USA-Costa Rica: Americans must 'bring it' to Ticos

U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann calls the Centenario showdown with Costa Rica in Chicago Tuesday a "must-win." Clint Dempsey says the USA has “to bring it.”

Dempsey is more correct than Klinsmann. The USA needs at least four points from the Costa Rica game and group finale against Paraguay on Saturday to reach the quarterfinals. The order doesn’t really matter, though of course what occurs in the game between group leader Colombia and Paraguay that kicks off about a half-hour after the USA-Costa Rica game concludes will alter the standings.

Winning both games assures the Americans a spot in the quarterfinals and might be enough to win the group; as far-fetched as that scenario is, the players know their most difficult group match is out of the way. Yet they also know Costa Rica has a solid record of success as the away team – it beat the USA, 1-0, in a friendly last October – and in a 0-0 tie on Saturday both upcoming foes displayed defensive ferocity and resilience that will be hard to breach.

Ronald Matarrita and Cristian Gamboa carried what few attacks Costa Rica could muster, but it’s not likely they will balk at going at the U.S. back line. Joel Campbell -- who scored the only goal when the Ticos beat the USA –--seldom plays two listless games in a row, and midfielder Celso Borges has tormented the USA several times in the past.

Campbell wasn’t all that influential against Paraguay though he did deliver a set play that Sporting Lisbon striker Bryan Ruiz headed wide. Borges is a tough, smart customer who can boss the midfield; he has scored 20 goals in 90 appearances.

1. Can USA find sharpness needed to crack Tico defense?

Klinsmann’s contention that the USA played Colombia "even" deservedly drew ridicule, but the Americans did create a reasonable number of chances; most fell to Dempsey, who was thwarted by a goal-line clearance and spectacular save. However, none of the Americans even remotely resembled attackers Juan Cuadrado and Edwin Cardona, not to mention Real Madrid star James Rodriguez, who suffered a shoulder injury after smashing home the penalty kick awarded for DeAndre Yedlin’s transgressions.

Both of Dempsey’s best chances against Colombia came on set plays -- his direct free kick and a corner served to him by Michael Bradley -- and Colombia bagged its goals on a corner kick and penalty whistled for a Yedlin handball. The Americans were second-best during the run of play for most of the game Friday, and to crack the Costa Ricans they must be sharper and shrewder then they were in their opener.

It seems imperative that Klinsmann must change personnel as well as possibly the formation. Critics have called for Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic to start, but both are woefully inexperienced at the international level. Combined they have a dozen caps and neither made a big impact against Colombia as substitutes midway through the second half. Yet they could spring an element of surprise, as neither has ever played against Costa Rica.

2. Does Klinsmann tweak formation to unleash midfield?

Their insertion did lift what had been a frustrating display by Alejandro Bedoya, whose badly shanked volley typified the bad moments that outweighed several good ones. Shifting from a 4-3-3 formation to the 4-2-3-1 alignment that has produced considerable success could allow Klinsmann more leeway in unleashing his attacking talents and still keep his preferred pairing of Bradley and Jermaine Jones intact. Yet without a sharp upgrade in individual and team performances, tactics and systems won't matter.

Rough nights for Bobby Wood and Bedoya and a terrible game by Bradley impaired the Americans on Friday. The Yedlin transgression followed a pair of egregious errors by Bradley, who lost the ball in a double-team and then committed a bad foul trying to retrieve it. Unfortunately for the USA, referee Roberto Garcia played advantage and when a cross by Farid Diaz hit Yedlin’s arm Garcia pointed to the spot.

3. Do Americans rebound with big game against Concacaf rival?

All of the maligned Americans are much better players than they showed against Colombia and should rebound for another big game with a Concacaf rival. But Costa Rica has quite a few holdovers from the 2014 World Cup squad that reached the quarterfinals and lost to the Netherlands on penalty kicks; it will be quite confident of besting the Americans even without centerback Kendall Waston, red-carded in the final minutes of the Paraguay game, and injured keeper Keylor Navas.

More than three years have passed since the USA beat Costa Rica, 1-0, during a heavy snowfall in a Hexagonal match that the Costa Ricans believed should have been suspended.

“They've shown in major competitions that they can perform well, like they did last World Cup,” Dempsey told reporters on Sunday. “We're on home soil. We got to bring it.”

12 comments about "USA-Costa Rica: Americans must 'bring it' to Ticos".
  1. Andrew Kear, June 7, 2016 at 7:18 a.m.

    With Klinsmann in charge the U S might as well be down 1-0 before the game even starts.

  2. Gerrard Eight, June 7, 2016 at 8:09 a.m.

    It can't be possible that throughout the entire United States there isn't a better midfielder than Michael Bradley.

  3. Ric Fonseca replied, June 7, 2016 at 1:50 p.m.

    Gerrard, I couldn't have said it better!

  4. Gus Keri, June 7, 2016 at 10:40 a.m.

    Come on, Donovan! Let it go for the sake of the USMNT.

  5. Ric Fonseca replied, June 7, 2016 at 1:53 p.m.

    Gus, leave the LD alone for cripes sakes! He took his "sabbatical," and suffered the consequences; Tim Howard did also, took his bitter pill and is not starting. So why hasn't there been any hue and cry for not starting him? Interesting scenario, don't you think?

  6. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, June 7, 2016 at 4:52 p.m.

    Probably because we have an adequate replacement for Howard in Guzan whereas our "replacements" for LD were Wondo, Brad Davis and Julian "fourth division" Green.

  7. beautiful game replied, June 7, 2016 at 5:41 p.m.

    Enough about LD. When the going got tough he disappeared. And let's face for once and for all, Wondo, Davis, Beckermann et al are not international quality; they are MLS quality.

  8. Fire Paul Gardner Now, June 7, 2016 at 4:53 p.m.

    Will there be any consequences for JK if we lose this "must-win" game? Of course not!

  9. beautiful game, June 7, 2016 at 5:37 p.m.

    If the USMNT plays 50% of how Chile performed against Argentina, no one need worry. Big if, amici sportivi vicini et lontani.

  10. cisco martinez, June 7, 2016 at 6:18 p.m.

    Get rid of Klinsmann if we can't get out of our group. We have 3+ solid players either are not on his 23 man squad that should be there or that are not there that should be playing, Birenbaum is getting looked at by PSV not starting, Feilhaber not in group, Pulisic Dortmund winger not starting, Miazga Chelsea back up not on squad, enough is enough!

  11. cisco martinez, June 7, 2016 at 6:19 p.m.

    I w Nowozeniuk, when you leave out or are not playing players that should be starting, excluding 2014 no picks such as Donovan and Goodsen, the coach needs to be called out, end of story.

  12. beautiful game, June 7, 2016 at 7:54 p.m.

    Cisco, I feel everyone's pain, but coach JK was not properly vetted by Sunil et al. IMHO, the USSF should have selected an American coach after proper vetting. The relationship between coach and players is the heartbeat of the team. That heartbeat has no rhythm with the current squad. Personally, I would like to include Nagbe and Pulisic in the starting lineup. Their combined skill level and soccer IQ could be the difference maker.

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