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USMNT falls flat in home World Cup qualifying loss to Costa Rica

Photo by Vincent Carchietta/USA Today Sports

For most of the 2017 calendar year, the U.S. Men’s National Team found ways to frustrate opponents and grind out results. On Friday, they did neither, and their World Cup qualifying hopes took a shot because of it.

The USMNT fell to a second home loss in the Hexagonal, losing again to Costa Rica time by a scoreline of 2-0 at Red Bull Arena. The result sees the USMNT remain on eight points, six behind Costa Rica, with just three games remaining in the qualifying campaign.

The game’s opening goal came after 30 minutes, when Marco Urena was found near the penalty area. U.S. center backs Tim Ream and Geoff Cameron left him with space, and from an angle, he was able to put the ball past Tim Howard to give his team the lead.

Costa Rica’s victory was clinched in the 81st minute, with Urena again tallying. The forward found himself in front of goal with little challenge again from defense and Howard.

The opening goal came just five minutes after the U.S. did not receive a penalty call. Altidore received the ball in the penalty area and was met by Kendall Waston, who promptly tackled him. While the Red Bull Arena crowd screamed for the call, referee John Pitti decided not to give one.

The first half ended up being a series of balls swinging the wrong way for the USMNT. Though they dominated in possession and managed to find themselves in front of goal often, recording five shots in total. Yet, not a single one hit the target, while Costa Rica managed to capitalize on their opportunities.

The second half was not much better for the U.S. team, who continued to collect shots but hardly bothered the Costa Rican defense. They did get close to an equalizer in the 67th minute, but Christian Pulisic’s shot from close range was expertly saved by Keylor Navas.

The loss ends the unbeaten streak the team had all year, a run that lasted 14 games and the entirety of Bruce Arena’s second stint as head coach.

Now, the USMNT faces a major trip to Honduras on Tuesday for the third-to-last game of the qualifying cycle.


  1. A few things:
    1- Substitute the name Jermaine for Darlington and after the game most people would be screaming that the Bradley Jones partnership doesn’t work & never has..
    (This isn’t a knock on Nagbe who I like)
    But it’s like putting square pegs into round holes all over again. With the way MB likes to sit so deep we probably need to be in a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1… every variation of a 4-4-2 just doesn’t seem to work. Our shape is almost always suspect, and we put our best player CP in spots that limit what he can do for us.
    After the first 20 mins, our shape disappeared again.. and it seems like there’s always these big gaps of space b/w our backline and mids..Or our mids and whatever combo makes up our frontline.
    Square Pegs..Round Holes… England 2.0????
    2- I give Bradley credit for his hustle tonight, but this team just doesn’t have the same bite, or the same urgency without Jermaine Jones…
    Man for man tonight should have been no contest
    3- After following SBI for 6-7 years I don’t think I’ve ever commented on a keeper, but Timmy looks fat and slow to react, and his distribution was awful…
    4- Hands down, Cameron’s worst game in the NT jersey
    We’re not a good team…but we have better players then any team except for the first 11 from 2002… something’s not right..

  2. Tactically, the USA had too much distance between the front and back lines. That allowed CR to outnumber the US in the midfield with what was effectively 5 midfielders and they were backed by a disciplined back 4. The single striker seemed enough to force the US central backs too deep. In many cases, CR had attacks that gained purchase only because the US backs were too deep and that let CR attack without worries of being offside.

    In short, the US players allowed their shape to get stretched early and often for no good reason. When the backs cannot reach the forwards with a less than 40 yard ball, that means the central mids need to cover too much space CR had 4 or 5 players in that space that was being manned by Nagbe,Bradley and occasionaly either Johnson or Pulisic who too often did not see the problem and help. Altidore did come back a bit, but Wood seemed to think his role was to stay up top and failed to get back close enough to be available for anything but long balls.

    By the time Arena changed things with the addition of Dempsey, it was too late and the damage was done, CR was happy to play out the game with 9 field players behind the ball for long stretches.

  3. Why are we not playimg in stadiums where there is a pro American crowd. The federation needs to stop being pc and start doing what benefits the team and get a true home field advantage. Seattle would have been better. Nashville is a bad place and so is this place.

  4. Urena plays for Earthquakes, MLS (not even an ALLSTAR).
    Christian Bolaños plays for Vancouver Whitecaps, MLS (not even an ALLSTAR).
    Kendall Waston plays for Vancouver Whitecaps, MLS (not even an ALLSTAR).
    David Guzmán plays for Portland Timbers, MLS (not even an ALLSTAR).
    Francisco Calvo plays for Minnesota United, MLS (not even an ALLSTAR).
    Johan Venegas plays for Minnesota United, MLS (not even an ALLSTAR).
    So, let me get this straight…… they have players in our league:
    A league that we look down on in terms of quality
    Use players that are not even the best in their respective positions
    Use Players that barely make a mark for their respective MLS CLUBS,
    And these players (again from our league which we seem to look down on) are structured to beat us time and time again ……even though we have players in the same league, in the same positions, that are better in every aspect of the game.
    Hmmmm….food for thought.

