USA-Costa Rica: Hosts step it up with convincing win

After USA-Mexico, USA-Costa Rica is the most storied rivalry in U.S. national team history. But never in the 34-game series has a match been as one-sided as the USA's 4-0 win over the Ticos that kept it very much alive in the Copa Centenario.

The Americans, facing elimination with another loss after the 2-0 defeat to Colombia, now only need a win or (likely) tie against Paraguay on Saturday to advance to the quarterfinals.

1. Jones responds after being pulled against Colombia.

You have to go back to 2013 and the opening game of the Hexagonal against Honduras in San Pedro Sula for the last time Jermaine Jones was substituted from a competitive match in which the USA was losing. In the 66th minute of the opening game of the Copa Centenario against Colombia, Jones was pulled in favor of Darlington Nagbe, and he didn't look to be a happy camper.

Jones wasn't happy with the result or how the USA approached the game. “I think that we have to be more focused on us, play with that what we have,” Jones said. “We have three midfielders where I feel like if we have a good game plan, we can put a lot of pressure on other teams."

After concentrating on the Cafeteros, in particular Juan Cuadrado, Jones was unleashed against Costa Rica and had one of his best games in recent years. He created the second goal all by himself, winning the ball in midfield and scoring with a curling shot inside the far post to put the USA up 2-0 late in the first half.

"Some players really stepped it up," said Klinsmann. "Jermaine was one of them today, putting his stamp on this game."

2. Bobby Wood shows why is now USA's best center forward.

Even if Jozy Altidore gets over his hamstring problems, he'll have a hard time -- in the short term -- getting back his starting job up front next to Clint Dempsey.

Bobby Wood showed why he is so deadly as a center forward as he scored the third goal after the USA shifted from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 and he moved into a more central role. Dempsey played the ball to Wood, sitting at the top of the penalty area. Wood turned away from Oscar Duarte and fired a shot past Patrick Pemberton for the third goal.

Wood was less effective out wide when the USA played a 4-3-3 against Colombia and Christian Pulisic replaced him shortly after the hour mark. He did create the opening goal on Tuesday night, stepping into the path of DeAndre Yedlin's cross and getting bowled over by Christian Gamboa.

Klinsmann said he liked how fluid the switch in formations was and the flow of the U.S. attack stayed the same.

3. Ticos are a shadow of the team from Pinto era.

In 2014,  Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto took Costa Rica to the World Cup, where the Ticos won a group that featured three former World Cup champions, England, Italy and Uruguay, and then reached the quarterfinals, where they lost to the Netherlands on penalty kicks.

The Costa Rican federation could not come to terms on a new contract for Pinto, who is now coaching Honduras, and the Ticos have struggled ever since, first under Paulo Wanchope and Oscar Ramirez, both former national team players.

Costa Rica is without star keeper Keylor Navas, who was a late withdrawal from the Copa Centenario, but even if the Real Madrid keeper has been available, the Ticos would not have been able to match the USA. They made it too easy for the hosts on their four goals, and they only managed one shot on goal. Things were so bad that star forward Joel Campbell was subbed at halftime.

25 comments about "USA-Costa Rica: Hosts step it up with convincing win".
  1. Claus Fischer, June 8, 2016 at 5 a.m.

    Looked like a rather underwhelming crowd size in that downtown Chicago Soldier Field. To be more specific, a rather embarrassing emptiness to many parts of the stadium. So the USMNT is not much of a crowd draw in the USA's third largest metropolitan area? Even when playing this supposedly second strongest rival in CONCACAF with, yes, a huge soccer Hispanic culture in The City of Big Shoulders? Whomever is managing this Copa America, so far, it is a flop. My gut tells me this. I think the real (not fabricated) numbers for TV, attendances, and ultimately advertisers will do the same. The soccer quality is very poor on the fields of play. So far the fans are not buying it. Good on them. The money men of soccer thought they could just wave a magic wand in June 2016 and create a soccer tournament spectacle. It is not working. Sort of like Brazil's dull and dismal opener. No wonder that Messi is faking the injury concerns.

