of time as Michael Bradley surged forward), but Torres came in and played the role beautifully. It should be noted that Costa Rica wasn't really attacking or pressuring much in the second half, and Torres made it look easy as he took advantage of that lack of pressure to move the ball at will and provide a perfect conduit between the defense and the attack. I won't jump on the "Torres needs to start" bandwagon just yet, but I definitely believe he needs to get more playing time.


Bryan Ruiz deserves credit. Far too often, when American opponents play well or score goals, U.S. players are blamed rather than the opponent given credit. On Wednesday, Ruiz showed why he's easily one of the best attackers in CONCACAF. He doesn't start for the best team in the Dutch League by accident. 


Oguchi Onyewu's injury will force others to step up. When Onyewu went down with his torn patellar tendon, you knew it would be serious and keep him out for months. Now the question will be who steps up? Jay DeMerit is the easy answer but he's battling his own injury issue involving an eye. Veteran Jimmy Conrad, as well as Clarence Goodson and Chad Marshall, will need to step up and will have very good chances to state their cases for playing time and potential places on the U.S. World Cup roster.


There is so much more I could touch on, and will look to add more to this piece. For now, feel free to share your own thoughts on these observations, and on last night's match in the comments section below.


  1. While Torres came on against a tired Costa Rica, he actually did a better job of playing deep in midfield and allowing Bradley to make those runs forward, which created the first goal. Not to mention, he took the ball away from the Costa Rican winger(Herrera I believe it was) and started the counter attack leading to the first goal.

    The thing about Feilhaber is that he’s a more radical attacking midfielder than Torres. Don’t get me wrong, Torres definitely has skill on the ball but he’s a bit less prone to get forward and is content to simply sit deep in midfield and distribute the ball, bring different people into the game, only getting forward when the run of play( and his coach), allows it. Thats why I think he, Clark, and Bradley would be a great central trio because while they have all have offensive skills, they can all play a deep role for different reasons; Clark and Bradley for their ability to cover ground and make tackles and Torres for his ball skill and sharp redistribution.







  2. Torres vs Feilhaber? both possess skills that are not widely shown on the US squad.
    Against CR- Feilhaber seemed unwilling to mix it up physically(at times). But still was very active on defense in the 1st half, disrupting a lot of CR possession. He seems to struggle to get into rhythm with his teammates. Is expecting one thing gets another? Not as demanding a player as he may need to be. I think he had a better game than most seem to, He just wasn’t able to have the desired impact.
    Torres played hungry and immediately got into the flow of the game. He took the space CR gave him. He did exactly what was expected and did it effectively.
    Both are valuable assets. Torres needs more of a look. and in the past Feilhaber has been a very successful 2nd half sub(Confed Cup) when needing possession.

    THANK GOD FOR ADRIAN HEALY – SOOO MUCH BETTER THAN JP or any of the other STIFFS they pair with Harkes. as for the comment – AMERICAN for AMERICA’s TEAM – don’t you want people to enjoy the experience of watching Soccer on TV? then give them CLASS ANNOUNCERS. NOT Word Masturbators.

  3. Meh I say get rid of ESPN’s standard US commentators and use Healey all the time. I can’t STAND how much the effing Americans talk during the game. Someone shut Harkes the hell up. He’s so annoying. Let the game speak for itself.

  4. Just got a chance to watch the DVR’ed game. I thought the Dolo-Holden pairing on the right flank was very good. They generated a lot of good balls into the box. Also covered each other well defensively, except maybe the first goal(?)

    Better possession of the ball all around, except Feilhaber didn’t have his best game.

    Bradley could substitute Rogers and Torres because CR wasn’t attacking much. Paco is a good player with good vision and pinpoint passing, but needs to be a bit more aggressive defensively at times.

    The team is very scrappy, and that’s great. It may not turn out this well every time, but you have to love the effort.

