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Slow start dooms USMNT in latest loss in Costa Rica


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SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — The U.S. Men’s National Team’s winning streak is over, but their winless run in Costa Rica? That remains.

Costa Rica defeated the U.S., 3-1, on Friday night in front of a jam-packed crowd at Estadio Nacional. A slow start doomed the Americans, who found themselves down 2-0 inside of the first 10 minutes and without midfielder Michael Bradley due to an ankle injury he suffered in pre-game warm-ups.

Johnny Acosta and Celso Borges both scored off of early headers and Joel Campbell made sure there would be no comeback for the United States with a goal in the 76th minute. Clint Dempsey tallied for the U.S. with a late first-half penalty kick.

The win now gives Costa Rica the top spot in the Hexagonal with 14 points and snaps Jurgen Klinsmann’s team’s 12-game unbeaten run. It also drops the U.S., on 13 points, to second place.

“It was an intense game, it was a hectic game and a game that anything could have happened,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “Obviously for us, it’s a little bit of a difficult start because of the injury to Michael Bradley right at the very end of the warm-up, so we had to make a last-second switch and it kind of shocked the team for a good couple of moments and then when you get in the game and you’re 1-0 down after a minute, it makes it even more difficult.”

As if the defeat wasn’t bad enough, the U.S. team saw three players pick up yellow cards that rule them out of Tuesday’s qualifier vs. Mexico. Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler and Jozy Altidore are all out after being booked on Friday night.

The Americans endured a nightmare start, as the Costa Ricans came out buzzing from the initial whistle before scoring an opener in the third minute. After the Americans scrambled to prevent a goal, Acosta rose up to meet the ensuing corner kick at the near post and nod it into the back of the net.

Seven minutes later, the Ticos doubled their lead off another header. Borges beat Tim Howard after a cross came in from the Americans’ right flank, where Michael Orozco was given a somewhat surprising start over Cameron at right back.

“We knew that was going to happen and we had to weather the storm and we didn’t,” said Landon Donovan of Costa Rica’s strong start to the match. “But give them credit, they made a great play on the corner on the goal, a good cross and good header, picked us a part a little bit on the second goal. From then on, I thought we actually played a decent game but when you give away two goals, it’s a tough hole to get out of.”

“Right now, it’s hard to analyze that, it really is, because we got hit so quickly,” said Howard. “It was chaos out there during that. It’s hard to kind of figure it all out. Once we go down 2-0, the game is a wash, we’re just trying to push and get back into it. We did a good job in the end but when you push like that, you leave yourself exposed.”

Feeding off the noise from its boisterous crowd, Costa Rica continued to show tons of energy and confidence. The Ticos put together a number of impressive passing sequences, were confident on the ball and threatened the U.S. goal constantly before tiring a bit near the half-hour mark.

That is when the Americans began to pick things up. Central midfielders Cameron, who started in place of the injured Bradley, and Jermaine Jones bounced back from their rough first 30 minutes and helped the overwhelmed U.S. team win more possession.

“I think towards the end of the first half, we got back in the game,” said Klinsmann. “Also, playing wise, we moved the ball around good, (the last) 10-15 minutes was really good, and also the second half I think we controlled the game and thought it was a question of time before we score the equalizer until that breakaway that came basically from a surprising element there.

“Obviously, their energy, the atmosphere, the stadium gave the Costa Rican team so much support and it was difficult to turn it around again.”

Klinsmann’s side still needed a big Howard save late in the first half to avoid going down 3-0, a play which opened the door for the Americans’ lone goal of the day.

In the 41st minute, a quickly-taken free kick was played by Graham Zusi to a streaking Fabian Johnson, who was clipped by Ticos goalkeeper Keylor Navas inside the penalty area. Dempsey, who again captained the Americans, converted the spot kick to give the U.S. a big lifeline and some momentum going into halftime.

The Americans came out looking much improved in the second half and nearly pulled level, but a Dempsey shot from about 18 yards stung off the post.

“We were a little bummed that halftime came because we were playing well as we got back in the game,” said Donovan. “In the second half, I thought we started very well. Clint’s good chance hits the post. I thought we had a chance to get back in the game and then we get one play where we fall asleep a little and that’s the way qualifying is.

“You’ve got to make your chances and if you don’t, you can get punished.”

