By Paul Kennedy
In the big picture, the USA still looks in great shape to qualify for the World Cup. It began Friday night six points ahead of the fourth-place team in the Hexagonal and it ended Friday night five points ahead of the fourth-place team.
The USA will qualify Tuesday if it beats Mexico in Columbus and Panama doesn't beat Honduras in Tegucigalpa.
But that isn't much comfort after a very humbling loss at Costa Rica. The 3-1 defeat -- the eighth straight loss to the Ticos in World Cup qualifying in San Jose -- exposed a lot that is unfinished about Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. team.
BRADLEY DEPENDENT.The San Jose jinx continued at the Estadio Nacional as Michael Bradley -- the USA's most important player -- sprained his ankle in pre-game warmups and was a late scratch. Without Bradley, Costa Rica shredded the U.S. midfield at will in the first half and went ahead, 2-0. Frankly, it could have been worse. Klinsmann had to choose betweenGeoff Cameron and Kyle Beckerman as Bradley's replacement, and frankly, it didn't matter that he chose Cameron over Beckerman. This was a game that screamed for Jermaine Jones -- the most experienced midfielder on the team -- to take charge, and he had a nightmare first half.
GOALIE SWITCH? Is it too soon for Klinsmann to start thinking about switching goalies? Yes, the first two goals came on headers and the third was a breakaway, but one wonders what would have happened with Brad Guzan in goal instead of Tim Howard, on the second goal, for sure, but most assuredly, on the clinching Tico goal from Joel Campbell through his legs.
RIGHT-BACK HOLE.The big surprise in the U.S. lineup, as it was announced an hour before the game, was Michael Orozco at right back. Orozco hadn't started at right back in a U.S. uniform since being red carded at the 2008 Olympics in the deciding group match against Nigeria. Orozco was the sixth player to start at right back in qualifying and he may not be the last. He suffered through a rough first half when the Ticos charged down their left side almost at will.
STAR IS BORN.The best player on the field -- by a wide margin over anyone else but Bryan Ruiz -- was Campbell. The USA never had an answer for Campbell's pace, and he was finally rewarded with his insurance goal when he blew past Matt Besler and put the ball through Howard's legs. It was an incredible display by a player, still just 21, who has yet to crack the Arsenal first team, having been loaned out in successive years to Lorient in France, Real Betis in Spain and now Olympiakos in Greece.
DUMB, DUMB, DUMB.Much of the pre-game talk concerned the USA's yellow-card situation and Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez's propensity to dish out yellow cards. Things were looking good for the USA in the first half as he handed out three yellow cards to the Ticos, taking some of the fire out of their game and allowing the USA to get back into the match. But three yellow cards to three U.S. players in the second half leave all three of them out of the Mexico game: Geoff Cameron, Besler and Jozy Altidore, whose yellow card two minutes into stoppage time ranks as the dumbest ever earned by a national team player.
EMERGENCY CALL-UPS. With Bradley's status uncertain and Cameron, Besler and Altidore all suspended, Klinsmann is going to be on the phone quickly for emergency call-ups. Look for Clarence Goodson to get a call-up with John Brooks and Orozco as the only possible replacements for Besler. Chris Wondolowski should replace Altidore, while Joe Corona and Sacha Kljestancould also get called in for midfield support.
Costa Rica 3 USA 1
Mexico 1 Honduras 2
Panama 0 Jamaica 0
PTS TEAM W-T-L +/-
14 Costa Rica 4-2-1 11/5
13 USA 4-1-2 8/6
10 Honduras 3-1-3 8/8
8 Mexico 1-5-1 4/4
7 Panama 1-4-2 5/7
3 Jamaica 0-3-4 2/8