  2. Gary Levitt, June 8, 2016 at 8:01 a.m.

    C. Fischer: believe what you want but here is organizing committee's statement on projected attendance: "At a media roundtable on Tuesday, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who heads the organizing committee, said the baseline projection for the tournament was 30,000 fans a game, it would be a financial success with an average of 35,000 and the "dream number" is 40,000 a game."

  3. beautiful game, June 8, 2016 at 10:36 a.m.

    Having Jozy return to the pitch is a harikari thought.

  4. Wooden Ships replied, June 8, 2016 at 12:40 p.m.

    I wasn't thinking that I w, it was funny though. Probably not if you're a Jozy fan but we need to not be so easily offended. I applaud Jozy for his contributions and especially his Haitian outreach during the Copa. Haiti seems to never catch a break, not soccer just the country. Great people. But, Wood is more capable and dimensional. I like the two forward and as long as Clint is into it-good work rate, then we have a good tandem up top. It was great fun watching JJ and everyone go all out. Not always are we so determined. Reminds me of my chats with teams I have coached. My question on occasion was "what are you waiting for"? Players have a finite playing time. It drove me nuts when players, teams didn't recognize that reality.

  5. Ginger Peeler replied, June 8, 2016 at 2:42 p.m.

    A man after my own heart!

  6. Claus Fischer, June 8, 2016 at 10:57 a.m.

    Thank you, Gary. Yes, I have seen a few times this baseline of 35,000 per match, indicating, as you share, that anything above this achieves a "win" and exceeds the baseline goals for CONCACAF and CONMEBOL. Here's the thing, though: In the USA, fans only get to see the Messis, Suarezes, and Rodriguezs typically in friendlies that are esentially meaningless money winners for their respective federations. Now the fans have an actual tournament where wins and losses matter. Fans know a tournament where something is at stake. And everyone is smart enough to know that a men's sports event at this level is almost always a greater fan magnet than a women's event. Sorry, women's game fans -- but facts are facts. These Copa numbers ought to be at least on par with World Cup 1994 and the subsequent women's FIFA World Cup hosted in the USA. After all, the US population is significantly higher than those years -- and the U.S. boasts a much larger overall soccer audience to tap into. Failure is only a bit over 53,000 for a Brazil match on a perfectly fine Saturday evening in Pasadena, a historic location for the Selecao as that is where they lifted the World Cup in 1994. Fans know this. Only getting 53,000 in Southern Calfornia in a stadium with a 93,000 capacity for this Copa event? That's pure failure. Mexico's game in Phoenix/Glendale was NOT a sellout. How is that even possible when El Tri are facing a very good Uruguay? Many companies and firms all over the globe do this. They set false low end baseline numbers that they then exceed to make themselves smell like roses when it comes time for the quarterly reports. Problem is: It still stinks. The day a U.S. sports federation that had 30+ U.S. cities and stadiums with at least 58,000 capacity venues bidding to host for Copa Centario 2016 settles for 35,000 or 40,000 average attendance is the mark of a weak culture in decline. (And idiots who cannot even manage a strip mall parking lot food truck.) Real Americans don't think or settle like weak-kneed toddlers sucking on milk bottles - See Austria/Switzerland 2008; Poland/Ukraine 2012 and now France 2016 with their 32,000 capacity stadiums. Or view the decrepit stadia typically used when a South American nation hosts this same tournament (see Venezuela a few years back - Argentina too.) Real Americans don't play small ball. If any American is not personally embarrassed at a 20,000 turnout in Seattle and less than 14,000 in Orlando just a few days ago, well, I don't know why U.S. soccer fans are always pining away to host another World Cup. After all, why then use the Houston NFL stadium when the Houston MLS Dynamo stadium better fits the low expectations/low output? I guess I know why FedEx Field in Landover, MD/Washington D.C. was bypassed as a venue for this tournament. It does look embarrassing when less than half full - as it nearly was in Chicago last night.