    I like Harkes OK as an analyst, but if I complain about Spanish language announcers not trying on names, who are Centeño, Navás, and Archundía? I’m not talking about having an Anglo accent, this is a simple lack of preparation. Healy was much worse.(I usually watch and DVR in Spanish because the game will be on the channel they say it is).

  5. jk3

    Feilhaber did not “fall out of favor” he went through nearly 2 years where he was playing little if at all much of the time,first for Derby County and then Aarhus partly due to Derby coaching changes and partly due to injuries, by the early summer of 2009, he was again healthy and playing well for Aarhus.

  6. How can people who know something claim that Bornstein makes tons of bad passes. If you look at the prozone match analyses you will see that Bornstein is among the backs with the highest percentage of pass completion. That said, he has been a defender only after beginning his MLS carreer when Bradley moved him to the left back. That was what 3 or 4 years tops. Prior to that in youth and college he had played striker or mid. Sure, he is not a natural defender and he does make positional errors, but that has improved and continues to get better. I just wish he were playing against better attackers so that he would either get routinely punished when he was caught out of position. (How many times for Chivas did he get away with positioning like on CRs 2nd goal and not get punished for it?) I do not see where he loses many 1v1s up the wing, certainly no more than Boca, so I’m not buying that.
    If you want to criticize his play, at least be accurate!

  7. Agreed with you on Bornstein Dan, and all the people hating on Michael Bradley are idiots, plain and simple. He’s not Riquelme, not a playmaker, but is a box-to-box midfielder who can get forward and can get back and make key tackles. The kid has the highest work rate of all our midfielders by a country mile and people who have a clue about the game can see that and appreciate the value in that. It’s clear that no matter what he does, some haters will nitpick and tear down every performance. Last night, Michael Bradley was very good. No, not his best game, but very good, and certainly much better than some of you clowns on here want to give him credit for.

  8. Borstein was out of position on the first goal and perhaps the second as well.

    he doesn’t deserve to be in the line up….kinda like Feilhaber fell out of favor even after his world class goal against Mexico in the Gold Cup. Feilhaber worked his way back and is worthy to be on the pitch.

    Will Bornstein have the hubris Feilhaber did after last night’s goal?

    Posted by: Jk3 | October 15, 2009 at 03:57 PM

    I Can’t believe you’re blaming Bornstein for the first goal, which came from the opposite side of the field. Even on the second, he was in position marking his man on the flank and either Bradley or Boca should have slid over onto Ruiz. Even before the goal, I thought that this was the best game I’ve seen Bornstein play, an if watched with an open mind instead of only trying to pick out his mistakes, I think you would have seen the same. He definitely outplayed Onyewu, Bocanegra, Feilhaber, Casey and Holden tonight. I also thought Cherundolo played an excellent game, and should get the start against Denmark.

  9. Lost in the excitement of the contest, for me, was the performance of Coach Bradley. I give him an 8.5. Bob brought his team into an emotional cauldron, with little in the balance except bragging rights, and got a result, CONCACAF champs. He helped keep Jozy from getting a red card, and made two great substitutions in a timely manner. Bob is getting better. Great job coach Bradley.

  10. It seems like people are down on Holden and Feilhaber’s performances but while they didn’t do anything notable or flashy I was still impressed with our possession and and the number of quality opportunities we created just in the first half. Thinking about our problems with possession and creating just last month against El Salvador and T&T this was a huge improvement.

    I know the early 2 goal deficit contributed but I felt Feilhaber/Holden/Dolo were big in the little ways in maintaining possession, making smart safe confident passes, and not over dribbling. In those ways they gave us more posession which led to more scoring opportunities than the dempsey/spector/clark trio.

    Yes Altidore and Donovan had huge games and even Bradley looked much better than his recent games and deserve the praise they receive, but I think their good games were just as much about the help they got from dolo/holden/feilhaber as it was about better form.

