USA-Costa Rica Men's Friendly Player Ratings

Feb. 1 in Carson, California
USA 1 Costa Rica 0. Goals: Llanez pen. 50.
Att.: 9,172.
* * * * * * * * * *

Not only was Coach Gregg Berhalter using a bevy of youngsters a smart move to help the U-23s prepare for Olympic qualifying -- they won and looked quite good in the process. With six U-23s, including three teenagers, among the starting field players, the USA beat Costa Rica, 1-0, in Saturday's friendly while outshooting and out-possessing the Ticos. The 18-year-old Ulysses Llanez, the brightest of the seven debutants, scored from the penalty spot after a foul on Reggie Cannon.

USA Player Ratings
(1=low; 5=middle; 10=high.)


The Ticos' most serious threats came with Giancarlo Gonzalez's header off the crossbar and shots that defenders blocked -- leaving Sean Johnson, and his late-game replacement, Bill Hamid, with an uneventful afternoon.

Player (Club) caps/goals (age)
5 Sean Johnson (New York City FC) 9/0 (30)


Both outside backs contributed to the USA's possession dominance and helped keep the game mostly in Costa Rica's half. Sam Vines supported and combined well with Ulysses Llanez, including a one-on-one setup in the 68th minute. Reggie Cannon was fouled for the PK that gave the USA 1-0 lead, and on the other end blocked a close-range header from Marco Urena. His forays kept the pressure on the Ticos till late in the game. Walker Zimmerman, who impressed a couple times with long, accurate passes, made a crucial and clean second-half tackle to stop Urena. He and his central partner Aaron Long limited Costa Rica's frontline to two shots.

Player (Club) caps/goals (age)
8 Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas) 11/0 (21)

7 Walker Zimmerman (LAFC) 12/2 (26)

6 Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls) 17/3 (27)

7 Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids) 1/0 (20)


The USA had 61 percent of the possession, thanks to solid performances from the midfielders, who benefited from the outside backs giving them extra options, and forwards who shed their markers. When it seemed the Ticos were gaining momentum early in the second half, after Johnson caught a deflected cross, Brenden Aaronson stormed up field, spun through a tackle, and started a long passing sequence that tamed the Ticos. Jackson Yueill's defensive work gave cover to the outside backs and the most influential midfielder, Sebastian Lletget. He could have done better with his three shots and none of his 10 corner kicks produced, but Lletget passed securely and at times cleverly, as in the buildup to the penalty kick foul, when he delivered to Arriola.

Player (Club) caps/goals (age)
6 Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union) 1/0 (19)

6 Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes) 7/0 (22)

7 Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy) 14/2 (27)


Paul Arriola's early forays down the right wing -- he won a corner kick 26 seconds in -- helped set the tone in the USA's favor. Only one of his four shots required a save, but he otherwise played with poise. Before Cannon got fouled for the PK, Arriola won a battle with Gonzalez, fed Jesus Ferreira in the middle, controlled the return pass from Lleget, and slyly set up overlapping Cannon. Ferreira didn't get a shot on goal, but how adeptly he settled Arriola's pass on that sequence was just one example of how valuable his ball control was for the USA. Early on he set up an Arriola shot, and his one-two with Ulysses Llanez set Lleget up for a good chance. Within a minute of kickoff, Llanez created a scoring chance when he chipped the ball to Long, whose header was deflected for a corner kick. By the fifth minute, he juked past a Tico defender for a shot, and hit a cross for another chance. It didn't always come out perfectly, but whenever Llanez got the ball one sensed the potential for something exciting -- like when he befuddled Keysher Fuller with a spin move in the ninth minute. In 50th minute, LLanez scored his first USA goal with a crisp penalty kick.

Player (Club) caps/goals (age)
7 Paul Arriola (D.C. United) 33/5 (24)

7 Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas) 1/0 (19)

8 Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg/GER) 1/1 (18)


A fine header Gyasi Zardes into the net was correctly called offside. Mark McKenzie replaced Long on the backline and did just as well at keeping the Ticos at bay. Chase Gasper kept up the wing pressure after replacing Vines.

Player (Club) caps/goals (age)
5 Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew) 56/12 (28)

6 Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union) 1/0 (20)

6 Brandon Servania (FC Dallas) 1/0 (20)

5 Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids) 6/0 (22)

6 Chase Gasper (Minnesota United) 1/0 (24)

5 Bill Hamid (D.C. United) 7/0 (29)

TRIVIA: Saturday's win pulls the USA ahead of Costa Rica in their all-time head-to-head record, dating back to their first encounter in 1975. It now stands at 17 wins for the USA, 16 Costa Rica wins, and 6 ties.