    • Exactly. Not only have many of our MLS players played better in MLS, guys like Altidore, Dempsey, and Bradley have done well in European leagues better than MLS. Plus, Pulisic and Wood are starters in the Bundesliga and Cameron in the EPL. We should have been better at every position except GK, but were worse at every position. The US passing was so much worse, too, that it looked akin to a varsity vs. JV game. While CR played together seamlessly, it was as if the US had hardly practiced together.

  5. It’s kind of sad that first JK and now BA went with older veterans so as to improve likelihood of qualifying. If Honduras hands the USMNT another loss on Tuesday, their destiny will be out of their own hands and we won’t even have the consolation of having given younger players minus Pulisic real game experience.

  6. The US needs 7 points from the next 3 games. Difficult but doable. However, they will have to do much better than they did tonight. Arena’s job is to get us qualified and the bloom is off the rose, now. When it comes to his long term replacement, I think we could do worse than the Costa Rican coach. He has that team extremely well organized and very difficult to break down. And they played with greater heart and effort than the US did. Arena was outcoached.

  7. The only times i noticed Johnson was when he got beat for pace trying to get into the attack and after he moved to left back. That is his best position. And it allows Nagbe to play his (if not as a 6) then on the left. Let those two overlap. Did we have a single cross into the box from either back in this game? Nagbe kept dropping too deep becaise Bradley drops even deeper and so the forwards got zero service. I counted 2 (both by Nagbe both intercepted by CR) attempts at an on the ground through ball off a run from a forward. Neither wood or altidore make those runs…like ever…or there is just noone in place to be ready to make them. Nagbe and bradley are too deep to connect. Pulisic was wasted on the right with this setup. Isolated with no overlap from behind or runs by forwards ahead. But he was not great tonight. To be fair he was swarmed and didnt really have anyone to pass to. Howard was poor. Cameron was really bad. Pretty bad all around.

  8. Ian Darke and Stu Holden putting a lot of blame on using RBA as the venue was pathetic. This was a terrible performance by a USMNT with no imagination in the the attacking third. The better team won and I for one am very nervous about our chances for making it to Russia.

    • Cabrito it was Taylor Twellman not Stu on the call tonight. I didn’t think they were blaming it for the loss, just pointing out how sad it was that US Soccer didn’t anticipate that it would be a pro CR crowd. The match could have been played at any number of venues in the US and been a home field advantage for the US.

    • Costa Rica just seems to have the US’s number during this 5th round of qualifying. If the US gets the penalty call on Jozy, the game changes. Costa Rica barely beat T&T and could not beat a struggling Honduras side that the US toasted. US need to do better, however. It seems like they are getting closeto finishing in the final third. I am confident that it will start clicking soon but not confidant in Cameron and Ream, They really needed a healthy Brooks and Yedlin today..

  9. Sidenote: First time posting and the new website leaves a lot to be desired. The posting section/format looks horrendous.
    (there should be a space here)
    Definitely a step backwards.

  10. While I was on board with the firing of Klinsmann, in any situation resembling the one the United States was within when you had to make the move, it’s becoming more and more apparent the problem is the players, and not the selection(s).

    Unfortunately, I don’t think we have the right people in the place (at any level, including coaching) with a broad enough vision to change that for the foreseeable future. The reality is there was no wave behind Donovan, Dempsey and Beasley to take over and we’re bearing the fruits of that now.

    If we miss the World Cup, hopefully, it serves as a wakeup call to everyone that matters. Though, whether they have the capacity, and capability to do something about it remains to be seen. Spoiler: they don’t.

    • You can say that the quality of US players wasn’t good enough, but CR is mostly using MLS players and arguably their best player,, who is an Arsenal product, Joel; Campbell wasn’t there. If you look at where our players play their club football, vs. their players, there’s no way CR players are automatically better than we are. This was a total failure, from effort and execution to coaching. There’s no way we should have done so badly at home.

  11. Arena at fault for this one, his starting line up didn’t make sense, his plan to bring on Dempsey seemed even sillier. Wood didn’t see the ball for almost twenty minutes after Clint came on, I had forgotten he was still on the field. We had the same four midfielders available as we did in the last home match with TnT and instead of positioning them the same way, he played three of them in different spots. It looked like Arena tinkered just for the sake of tinkering.

    I wonder if Arena had originally planned to pull another big switch and start Lichaj, Omar, Besler and Beasley in Honduras

  12. Only 2 shots on goal all night. Shambolic midfield. Bradley too deep and Nagbe too far away for any linking. Pulisic and Zusi on the same side was a tactical mistake because it gives Pulisic no one to overlap with. Altidores passing and holdup play was off. No triangles to link and move the ball forward on the ground and heavy touches all night too. Only 2 shots on goal is the embarasement whose cause is using outdated 442 tactics and players who cant put 3 forward passes together in a row.