    I think Dempsey belongs uptop where his nose for goal can be exploited, especially with the Davies tragedy, and I hope to see Torres, Feilhaber, and Holden regularly even if only one starts if/when Jones/Edu get back into the picture.

    I think Spector and Dolo are both even but bring different strengths and should be chosen depending on our opponent. Clark is still a defensive presence and could have worth in some matchups but is not a regular in my book.

  11. kfly, I caught that just barely and couldn’t help but smile.

    Does anyone else notice Jozy developing target striker abilities? his header knockdown to Landon was perfect and had he squared it to Casey, it would have been similar to Jozy’s first against Trinidad and Tobago.

  12. I hope everybody heard Harkesie start singing (in his flat, monotone singing voice) “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas after Adrian Healey used the phrase as the U.S. was mounting its comeback. It was as good as his giggles during the Spain game.

  13. bornstein? really. yes he scored a goal. but he was caught out of position many times and would be punished by a better team for it.

    secondly. im happy with the subs bradley made (for once), just wished we’d seen them earlier. in a game that really doesn’t matter and where we are playing poorly, why not make a sub at 45 minutes. i mean lets let torres or cooper get a full run – 2 reasons – the game doesnt matter, and neither casey/feil/bradley were playing well.

    a decent performance overall though i thought. actually held possession. now maybe we can understand why hunkering down and playing defense doesnt work unless you have the best defense in the world (when crc came at us in the first half, they were dominating, but when they sat back and defended we found a way to sneak some in…similarly to many games the US has played against good teams.

  14. Nice to come home early enough from work to participate a little in the discussion. Amazing game! Don’t really know where to start.
    I think Jozy is in fact capable of holding the ball as a striker.
    Connor Casey did indeed have a few very good flick-ons and short passing sequences but with thanks for Honduras, still seems too inactive.
    Still think Dempsey up top with Jozy is our best strike force but terribly sorry for Charlie Davies situation.
    Michael in the middle is an issue. He’s a really good player and yet having him in an attacking role just doesn’t give the U.S. enough control and possession. It seems both he and Bob want him to go forward (or Bob can’t or won’t stop him from doing so). The annoying thing for me is that he can still score periodically by coming up from the back and cracking one or on set plays (he’s 6’2″). It certainly appears that at 22 he’s going to start and finish every game barring injury or suspension so what’s the best combination with Michael. Would it be Jones so Michael could go forward at will even without actual playmaking skills, or Edu as a somewhat similar player to Mike? Personally I would still like to see Benny in the mix and I hope he doesn’t get thrown under the bus for a mediocre game (possession was still a little better in this game than usual but you still need all facets of the game to work in order to dominate ie. defense, finishing etc.). Torres looked good and deserves more time.
    So midfield will be Michael, Donovan and some combination of (2 of) Torres, Feilhaber,Jones,Holden,Edu. Dempsey is included if Bob insists on him in midfield. Clark probably left out.
    This is not necessarily a problem with good choices but it still bothers me that the son of the coach seems to have a guaranteed spot (again, I think he’s a good player).

    Funny thing about LD scoring on a free kick in Honduras. That was great but it’s the first time I can recall him putting one on net. If Feilhaber, Torres or Holden play they may be better options for dead balls but in the pecking order I don’t know it Landon will give it up or Bradley will take it away from him. His free kicks are better than they used to be but still not good enough for a team that needs to do well on set pieces.
    Defense an issue especially with injuries. Boca is Agoos in waiting for this cycle. Friendlies will be interesting to see who steps up. I like Spector but not sure in the center. I thought Cherundolo was pretty good last night especially when we went down a man although CR started bunkering.
    Hope CR beats Uruguay. Tough game for CR last night. Some of them were classy on Gooch’s injury as they called quickly for assistance when it was in their best interest to let the clock run.

