Back to the drawing board

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 between Geoff 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 Kljestan could also get called in for midfield support.

Hexagonal Schedule:
Sept. 6
Costa Rica 3 USA 1
Mexico 1 Honduras 2
Panama 0 Jamaica 0

Hexagonal Standings:
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

Hexagonal Schedule:
Sept. 10
Jamaica-Costa Rica
Oct. 11
Honduras-Costa Rica
Oct. 15
Costa Rica-Mexico
16 comments about "Back to the drawing board".
  1. stewart hayes, September 7, 2013 at 1:32 a.m.

    Hasn't anyone taught Beasley that when you are marking a post you don't stand on or behind the line you come off it a half yard or more to cut out the angle, just as a goalie would.
    Just when I was starting to believe in Altidore he pops the balloon. Does he have the mentality to play at this level?
    Why is the defense playing high against a player with the pace of a Campbell?
    If our defense and midfield are this outing why do we not adjust and play a counter attacking game? 3v1 at the far post. Who's in charge at the back?

  2. David Crowther, September 7, 2013 at 4:48 a.m.

    While I agree that Campbell and Ruiz both had great games, the key to this one was the way Celso Borges and Yeltsin Tejeda completely dominated the central midfield. They recovered ball after ball, disrupting any US attempts to attack up the middle, while also doing a masterful job of quickly distributing the ball once they recovered it. This gave CR a very quick transition up to their attacking players that kept the US defense on it's heals for long stretches of the game.

  3. Andy Wagner, September 7, 2013 at 6:48 a.m.

    Just because Costa Rica beat the US does not make CR a good team. This is only a glimpse into the things to come. Do we really deserve to be in the WC? We will qualify only because of the very poor quality with which we compete. You drop points in Europe and you are out for the most part. In this group you can prove your bad and win three and qualify. Cannot wait to tell you....I told you so!

  4. Walt Pericciuoli, September 7, 2013 at 9:01 a.m.

    It's a loss, but not the end of the world.My concern is that we have given the world a blueprint on how to beat the USA, and I worry how much we now depend on just one player,Bradley.You could see from the opening whistle how shookup the team was trying to adjust to the late scratch.It did not seem as though anyone steped up to take on the field generals role. (Donovan/Dempsey? or maybe Beckerman)(Jones is not that guy).And please don't tell me ever again how solid our central defenders are.I thought Besler did an adequate job, but had absolutely no support from Gonzalez. I am still not convinced he is capable of playing at this level.Should have brought Johannsson in sooner.

  5. Kent James, September 7, 2013 at 10:35 a.m.

    Costa Rica dominated the first 10 minutes completely, and scored two headed goals on tremendous shots. The first was scored because while Dempsey was marking the goal scorer, the CR player went harder to the ball and beat him too it. Beasley had a chance to stop it, but not a good one. I think CR deserves more credit on that goal that the US deserves blame. On the second goal, the US marking was horrendous. Beasley was marking one guy, and two more were charging in at the back post. Jones was the person closest to the goalscorer, and he never moved to cover. Granted, the CR player was on his blind side, but Jones was caught ball watching. Beasley never had a chance. Maybe Howard could have done better (either coming out to get it, or on the shot itself), but the fault was the marking (and the dominance CR had on the US right side). The Costa Rican header was superb (a leap from a full out sprint and full contact on the ball; no defender without a running start could stop that). More troubling for me in the first half was how disorganized our defense was, and how non-existent the central midfield was. Costa Rica probably had 3 easier chances to score (and Howard came up big on a couple of them).

  6. Kent James, September 7, 2013 at 10:44 a.m.

    The US started to recover in the first half, and the PK kept us in the game. The second half we were much better. Campbell's killer goal was completely against the run of play, and a bit unfortunate. Besler was slightly out of position (in the CR half of the field, a half step in front of Campbell), which is not an egregious error given that at the time, we were attacking their goal. The random clearance that became a beautiful counter was somewhat lucky. Besler kept pace with Campbell, but given that he started a half step behind, he could not catch up (and Campbell made no errors that would give Besler a shot). And Howard got a foot to the ball, but not enough. The bottom line was it wasn't a great game for the US, but it's not the end of the world. It showed how important Bradley is to this team, but even without Bradley, the US did recover to dominate possession, and we did have a few chances. The Mexico game will be hard, but we always knew that would be the case.

  7. Andy Wagner, September 7, 2013 at 10:59 a.m.

    Only in this qualifying group can you lose and triple your chances of advancing to Brazil...and of course the US has achieved this remarkable fate.