  7. R2 Dad, June 8, 2016 at 11:28 a.m.

    Before we lay this at the feet of the people of chicago--has anyone tried to buy tickets to these matches? When I tried to, "resellers" had already bought them all and were offering $250/seat for a pair of two, and you had to buy all 3 matches. This is guaranteed to anger fans and drive down attendance. US Soccer is banking on the fact that immigrants & tourists will shell out whatever is asked to support their original home national team. There were tons of empty seats at many of these matches, because US Soccer punted on ticket management and handed this over to the grey market. These resellers only care about margins, not attendance, and that's where US Soccer miscalculated.

  8. Bob Ashpole replied, June 8, 2016 at 11:51 a.m.

    What makes you think this is a miscalculation by the organizers? I suspect their objective was to sell out the tickets and sell the TV rights, which they did well before the matches were played.

  9. Scott Johnson replied, June 8, 2016 at 4:47 p.m.

    If a bunch of scalpers are taking a bath (and have inventories on unsold tickets), I'm not crying too much in my beer...

  10. Claus Fischer, June 8, 2016 at 11:39 a.m.

    R2 Dad, yes, thank you for what you share. All of this needs examination. If shady resellers (or whatever the terminology is) are involved, well, that skews the stadium attendance numbers certainly. However, all of these venues are very seasoned multievent complexes that know backwards and forwards how to handled large sports and music/entertainment events. A hallmark of U.S. big sports facilities is supposed to be their expertise, technical sophistication and year-in, year-out management of bigtime events. How can both these host venues, CONCACAF, and US Soccer get so easily duped by bulk-buying resellers? If this is indeed "resellers," well, this is not the "first time at the rodeo" for Chicago, Orlando, Pasadena, or Seattle hosts. Either way, so far it is a letter grade "F" for mismanagement/bad marketing/failure to set accurate-accomodating pricing.

  11. Bob Ashpole, June 8, 2016 at 11:47 a.m.

    While I have been pleased with the coaching in the last few matches, I consider the switch to a 442 a tactical mistake. If the intent was a stronger defense on the flanks, I would rather see a 451 shape keeping 9 players behind the ball. Conventional wisdom is that there is nothing more dangerous than a 2 goal lead. IMO reducing the number of defenders behind the ball was an invitation to let Costa Rica back into the game, when we should be killing it off. Finally IMO Dempsey is the best CF; Woods is a better choice than Altidore, but not better than Dempsey. Perhaps that was the writer's intent, but the article didn't say it.

  12. John Soares, June 8, 2016 at 12:02 p.m.

    Obviously a good game with great result.
    As to the attendance.... regardless of the reason and several "possibilities" have been given. It's sad to see "our" team play in a half empty stadium. Someone said that the reason for the previous "empty" stadiums was that, they were friendlies and no one cares. Poor excuse then, ridiculous now.

  13. Jeffrey Organ, June 8, 2016 at 12:24 p.m.

    Claus, you make a number of valid points, but it is a bit more complicated. First, it is my understanding that all of the TV and sponsorship money is going to the confederations. The organizers had to cover the cost of the tournament out of ticket sale proceeds. This led to 3 mistakes: 1. The prices for tickets are ridiculously high...especially for secondary games. 2. The organizers forced the best fans (early buyers) to buy an entire city ticket package, unlike WC where you can get follow your team packages, so dog games could be sold to captive buyers 3. The stadium sizes for some of these games is ridiculous. They should have selected cities with both an NFL and MLS stadium option and placed the game at an appropriate venue based on matchup. For these reasons ticket sales have lagged.
    Second, I think US Soccer is responsible for marketing this event, though not completely sure. If so, a tournament of this size is far beyond their limited marketing abilities. If not, the organization responsible has done a lousy job. I have been to see the US games in Santa Clara and Chicago. You wouldn't have a clue the tournament was going on, if you didn't know it was, in either of these places. No merchandise for sale at airports or even sports apparel stores, No welcome Copa America signs in the cities, etc. So very little local buzz. A lot of that comes down to not enough time to promote the tournament, because of the FIFA scandal. A lot to incompetence.

    All that aside, the USMNT is still a tough sell in general in this country. The fact of the matter is that English speaking sports fans in this country for national teams/individual competitors in any sport only get excited by winners. The US has never won anything meaningful.

    Actually 40K on a weeknight for a US Soccer game is not bad given our history. The crowd was motivated and passionate. You make good points, but take the criticism too far given all of the factors.