  15. So the US tied 2-2 at home it is called heroic? Aren’t they supposed to win as the top dog of CONCACAF. I think the US will never get far in the WC with all these media cheerleaders (Ives is top of list along with Alexi Lalas). If this same exact thing happened to Mexico the media would be massacring Aguirre right now. The US cannot rely on late comebacks against top 15 WC teams.

  16. The second goal by Ruiz was not Bornstein’s fault. If you want to single someone out, point your finger at Bradley. He is the one who failed to stay with Ruiz on the give and go, which left Bornstein to mark two men (there is a CR player on the flank during that sequence). When Ruiz receives the ball back (via the dummy), his first touch is a burst of speed straight towards goal that Bornstein can do nothing about because he was positioned to cover his man on the flank. At that point, it is a central defenders job to step up, but Ruiz unleashes his shot before Onyewu can get there. The bottom line is that if Bradley stayed with Ruiz after he started the 1-2, he would probably have been in a position to break up the second pass and prevent the goal.

  17. Hilarious that people are still hating on Bornstein. You corpulent couch monkeys couldn’t even run around the block, but you’re world-class talent scouts nonetheless not to mention possessing second-to-none tactical analysis (he gets beat and can’t cross…that’s truly insightful). The central defenders were just as complicit in Ruiz’s goals as Bornstein, if not more so, look at the replay. Until we see Castillo in stars and stripes we work with what we have, and Bornstein’s form is still better than other options, coupled with his speed on the wing. Stop b*tching about Bornstein with your worthless commentary and Monday morning quarterbacking until we’ve seen something from Castillo.

  18. “Ditto” on the Honduran clip. I couldn’t be more happy for them, especially after the class they showed on Saturday. When was the last time you saw a CONCACAF team stand up for the effort of a visiting winner? Especially when their loss put their own WC dreams at risk… amazing.

    Karma works.

    And also pulling for the Ticos in the home and home. We have room on the bus for 4.

  19. i like tuesday, You make good points and I totally agree, Bradley is not someone who should be carrying the defensive effort of a midfield. However, I thought he was good last night. His distribution through the midfield generally leads to some good goals and sequences.
    -His to Davies on the outside against Spain started the sequence between he and Dempsey on the first goal.
    -His ball across to Feilhaber, while it may have only been a toe poke, started the sequence on the second goal against Spain,
    -His dribble and combo with Donovan led to the second goal against Egypt,
    -His pass to the outside found Spector who crossed to Dempsey for the third goal against Egypt.
    -His ball to Donovan who found Davies led to the goal against Mexico
    -His ball to Donovan who crossed to Altidore led to the goal against El Salvador.
    -He found Dempsey on the sequence that led to the goal against Trinidad and Tobago
    -He faked out the Costa Rican player and picked out Donovan far side on the sequence that led to the winning corner.

    When Bradley’s on form, he’s no doubt in our top 5 of midfield players. He’s only just started getting playing time for Monchengladbach again so let’s give him time to get back his February-Mexico form.

  20. Michael Bradley was really poor last night. His decision making and speed with the ball is just too slow to be able to make penetrative passes so he ends up inviting pressure, passing sideways or backwards and giving the ball away a lot in the most dangerous areas. Feilhaber wasn’t great last night either but created less danger through giveaways. Torres is very very quick with the ball and has wonderfully quick feet, and was able to lift the tempo in a way I’ve never seen from the side before. Torres or Feilhaber plus Jones or Edu or Clark would be a really good classic midfield fulcrum with an organizer and a holding player. Torres took on the deeper role midfield and set tempo from their while Bradley took on his preferred role of box-to-box Maurauder. It seems to me Bradley fits best in a narrow central midfield 3 in a 4-5-1 with a true holding player behind him (his club’s set-up i believe) or in a variety of 4-3-3 like 4-3-2-1. He doesn’t have the tactical discipline to play a holding role in a fulcrum midfield or doesn’t want to and there are better options for the organizing role. Bradley plus Torres is not a terrible pairing but I don’t think our midfield should unquestionably be Bradley +1. Not a bad player, just having problems finding the right role within some of our setups, i think.