  8. David Crowther, September 7, 2013 at 1:13 p.m.

    Kent, while the US did dominate possession after the break, this was at least in part because the Ticos stopped pressing up the field and dropped back into a defensive posture, specifically looking for the counter. This is exactly the same thing they've done (with great success) in every game in this hex in which they've had the lead. The telling point here is that for all it's possession, the US created exactly 1 scoring chance (Dempsey's shot off the post). Outside of that one play, the Ticos seemed to have the US well under control. And judging by what happened in their previous home games against Jamaica and Panama, I was not at all surprised that they eventually got a goal on the counter. Hate to tell you, but that entire second half was almost a carbon copy of the Ticos previous home victories in this hex.

  9. Steven SIegel, September 7, 2013 at 1:40 p.m.

    I find it interesting how everyone (including me, BTW) thinks so highly of Michael Bradley now. When his dad was coach, there was so much vitriol about nepotism and his playing time.

  10. Power Dive, September 7, 2013 at 5:45 p.m.

    Steven, I've admitted it before, but I'm in the same boat and completely agree. I was never so anti-Bradley that I didn't think he deserved to be on the team, I just didn't think he deserved to be always starting/never subbed category, like a Dempsey, Howard, Donovan. But, he has proven that he is clearly in that category. He should be very proud of himself for being able to convince people that were prejudice against him from the start that they were wrong (and so should his dad). On to the game, man, feels like some people were just chomping at the bit to rip the team. I guess it's been a long time since they've been given the opportunity. And Wagner, not sure what country you root for, but I'm not sure why you would get so excited to say "I told you so". We are fans of the USA national team. Not PHDs on betting who will win soccer matches. And, what are you so excited to tell us? Please expand. Most people expect us to get to Brazil, hopefully get out of the first round, and pray for anything good that happens in single elimination. That's pretty much where the USA has been since 1994. Those aren't crazy hopes. I've never quite understood people that follow sports and would rather say "I told you so" than be excited for a win. To each their own, I guess.

  11. Andy Wagner, September 7, 2013 at 8:50 p.m.

    I have been in soccer along time and traveled to most soccer dominate countries and studied how they develop talent. This country has it all wrong on developing soccer. Mandating who can play what, where and how...the stars of this world do not even get involved in organized soccer until well past where they start in this country. Let the kids play and develop themselves however they wish...anyway, I choose not to be biased in critiquing soccer play even at the expense of who I call my team (USA). Bad soccer that has not moved forward for many years is where we are currently. My past opinions I have expressed throughout qualifying in other SA forums predicted this current result. It will not do us well in 2014 WC no matter how much I pray or wish. I have had passionate USA fans bash me for speaking what I believe to be a problem. This is where the "I told you so" has come into play. I hope I am wrong...I doubt it...unless we can schedule snow storms in Brazil!

  12. Power Dive, September 8, 2013 at 12:23 a.m.

    Ok, I think I took your post wrong and there was more behind it than I was reading. I agree and think that if our talent was developed properly our expectation each World Cup should be quarter finals (if not semi finals), instead of me just simply expecting to make it to the World Cup and hope to get out of the first round. I can't think of another sport where the USA tries at something and isn't at least in the discussion as a potential champion. Clearly there is a problem with the soccer model.

  13. Kent James, September 8, 2013 at 3:39 p.m.

    David, while you may be right that US second half possession was due more to a change in strategy on their part than any improvement on our part, I don't think we can really determine the answer to that. And while that may be the Ticos strategy, I'd rather be on the ball possession team than the counter-attacking team. Their initial flurry was impressive, but I thought we gradually got ourselves back in the game. Had they not scored on a rather fortunate break (that was capitalized on brilliantly, so credit is due to Campbell), I think we would have had a good chance to at least tie the score. They were packing their defense, but we were starting to create chances. The bottom line is that while we did not play particularly well, and were the victim of some unfortunate things we couldn't control (Bradley's injury), and we did hurt ourselves (Altidore's yellow card), the damage is not irreparable and it's not time to panic.

  14. Aresenal Fan, September 9, 2013 at 12:58 p.m.

    should be a heck of a game on tuesday, with both USA and Mexico needing to win...

  15. ROBERT BOND, September 9, 2013 at 2:25 p.m.

    You said what had to be said-Guzan a better option, Timmy is slowing down.....

  16. ekozilien lilly, September 15, 2013 at 8:52 p.m.

    Computer remote control,A device that controls the binary code of a computer and gains access into the central processing unit just like the television remote control.this is a wireless device for integration into website channels

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