  14. Claus Fischer replied, June 8, 2016 at 3:38 p.m.

    Thanks, Jeffrey, for what you share. Of particular interest is the host cities of Chicago and Santa Clara/SF not having visible banners, colors, etc. I suspected this might be the case. What a shame that you did not encounter real fan atmosphere in those cities. That stuff is easy to produce, cheap to make in bulk, all things considered. It can be done in less than 150 hours, hung and prominently displayed to help provide that colorful tournament atmosphere than fans want. Don't for one second think that many FIFA bigwigs (UEFA too even) aren't here, sizing up how these various U.S. facilities host. Canada has representatives from Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and even Edmonton here to help see, learn lessons, and conspire/plot with US Soccer for a potential joint men's World Cup bid for 2026. This is multiple millions of dollars in the eight figures on the table for every match and potentially for every payday in the "black" for these host cities. Remember that these final host cities bested double their number when US Soccer asked municipalities to put forth their bid packages. Communities like Jacksonville, Nashville, Indianapolis, San Diego and Atlanta are looking on and now ready to tell US Soccer, "You should have chosen us." This is a highly competitive business world here; everyone is walking on eggshells or ought to be unless these are 90 - 95% filled to capacity events and sellouts by the quarterfinals. No one has any excuses if this is being poorly packaged, marketed, advertised, or ticketed. I hope everyone knows that Orlando always gets chosen due to the theme parks (Universal/Disney etc.) They aid US Soccer and those global theme parks know how to do all of this marketing/ticketing stuff blindfolded. It is sad if americans really do not seem to know how to create soccer specific event atmosphere in the host cities. One ought to feel like one is in a host city prior to the tournanment and during it. The English do know how to do this - in spades - even when they are not hosting. For example, walk though a 200,000 or more population city in England right now. Or Ireland or Northern Ireland. Euro 2016 fever is everywhere to be seen. What a shame. Thank you for the in person insights. Much appreciated. [As to Chicago's stadium being absolutely full: Doesn't everyone remember the USMNT's home final qualifying game to reach World Cup 2014? That ought to have been what was replicated against Costa Rica. For many -- last night was NOT a school night. Many schools are already out for the summer. So whole families could have been present at Soldier Field and not worrying about making sack lunches and getting kids to bus stops the next morning at 7:15 a.m.]

  15. Jeffrey Organ, June 8, 2016 at 12:36 p.m.

    BTW...resellers have very little to do with any of this. Most secondary market tickets on Stub Hub and the like are people who, forced to buy games they didn't want, are getting rid of them. Argentina, Mexico, Brazil games cost a lot as you would expect. Many of the others are ridiculously cheap. You could buy lower stadium level/center line tickets for Jamaica vs. Venezuela for $10-15. I suspect most "shady" ticket speculators haven't done very well.

  16. Drew Q, June 8, 2016 at 12:44 p.m.

    Not to change subject but is anyone else absolutely over the Fox Broadcasting crew/coverage of, not only the Copa, but any soccer coverage in general. Stu Holden was a decent player but just sounds like an indecisive teenager on-air. Whomever is doing the play-by-play with Cobi keeps calling the cards "flags". Alexi is well, Alexi. Good for some "tough" criticism or "controversial" comments but his personality just gets me to change channels (or not tune in). Barton and Wynalda are good analysts, their best, and they're not in-studio.

  17. Golden Toe replied, June 8, 2016 at 5:34 p.m.

    Drew, finally someone else with issues with FS. My biggest complaint is the background drowns out the game announcers, how has no one at Fox noticed this.
    Second, and true with all fixtures on every channel, get rid of the color announcers, who cares if they would have done it a different way? I want to know who has the ball!!!! JP Dellacamera is the best at this when every sidekick leaves him alone. I want to "hear" a game like I'm listening to it on a radio.

  18. Bob Ashpole replied, June 8, 2016 at 9:48 p.m.

    My biggest complaint is the "play-by-play" commentary. It is TV not radio. My second complaint is the producer who chooses shots like a pointy football match. Close ups of the kicker on a corner is silly. I want to see the action off the ball. You would think after all this time they would learn to use wide angle shots like the broadcasts in other countries.