Feb. 1 in Carson, California
USA 1 Costa Rica 0. Goals: Llanez pen. 50.
USA -- Johnson (Hamid, 76); Cannon, Zimmerman, Long (McKenzie, 62), Vines (Gasper, 77); Aaronson (Servania, 66), Yueill, Lletget; Arriola, Ferreira (Zardes, 62), Llanez (Lewis, 73).
Costa Rica -- Alvarado; Fuller, Brown, Gonzalez, Matarrita (Mora, 63); Lassiter (Leal, 46), Tejeda (Alfaro, 70), Guzman, Segura (Diaz, 46); Jo.Venegas (Nunez, 78), Urena (Ugalde, 78).
Yellow Cards: USA -- Llanez 69; Costa Rica -- Matarrita 26. Red cards: none.
Referee: Oshane Nation (Jamaica)
Att.: 9,172.

USA/Costa Rica
Shots: 17/14
Shots on Goal: 5/2
Saves: 2/4
Corner Kicks: 11/3
Fouls: 24/13
Offside: 2/0
Possession: 61%/39%

22 comments about "USA-Costa Rica Men's Friendly Player Ratings".
  1. Ginger Peeler, February 1, 2020 at 8:46 p.m.

    I was very pleasantly surprised at how our youngsters played.  Their anticipation was good; especially since it was totally lacking in Berhalter's previous groups.  The kids were kinda fun to watch!  To put it another way, this is the first time since we failed to qualify for the last World Cup that I felt even a smidgeon of hope that the USMNT could qualify this time around...not, necessarily confidence, but hope.

  2. Bob Ashpole, February 1, 2020 at 9:57 p.m.

    The youngsters played well against an experienced opponent.

    In the first half this was perhaps the best US performance in possession by a back line. They looked just as comfortable with the ball as midfielders.

    I just about choked when they started talking about "vertical integration" as if they had just invented a revolutionary new concept. Apparently they have never noticed teenagers playing for the senior team before and haven't noticed the stovepipe organization of the MNT program before.

  3. David Ruder, February 2, 2020 at 8:17 a.m.

    Just wonder if this young hustling team could beat the overrated regulars.

  4. frank schoon, February 2, 2020 at 1:18 p.m.

     Our backline looked halfway decent was that CR chose to play a defensive strategy which allowed our backline time and space to manouver . I would liked to have  seen us play a team that played high defense and puts us in lots of pressure situations to see how we would handled as a team as individually.

    Yuell the #6 reminds me too much of MB. He also has a bad habit of coming to the ball , position himself in front of the opponent whose sort of tries to contain zonally the right centerback Long who is positioned near the sidelines. The pass from Long to #6 is useless for nothing is solved; One, the pass didn't beat an opponent and Two, when #6 receives the ball his back facing downfield along with a defender behind him. He actually turned and made a cross pass to our left wing on the other side of the field, which a useless pass for the wing is too far away and the pass takes forever to come to the wings feet and therefore doesn't surprise the opponent. 

    This is basic ABC's. A pass like that from the far side to the where #6 was positioned results in the ball going to the left wing, but the leftwing's positioned to close to the midfield line, thereby nullifying any offensive by the wing....First of all the wing should NOT receive the ball from a crosspass to his feet but in front of him and BEHIND the defender who then is forced to turn and lose sight of the wing , while the wing is able to run towards the endline for the ball.

    I also noticed the crosses from the leftflank from Llanez and Lletget were terrible. The reason being is they're both right footed, causing the ball to be kicked with the inside of their right instep which forces the ball to bend away from the uncoming attacker on the other side, which resulted in the ball going out of bounds. You either need a leftfooted or a good outside of the rightfoot. Furthermore because the ball has a counterclockwise spin on it , it makes it much easier for the defender to see the ball and the attacker coming at the same time. The idea for crosses is to make them in a manner that defender has to choose to see the man or ball but both.

    Llanez has to seriously work on his end pass, the last pass or the assist. He needs to work on his touch when passing, for his touch is like a Russian tractor on the ball, especially in medium range passes. Yes, he has quickness and can Run and turn quickly on a dime, but he needs to work many other things...

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, February 2, 2020 at 2:21 p.m.

    I welcome the cold water in my face, Frank. But while your comments are spot on, the first part of the game is still the best performance by a US back line in possession that I can recall. I only hope that they get the coaching that they need to get better. 

    As half time was approaching, one of the commentators lamented that he hadn't seen a "hard" tackle by anyone yet. Sigh. Just when I thought that the commentating was improving. Beautiful tackles stripping the ball are not enough for him, he wants to see players "tackled".

