[HEXAGONAL: Matchday 7] Any notion that the USA didn't benefit from playing on snow in Colorado when it beat Costa Rica in March melted away on Friday as the Ticos outplayed the Americans in a 3-1 win. At the same time, 1,200 miles to the west, Honduras beat Mexico, the USA's foe Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, where the two supposed giants of the region aim to get back on track.
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Hosting the USA always brings out the best in Costa Rica and Friday night was no exception. The Ticos made it eight straight home wins over Americans in World Cup qualifying.
The Ticos went up 2-0 within 10 minutes of kickoff. Both goals came on headers but remarkable was how the Ticos' smooth passing and dribbling befuddled the Americans.
Costa Rica dominated a U.S. central midfield that lost Michael Bradley to an ankle injury in warm-up and Jermaine Jones showed just how ineffective he is when he can’t risk getting a yellow card.
The loss ended a record 12-game win streak for the USA. But the Americans are still poised to cruise to Brazil 2014. The Mexicans, however, feel real fear of failure.
Jones, one of a slew of U.S. players faced with suspension against Mexico for accumulated yellows, managed not to get cautioned, but his midfield partner Geoff Cameron, central defender Matt Besler and Jozy Altidore -- who scored a hat trick in his last U.S. outing -- saw yellow. Altidore got his for inexplicably shoving Michael Umana after goalkeeper Keylor Navas had already securely gathered the ball.
“We knew about the [yellow card] risk, we knew about the situation,” said CoachJurgen Klinsmann. “It’s always upsetting when it happens, especially when I look at Jozy Altidore’s yellow card at the end. That was absolutely not necessary.”
Altidore was a late sub because of a thigh injury and the USA is deep enough -- at least in the attack -- to send out a formidable strike force out against the Mexicans. Icelandic-American Aron Johannsson, a 90th-minute sub, should see more time in Columbus. Eddie Johnson entered in the 58th minute.Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are likely to bring their top game to the field against Mexico.
More challenging for Klinsmann will be the backline and defensive midfield puzzle.
“We’re going to sit down and discuss all the elements we want to change going forward into the Tuesday game based on what happened tonight,” Klinsmann said.
But his challenges pale in comparison to those of the desperate Mexican team that will be flying to Columbus with a new coach in charge.
Costa Rica-USA Highlights:
Sept. 6 in San Jose, Costa Rica
Costa Rica 3 USA 1. Goals: Acosta 2, Borges 9, Campbell 75; Dempsey (pen.) 43.
Costa Rica – Navas, Umana, Gonzalez, Acosta, Oviedo, Gamboa, Borges, Tejeda (Cubero, 73), Bolanos (Brenes, 86), Campbell, Ruiz (Saborio, 80)
USA – Howard, Orozco, Gonzalez, Besler, Beasley, Cameron, Jones, Zusi (E.Johnson, 58), Donovan, F.Johnson (Altidore, 71), Dempsey (Johannsson, 90).
Yellow cards: Costa Rica -- Umana 32, Bolanos 36, Navas 41. USA -- Cameron 62, Besler 78, Altidore 90+3.
Referee: Marco Rodriguez (Mexico).
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