  19. Bob Ashpole replied, June 8, 2016 at 10:01 p.m.

    Golden Toe, you surprised me. If people want a play by play to tell them who has the ball, I can live with that. I will just mute the sound. I usually watch matches on the Spanish language channels--I don't speak Spanish. But I want to see the action on the field, not cute girls in the stands or a coaches' reaction to play. With Fox you see maybe as little as a third of what you would see in person.

  20. Ginger Peeler replied, June 8, 2016 at 10:31 p.m.

    Golden Toe, I know exactly what you's as if the announcers are out in the open, rather than in a booth. If you're older, it may be your hearing. And, while hearing aids may help, they haven't been able to fix mine so the crowd noise is pushed into the background. I realized I had a problem when those around me had no trouble hearing while I struggled to understand what voices were saying. I'm with you on the announcers calling the action on the field. With my (very old) 26"screen tv, often I'm unable to make out the names or numbers on the players' shirts. Some of the USMNT players have distinctive running styles and I can usually spot Zardes' hair and Bradley's shaved head. But, for the rest, I'm counting on the announcer to tell me who and what I'm watching, not joke around with the color commentator.

  21. K Michael, June 8, 2016 at 1:01 p.m.

    Random thoughts:
    1. Attendance is running double that of the 2015 Chile-hosted event.
    2. The uncertainty of this event happening at all didn't abate until late last year; these events need a long runway to get airborne, so to speak.
    3. ticket prices are a barrier to attend, especially in our down-sized to part-time jobs economy.
    4. The Copa is not anywhere close to being a top of mind aware event to the average American sports fan. The World Cup, is, however, which does explain why a World Cup would likely fill the stadiums completely; explains why in 2014, the TV ratings for the USMNT beat NBA Finals numbers and were comparable to NFL playoff ratings.
    5. The action always picks up by round two of the group stage; last night, for example; too early to condemn the play on the field.

  22. Claus Fischer, June 8, 2016 at 3:04 p.m.

    I'm really not buying anyone here using the generalizations that US Soccer cannot market, brand, hire those that do, nor tap into laser-clear precise ticket pricing to best fill every stadium. No, they may not be to capacity, but only getting 20,000 the other day in Seattle and under 14,000 in Orlando screams failures at many levels. I'm not buying the down economy and the part-time jobs situation. THAT is all very real. The abysmal jobs scene and jobs flying overseas has been the case since even before 2007/2008. I've seen packed houses or nearly packed houses in places like Chicago, Landover, Philly, Baltimore, Charlotte, etc. for the now annual July showgames done by Chelsea, Man United, AS Roma, Real, Barca, Liverpool, and sometimes Celtic or Club America thrown in. Everyone remember two summers ago when Man United filled the Wolverines stadium at the Univ. of Michigan? Over 100,000, right? Those are meanningless friendlies where the star players jog about for maybe 45 minutes and then get subbed by guys who may not still be with those clubs by August 31st. They're terrible matches that start in the scalding sun so as to live broadcast back to Europe in Europe's evening TV viewing hours. Sorry, US Soccer has three decades of concrete, extremely precise numbers to work with in every city involved. They have more data at their fingertips on pricing, fan demographics, parking, even tailgating. US Soccer knows that they could right now blow the doors off the best attendance figures that CONMEBOL has ever had for any of its 99 year history of this tournament. US Soccer knows that big numbers here (even if it is Peru, Haiti or Venezuela playing) amps up mightily a future massive US Soccer payday when US Soccer again woos FIFA for a men's World Cup. You want to set yourself up for life? Get on the US Soccer payroll five years prior to the next U.S. hosted men's WC. Sorry, no excuses fly. None of what you share, though I truly do appreciate the insights, thoughts and those who have been on the ground at these venues. US Soccer sits squarely in Chicago, has for years. They know how to tap into the titans of business and marketing. They have done this over and over since well before even the very successful FIFA World Cup hosted in 1994. Just look at past Gold Cups where true minnows are squaring off against one another, teams that never get beyond the first round. Those games in the last 8 - 10 years got better attendances - yes, in first round matches. No recent Copa America (in Venezuela, Argentina, and then Chile) remotely compares. Chile's stadiums are small and remote. Only Argentina could have manifested decent attendances; however their infrastructure is still very poor aside from a few stadiums. Also it is in winter. Not a harsh winter, but hardly a fan friendly weather situation. I stand by my comments. When the Glendale, AZ stadium for Mexico-Uruguay is no sellout, one does not have the slightest clue as to what one is doing.