  21. No matter the quality of Howard, the back line needs to step up. Luckily, we have 7 months to give the guys a run and check their oil. While there will likely not be a guy come out of no where like Davies, CD9 needed a few games on the big stage to show what he had. For back line guys not named Demerit, Spector, Cherundolo, Onyewu, Bornstein or Boca… it’s time to elevate and display!

    Spector, Boca/Marshall, Demerit, and Dolo is how it’ll likely go into SA, left to right.

    Bornstein’s overall performance at left back is too suspect to merit a starting place (where was the close-out on the first goal????). Demerit and Dolo are the two who are well known commodities whose deficiencies aren’t speed, seasoning and positioning. I love Boca’s effort and leadership, but find his speed on the outside a liability (won’t play there in WC) and he’s not the in-air eraser that a taller central back may provide.

  22. ves,

    Even though the Costa Ricans backed off of Torres, he has qualities the other players on our team do not have. Should he start? I don’t think so, but he should be given a more active role in the team.

    His Pachuca coach sees his quality and ability to hold the ball. Maybe Bradley should go to Mexico and watch a few of his games.

    I am still trying to understand why he got yanked out of the 1st Costa Rica game and then benched for the remainder of qualifying.

    He is a quality player.

  23. Borstein was out of position on the first goal and perhaps the second as well.

    he doesn’t deserve to be in the line up….kinda like Feilhaber fell out of favor even after his world class goal against Mexico in the Gold Cup. Feilhaber worked his way back and is worthy to be on the pitch.

    Will Bornstein have the hubris Feilhaber did after last night’s goal?

  24. 1. At RFK last night, I was inspired by all the fans, aside from a few who didn’t belong there.

    2. Bryan Ruiz is a beast, two world-class goals.

    3. I don’t know how many clear chances a team needs to win. I can remember at least 7 from last night.

    4. I still smell like a smoke bomb.

    5. Tim Howard seems like the only on in the back 5 who knows what he’s doing.

    6. We lack a threatening goal scorer.

    7. Holden has taken Dempsey’s spot.

    8. Open tryouts for the new center half position?

    9. Who would have thought there could be so many talking points from a what was at first a meaningless game.

    10. Our midfield lacks the ability to play the ball quickly in tight spaces. This is our biggest setback and must be resolved our we won’t progress anywhere offensively.

    I feel much better about our chances next summer after watching that unbelievable gritty performance last night. We still have tinkering to do, and no one should be satisfied just yet. But we will make a splash next summer.

  25. Healey was a huge step up in the play-by-play last night. To wit:

    “And the equalizer! It has been stolen away from Costa Rica. Unbelievable scenes in RFK. It’s a tragedy for the Ticos.”

    Immediately understanding the ramifications – simply perfect. Congrats to los Catrachos! This is why soccer is the Beautiful game and World Cup Qualifying is so special. Vamos Ticos vencen a Uruguay. Vamos CONCACAF! al Mundial!


    Which was quickly followed up by Harkes when he said:

    “Well for me, it’s Bornstein who comes through and makes the difference”.


    He also incorrect identified Torres as the person who took the corner (it was Rogers).

  26. TimN,

    I know where Casey was trying to place that shot. I’ve made that goal myself (albeit not in such an atmosphere and I am 30). I have followed Casey since his days at Mainz in Germany and have always sort of liked him. Yes he is bagging goals in the MLS, but by that standard we should call up Jeff Cunningham.

    I just don’t see him as the answer for the US. Yes he scored two goals in Costa Rica, but where would the team have been if Dempsey was in the team? It’s all relative really.

    As far as Altidore goes, he worked his socks off but has a lot to learn. I think he’s a lazy player to be honest. Now if he can be lazy and poach goals, then better for him.

    Oh, and Donovan is Donovan. Crazy runs and goals followed by inconsistent finishing.


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