Punished the Americans were. Campbell put the game out of reach 14 minutes from the final whistle, getting on the end of a pass played in behind the Americans’ high back line before slipping a shot past a helpless Howard.

The U.S. will now shift its focus to Tuesday night, as the Americans host arch-rival Mexico at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Mexico will be desperate for a win, having allowed Honduras to rally and pick up a 2-1 victory at Estadio Azteca on Friday night.

“We’ve been on a lot of ups and now this is a down,” said Donovan. “We’re going to see how we recover, we’re going to see what we’re made of and we’re playing Mexico now in a must-win game for them and we’ve got to see how we respond.”

If there was any consolation for the Americans on Friday night, it was that the results in the rest of the Hexagonal went as well as they could have hoped. Mexico’s loss and Panama’s scoreless draw at home vs. Jamaica were both positive results for the U.S., which can qualify for next summer’s World Cup on Tuesday if it beats El Tri and Honduras picks up at least a draw at home against Panama.


  1. after seeing last nites game.

    we need to take howard out and put guzan.

    take out demps and plug in corona.

    cameron/jones was a disaster. beckerman should have started or gringo torres should have been called in who is a lot better at passing under pressure than any of those two.

    deuce/capt america as striker doesnt work. it works with Galaxy because Keane is a lot better than deuce. donovan should have been plugged in the midfield from the beginning and Ej paired with deuce.

    zusi is not fit to play anymore. bacon should have been placed as winger in the second half and not subbed in the last 5 minutes.

    jozy looked dangerous but he should never have been subbed in with a few minutes remaining with the game already lost.

  2. Howard- poorest game in awhile, should have done better coming out on the 3rd goal and certainly could have done better on the 2nd, guzan is sniffing for his spot
    Besler- Worst game in the us jersey to date, beat for speed and strength, very poor
    Gonzo- I actually thought he was alright, wasnt all that culpable for the result
    DMB- awful, once again, if your gona play a winger at lb stick fabian there, period
    Orozco- dreadful, poor, and thats an understatement.
    jones/cameron- both strugled for 15 but got better, we def missed bradley
    zusi- very poor, did nothing to impact the game
    demps/donovan- good combination play, only real bright spot
    fabian- good in midfield but should be our left back, some say he struggles to defend but so does beasley, castillo and every other lb in the pool
    EJ- bright when he came on, then faded
    Altidore- So much for maturing, stupid stupid stupid.
    Klinsy- hes had a great summer but he was outcoached here, no possession in the middle, starting orozco at rb and then going with the false 9 away from home, poor stuff, but as long as we learn from our mistakes its not a lost cause

    my 11 for mexico

    If bradley cant go stick diskerud in there, he would give us some possession, should have been mix instead of cameron replacing bradley

    • Agree with a lot. But not Zusi. “Didn’t impact game”? Who took the free-kick that allowed Fabian to earn the PK?

      When Zusi went out, the team looked weaker and clogged in the middle. Did he start bad like everyone else? Yes. But he definitely improved as the game went on.

      • Yes- subbing Zusi out at that time for EJ did not make much sense to me. The U.S. was just starting to possess more and get some chances. Not sure what Klinsy was thinking, EJ is really not very good.

        Other comments:
        JJ- easy to criticize, but who would have done better? He is not as good for the NATS as Michael Bradley, but he is easily the next best option and he was not one of our big problems out there.
        Beasley- when can we end this experiment?
        Orozsco- can’t believe I’m saying this but we need Parkhurst.
        Donovan- good considering overall team performance. Led the offense
        Dempsey- one shining moment but otherwise doesn’t help the rest of the offense. Would have liked to see Donovan paired with AJ at some point.
        Besler/OG- They actually looked pretty composed and mature given the situation. Nice sign that they are developing well as a tandem
        Howard- average, so given Guzan a chance.
        FJ- good considering overall team performance.Starting to look like one of our more consistent, solid starters.
        EJ- At this point, if we are going to trot out a veteran MLS striker, I’d rather see Wondo.

