[USA CONFIDENTIAL] Jurgen Klinsmann’s second game as head coach didn't go as planned. Here's what we learned from the 1-0 loss to Costa Rica Friday night ...
WHY NOT TWO STRIKERS? Juan Agudelo’s entrance in the second half livened up a USA attack that had stagnated somewhat; he replaced Jozy Altidore as head coach Jurgen Klinsmann retained his use of a solitary forward supported by wingers and central midfielders.
Altidore held up the ball several times effectively and opened up space that Agudelo would have exploited had they been deployed together. Klinsmann’s next change a few minutes later was to replace Robbie Rogers with Sacha Kljestan, and Brek Shea eventually drifted up front to play as a second forward.
One can’t assume Agudelo, at age 19, can automatically be as effective as a starter as his performances off the bench might suggest. Klinsmann used just those two subs, and with other players available for a game Tuesday in Belgium, and Landon Donovan not making the journey, the U.S. coach could opt for a two-forward system.
CHANCES SQUANDERED, AGAIN. Altidore chested down a ball to force his way into the penalty area to fire a shot wide, and Donovan wasted a superb opportunity by simply rolling his shot just wide of the post following an excellent buildup. Despite dominating the first half, those were the only viable shots the USA produced in the first 45 minutes, which is especially worrying since the Costa Ricans seemed to be sleepwalking until they twice nearly scored just before halftime.
Jose Torres played some good passes and belted a long-distance shot that was going wide yet forced a flying save from keeper Francisco Navas nonetheless. Still, he served more as a conduit than catalyst, which would have created more good opportunities had Donovan and Rogers played sharper and more assuredly. Donovan’s miss, a roller wide of the post from medium-distance and with time to measure the shot, simply can’t happen from such an accomplished player.
CASTILLO, WE HAVE A PROBLEM. Mexico-based Edgar Castillo looked poised and comfortable in the first half, and assured going forward. But once halftime sub Daniel Colindres began running at him as a recharged Costa Rica came out buzzing for the second half, his defensive liabilities recurred time and time again.
When not under pressure, he had used the ball well and sought out combination sequences with Torres and other teammates. On the rare occasions he reached a crossing position, he didn’t serve good balls. Those moments nearly dried up in the second half as Costa Rica pushed the USA into its defensive third time and time again, with many of those thrusts aimed at Castillo. The USA back line and midfield didn’t adjust well on a few occasions, but often, Castillo’s couldn't handle the responsibility of winning a tackle or cutting out a pass.
Sept. 2 in Carson, Calif.
USA 0 Costa Rica 1. Goal: Wallace 65.
USA -- Howard, Chandler, Orozco Fiscal, Bocanegra, Castillo, Donovan, Edu, Torres, Rogers (Kljestan 67), Altidore (Agudelo 62), Shea.
Costa Rica -- Navas, Miller, Umana, Acosta, Johnson (Saltavierra 82), Barrantes (Mena 87), Azofeifa, Sanchez, Brenes (Wallace 61), Martinez (Colindres 46); Saborio (Powell 76).