    • I said it a few back, besides Pulisic, Wood, Brooks, Cameron(except for that giveaway tonite), and Dempsey this pool is full of middling players at best and we are desperate to find new youth and that youth movement can’t come quick enough.

      I would blame this on using too many MLS players but the best player on the pitch had two goals and plays for San Kose Earthquakes. Our guys just not showing up combined with outdated tactics and positioning.

      • We need to try something other than parking cone Bradley. He shows well against the garbage teams but against top sides he gets exposed. We will never know what we could look like if we dont try others. GC was wasted on Roldan and mcCarty. Williams, Morales, Kitchen, Mckennie, Acosta, hyndman, Stanko, etc. Why is Bradley always an auto starter his performances dont really warrant it. We need to try some else out but dont have that luxury and zhows how gC was a waste to look at new midfield options.

      • Would normally agree about Wood, but he was very frustrating tonight. He made several bad passes that had they been accurate would’ve led to dangerous plays. He and Altidore do not have any chemistry at all.

      • Costa Rica used more MLS players and none of them are stars. Like Dempsey, Nagbe, Altidore, Bradley, Suzi or even Wondo. So that criticism is just wrong.

    • Also, Bruce needs to be on the hook for not calling in Chandler given his form, although Zusi did ok he gives little going forward to allow pulisic a linking oulet. Bruce is on the hook for not calling a EPL center mid in Williams too. We’re leaving players playing at higher levels off this roster and thst needs answers and the manager needs to accountable for that. This game should show that we kust dont have the talent to ignore Bundesliga and EPL players who could be called in.

  13. Good thing I wasn’t sipping shots every time the USA made a bad pass. That was just downright nasty to watch. Kudos to Costa Rica for capitalizing when they had to. Pulisic needs to be in the middle more with Nagbe outside. Ream and Cameron tonight, yeah I just want to go cry in a corner at that horror show of supposed defense.

  14. Dos a cero! Dos a cero! Pretty wonderful scoreline. And Dempsey should’ve received a straight red for throwing that elbow at the tail end of the match. He’s got to keep his temper in check. If officials review that video he could face a match ban – unlikely, but that’s why he needs to keep his dirty antics in check.

  15. There is no imagination. No shots outside the 18 to pull the defensive clog out. Altidore should not have started much less gone 90. He still hasn’t learned that you don’t get 3 touches inside the 18. One of the best players in the world shut down because it was easy to put 3 players on him. Didn’t really have to worry about anybody else. Why not sh**t can everyone over 30 and see what happens. Could it be any worse?

  16. “Marco Danilo Ureña Porras, known as Marco Ureña is a professional Costa Rican footballer who plays for the San Jose Earthquakes”…WHAT?
    …, you would have thought he played for Juventus or something!!!

  17. Totally disappointed! The US youth movement in goal may officially start now. Tim Howard should have done better on the first goal. Fabian Johnson was not Sharp at all. Cameron and Pulisic took a wrong night to have an off game. Bruce Arena’s substitutions seemed too slow and too late. Let’s hope the USMNT came out of their one game slump and play 10x better the next game in Honduras. Go USA.

  18. Shaky back-line totally out of sync
    Zero creativity in front of goal
    Very poor in 1 v 1 match-ups
    Almost no attempts on goal
    Urena’s goal – Reams and Howard’s fault
    …..they just let us know that 4-0 whuppin’ was real, regardless of our possession

  19. Altidore and Wood were never really working as a pair. Seemed like both were just holding the line much of the match. Neither dropping into the midfield Pulisic and Nagbe draw a lot of fouls, but that’s exactly what Costa Rica wanted. They knew they had set piece advantage. Back line just wasn’t good enough and Howard is no long good enough to bail them out.

  20. Was the problem klinsmann? No, the problem is the
    German Americans? no. problem is the lack of belief
    in the project, it is the insistence with players
    without level for a selection that aims for something
    bigger, is the lack of a reliable defender for the
    frequent absence of brooks and is the technician
    who assists with passivity and that does not know
    how to solve a problem. Russia 2018? still believe,
    but with gonzalez, ream, besler, villafana, zusi,
    wondo, bedoya, mccarty … it will be difficult

  21. which is worse? 4-0 thrashing away or 2-0 spanking at home? Cameron, Ream and Howard all poor, but rest of team nearly so. I thought Nagbe showed well. That’s about it.

    • Actually Nagbe is part of the problem, for me. HIs lack of aggression left a vacuum in the middle, costa rica filled it and made problems all game long, usually attacking through the middle. Bradley playing so deep didn’t help push the game, but Nagbe as the attacking center mid was given a responsibility he’s not really up to.


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