      • I agree with all but EJ, who I think can be a fringe guy, in the striker pool id put altidore, dempsey, iceman and gomez in front of him, even with boyd imo. Also i thought besler looked dreadful, slow and weak all game

      • I just thought too many times he went too wide, yes thats what hes there to do, but jones isnt hitting a 60 yard ball to him. I do sympathize with you however, notice I still have zusi starting vs mexico

  3. This was a troubling performance.

    I don’t really know what’s to be done with Jones. He has talent, sure. But tonight he was handed the keys to the midfield and completely shrank from the occasion. For some reason he kept positioning himself 5 feet away from Cameron. His five most common pass combinations were with Cameron, Besler, Donovan, Beasley, and Orozco (in that order). He seemed to refuse to play as the link to any attacking players besides Donovan, and that only after Donovan dropped deeper. When Jones received the ball, he would stop, look around, and make the easiest available pass. His only offensive ideas were long balls, but his completion rate on these was horrible.

    So, OK. Despite his occasional forays forward, he’s not really capable of being the midfield maestro. I would say that in light of this, he needs to play as a dedicated #6. But he didn’t look capable of that tonight either. He was a step slow all night. His failure to mark anyone on the second goal stuck out like a sore thumb. When he stayed back, he just took up space. He looks old, slow, and disinterested. He needs, at the very least, to be pushed.

    Cameron was not good tonight, but Jones was worse. Jones’ passing was worse, and he lost the ball more. Cameron can be an effective caddy for a CM willing to take initiative, but next to someone like Jones (whose haplessness is becoming a trend), his weaknesses are highlighted.

    Of the available players, I really think the CM against Mexico needs to be Beckerman and Mix. Beckerman is an effective dedicated #6, and Mix can play the creative role (Kljestan also works if he’s called in, or my preferred option – Corona). If Mix’s weakness on the ball proves to be problematic again, drop Donovan further back into a deeper attacking midfield role and bring on Johannsson up top with Dempsey. This is aggressive, but it’s better than our passive display tonight.

    We also have to find a way to get Bedoya into the game. This game was crying out for Bedoya – someone who would just run, run, run and not be passive and let CR dictate things in the early going. Zusi was one of the better US players, especially offensively, but we were really getting overrun on our right flank, and part of that was Zusi’s fault.

    All of the US’s key passes in this game came from Donovan. He has to play more withdrawn, even if he lines up as a forward. We suffer when we can’t take advantage of his workrate or get him the ball.

    I’m finding it difficult to temper how I express how bad Eddie Johnson was. His runs are poorly timed and his touch was impossibly bad. I don’t understand why he’s permitted to drop deep, given that he can’t possess and he can’t pass. His heat map for the game makes no sense. Of his 9 successful passes, only one was forward, and none were completed into the final third. He even managed to fail to complete a back pass. He can be useful in the box, but he rarely ventured in that direction. This is his third straight poor game. Johannsson needs a more extended run against Mexico, and EJ needs to become the desperation, lightning in a bottle, out of ideas forward option off the bench, and nothing more.

    Beasley was poor, but also had too much to handle. He doesn’t lose his spot for one bad performance after many good ones.

    Orozco might be able to turn it around against Mexico. I’m ambivalent between him and Parkhurst in Columbus. Parkhurst is steadier. Orozco offers more going forward, if only on set pieces.

    Brooks will start and stake his claim for a starting spot.

    Time to start thinking about Guzan. Howard’s failure to come off his line on the third goal was bewildering. Howard is still the better defensive marshal and distributor, but when his weaknesses are beginning to grow and result in goals (and it’s not just this game), you have to consider the alternative, in form option.

    • Great points, I think I agree with just about everything you touched on. With that said I think some of problem is too many guys with to many different roles. By the end of the game I have no idea what position anyone was playing.

    • Good points.
      Over the years we’ve seen what happens when players have guaranteed spots. Bradley under his dad was never benched, and became stagnant along with other Bob Bradley or Bruce Arena untouchables. Klinsi did well to bench Altidore and Donovan and force them to wake up and work hard, but now he seems reluctant to do the same with other players needed a good reminder of the importance of being your best for the national team. Players I’m referring to are Jones, Dempsey, EJ and even the beloved Timmy. It’s not that they need to be sent to exile, they just need to be benched momentarily to be pushed harder and more needs to be expected of them.

    • I pretty much agree with all your points, but you should put JJ’s play in perspective. He was handed the keys to the midfield and did not control or dominate (mostly in the 1st half), but this was not mainly his fault.
      1) Costa Rica was playing out of there minds in the first half.
      2) The whole US team was struggling in the first half.