  23. Jeffrey Organ replied, June 8, 2016 at 3:30 p.m.

    Not sure I understand your spend the first half of your post talking about friendlies and big attendance and then how smart and capable US Soccer is. Is the point that US Soccer fans don't care about this tournament? That we should be embarrassed by the attendance? Or that nobody has a clue why people aren't filling stadiums? If it is this, I suspect, like most things, the answer is a combination of a lot of factors...including many of the generalizations you dismiss out of hand. I also believe you are overestimating US Soccer's commercial capabilities.

  24. Claus Fischer replied, June 8, 2016 at 4:51 p.m.

    No, I did not state how smart and capable US Soccer is. I emphasized how smart and capable US Soccer ought to be during execution phase of this Copa tournament. They are not an amateur outfit working out of cardboard boxes in rented buildings. I think folks need to view how previous generations at US Soccer did when marketing Gold Cups and all these individual men's and women's qualifiers. Like how St. Louis did as USMNT host just a half year ago in a match versus a real minnow, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It was a walkover with the US up 3-0 at the half. Was there any doubt as to a win for the USMNT? No. Attendance? 43,430 (sellout) in the middle of November at an outdoor venue. How can more be present for that than last night at Soldier Field? US Soccer set the gold standard for FIFA in 1994. Those numbers still awe and shock (and make tremble) the rest of the world when it comes to hosting a major sports event. There were lots of dull teams at WC 1994. I viewed a number of them - but in packed houses. I was very impressed with what US Soccer did then. Note that this was before the Internet and the explosion of interest due to the Champions League and the ability of normal fans to visit websites and follow players directly on Twitter. Marketing has never been easier than it is in year 2016. The fact that just a few years after the amazing commercial, ticketing, and advertising successes of the men's FIFA World Cup in '94, US Soccer replicated it with the women's game twice in 1999 and 2003. On the women's side, that is a feat no country on earth can match for the foreseable decades. I am not praising US Soccer today; I am making clear reference to all the tools they have at their disposal. US Soccer is more than mainstream. They are on a much bigger goldmine than MLB or the NHL - and they know it. Last: Don't take offense, but I am not sure you are aware of what country you are in. As one poster made very clear here two weeks ago: This is a home tournament for Mexico. And it is. As it quite nearly is for Colombia, Panama, & Jamaica too. Go to your nearest Mexican food store or gas station/convenience store. Look at the Panini books and stickers there and how fast they are selling. Then look at the Sports Illustrated of last week with Messi on the cover. View the graphic with numbers of inhabitants within the US borders (US 2010 Census) that match the teams now here playing. I am astounded at the number of Haitian-Americans, same with the number of Jamaican-Americans and those hailing from Colombia. Please don't underestimate the fan interest of thousands of Hondourans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans here in every one of these host cities and the surrounding areas. Yes, though a $65 or $75 per ticket is a lot, they indeed pony up that kind of money and go. Yet? Yet if they are not buying and filling up a Pasadena stadium to min. 75% capacity for the Selecao, something is terribly wrong. Let us see if Orlando does better tonight.

  25. K Michael, June 8, 2016 at 4:27 p.m.

    Claus, its brand awareness, plus a shortened promo run-up. Barca's next friendly in the US will fill a stadium; as will Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manu, et al. Obscure B-level Copa matches (Peru, Bolivia, Haiti, etc) won't. If this one-off tourney becomes a mainstay in the US every 4 years, along with the steady growth of the game (and the more frequent Pulisic-level US talent discoveries which are bound to happen with our first organic generation of native players, then this will begin selling out stadiums as well. Give this time.

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