      Sure, some of the blame falls on JJ and he can do much better. But, if Mix and Beckerman were out there, it would have been much, much worse. Trust me.

    • Great stuff, you nailed it.

      EJ and JJ drive me nuts. But I give EJ a ton of credit for going full bore into that cross where he got leveled. Our depth is overrated, JK still has a lot of work to do finding potential starters and suitable replacements…

  4. Hey morons. We lost. It’s ok. Guess what? Michael Bradley just might get injured on the eve of the WC opener. Then what?

    All this proves is the last week of ridiculous planning about where and how we were supposed to celebrate our qualification has to wait….. Probably until week 10… Face it…. we didn’t earn it today, and it is highly unlikely to happen given the injuries and suspensions. Basically everybody crapped the bed. Nobody deserves a pass. Not JK, not the captain (probably the crappiest successful penalty in USNMT history). Nobody… get over it.

    We are not qualifying early, because we flat out didn’t earn it. Chins up, fellas. Junkyard brawl in Columbus on Tuesday. No excuses.

  5. Jones and Cameron midfield combo was the worst idea of the Klinsy era yet. Complete trash. Never thought I would say it, but Beckerman should start v mexico.

    • also, dempsey can do some special things on the field, his shot off the post was awesome, but man, why does he not try and win the ball back when he loses it? he would rather throw his arms up towards the ref. so frustrating. i hate that sh1t.

      • Thats just the problem, Dempsey will do MAYBE one very great thing a game, and thats just about it, He gets knocked off the ball extremely easily and then he complains about it. I am sick of Dempsey

      • If next line-up includes Dempsey + Zusi + Beasley, US will lost again (guaranty). However, JK may not see that.

        Never having Beckerman + Jones or Cameron in midfield like today (3 are wipers) – If Bradley cannot start then Mix D (or Jose) along with the wiper; otherwise we will see the same result as today. Those 3 cannot connect and provide good ball to strikers.

        But the first priority is cut Dempsey off from the USMNT period, he is no longer a good player

  6. If you’re gonna single anyone out for tonight’s loss,….. don’t….
    Everybody played poorly… EVERYBODY

    If you’re gonna call out JK for his lineup decisions and subs…with Jozy not able to start, MB a last minute scratch, and no Evans..
    Fine-He’s the coach, so he owns it… but now it’s over and done with and more often than not he’s made the right calls

    So singling out any player, coach, playing conditions, or anything other than this was just a collective breakdown is just spewing verbal diarrhea…

    Everyone was at fault and nobody performed…nobody…

    It’s over… done…

    On to next week

      • Well thats impossible because of cards and injuries…
        But even if the 3 cards hadnt happened I would not keep the same lineup, hence my comment that even though JK owns it, he also owns the responsibility to fix it going forward, and so far most of his decisions have worked out.

        My point is more along these lines: Everyone has their favorite whipping boy, and everyone has their preferred lineups and formations,

        and over the last several weeks Ive seen everything from Dempsey being benched to Iceman should be starting to Zusi or Dempsey should be a right back to we should contend for the world cup to we should play a 3-5-2 to a week of Eric Lichaj obsession- I could go on and on … get the point… a million opinions being thrown around…

        Everyone is entitled to their opinion-
        But on a night like tonight, everybody sucked- period…
        And using any forum to say XYZ is the worse and ABC is the best and should start over XYZ just is wasted energy after a performance like tonight..
        Cant control the injuries, cant control the ref’s decisons, cant control the stupid shove by Jozy to get a nonsense yellow…

        Best thing to do is get over it, let it go…
        JK will get his team ready to play Tuesday, and thats it..

  7. First off, “Jozy! why do you hate me baby? Why do you do this to me?”

    Second, Jones cannot maintain possession and his constant back passes lead to really bad giveaways in dangerous positions.

    I really hope Bradley is fit for Tuesday.

    • Dude. JJ’s issue is not back passing. Tbh one of his biggest faults in the first half was that he didn’t do enough back passes to slow things down and keep possession. Every. Single. Time. he got the ball in the first he’d turn and sit with it at his feet while he looked for a killer ball forward. Eventually he’d get pressured and either loose it, have to clear it, or make a hasty pass forward that would wrong foot or miss its mark. In the second he took what CR was giving which meant more back passes and it worked wonders.


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