  6. R2 Dad replied, February 2, 2020 at 3:17 p.m.

    frank, we're just not sophisticated enough yet and are thus less demanding, but it would help if we upgraded our vocabulary in this regard. All players and fans know is that the player must Show--there is no single word fans can shout to correct this mal-formed behavior so players just continue as usual with their backs to the goal/facing our keeper and coaches have never taught our kids otherwise. 

  7. frank schoon replied, February 2, 2020 at 3:47 p.m.

    R2,Isn't that the truth. Bob, I like your comment on "Vertical Integration" . I almost fell out of my chair when I heard the comment from the announcer. Only professor types of soccer, who are great in talking but not with their feet, would come up with this type of Jargon. They can come up with expressions, esoteric and erudite or whatever in order to show their process of player improvement and development, but what it all comes down do is what a player can do on the field. The most important aspect, BOTTOM LINE is CAN THE PLAYER HANDLE THE BALL UNDER PRESSURE. If not, then you can all the classroom theories out the window....

    True ,Bob the first half was their better performance. And I appreciate tackles of a higher level whereby the players takes ball as he slides and goes with it , instead of the Neanderthal manner of dispensing with the attacker physically.

  8. Seth Vieux replied, February 2, 2020 at 5:14 p.m.

    Agreed on all front Frank. Overall an encouraging performance from the young pups, though think it's still a senior national team game so the player ratings seemed about 1 point too high in most cases for my taste. Finishing continues to be a problem, and while I enjoyed getting some combination play out of the #9, he was pretty much never in position to threaten goal himself. Young striker so not bashing him too much. Feeding Zardes at all for his header was a mental mistake turning the ball over in the final third. He was so far offside that a thinking and aware player cannot  play the ball to him.

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, February 2, 2020 at 6:05 p.m.

    R2 Dad, for at least the last 5 years, the idea of teaching facing as part of fundamentals has spread among licensed coaches. At the LA NSCAA convention in 2017 I saw a couple of excellent presentations including a demonstration with U10 who moved better (tactically) than most senior players. It is going to take awhile for this improvement to be felt at the U20 level. 

  10. R2 Dad replied, February 2, 2020 at 6:16 p.m.

    So, then Facing it is! Thx for the clarification.

  11. Seth Vieux replied, February 2, 2020 at 9:06 p.m.

    In general I just talk about 'body shape' as how a player faces/shows when recoevng the ball and 'body position' as applies to where a player gets themselves to be available to his/her teammate on the ball. 

  12. frank schoon replied, February 2, 2020 at 9:36 p.m.

    "Facing"...Did you guys watch  #6 asking the goalie for the ball right outside of the penalty area with his BACK facing downfield and almost  got the ball stolen from him. How STUPID can you be to create such an unsafe situation. I blame he goalie for he should the situation behind #6; Two  ,I blame #6 for being stupid or unaware, and Three, I blame the coach for allowing this situation to happen,  since this type of situation is seen more often these days...

    Did you all  see how all the midfielders are positioned with their backs facing downfield when the backline moves up to midfield with the ball. All 3midfielders have a tendency to want to have their backs facing downfield when calling for the ball. That in itself is what is called an unbalance midfield. Everyball #8 wants is to his feet with his backfacing downfield, item ditto #6 and I'm not going to even bother to mention Llegett... Notice neither of these 3players  take into account the 3rd man to pass to off the ball. As a matter of fact the moment any of these 3 midfielders receive the ball there is absolutely no off the ball movement. As a result the offense is not only predictable but slow. NEXT POST

  13. frank schoon replied, February 2, 2020 at 9:37 p.m.

    The trick to playing good offensive soccer is to position yourself in a manner that you receive the ball facing downfield which in result speeds up the offense as well as the options. I still see passes made straight up the flank from the right or leftback to the right or leftwing, which at Ajax is an abomination for you would get benched in the days when Rinus Michels coached. The reason is that the wings are placed in an awkward position will their backs facing downfield. The passes to the wing should come from a halfback and never a back, for passes from the halfback allows the wing not only a much better view of the field, but also face his opponent and take him on. And furthermore the halfback is able to make two kinds of passes ,one, either directly to the wing or behind the defender the wing to run onto. And most important of all the wing is able to create space for himself which is so rarely done by wingers today for they are not taught properly, which is by inviting to make a run downfield stop and turn to receive the ball, or initially run back to want the ball to the feet thereby luring the defender to follow you back and quickly turn to run in the empty space left by the defender....

    Also, we need to learn to make give and go's passes which you see CR execute but not us. We are such 'Johnny one notes' in our style of play that causes we play so predictable. Also when we do create a give and go it looks so predictable for everyone in the stadium knows where the second pass will go. It interesting that Johan Cruyff rarely creates a give and go pass. At the time he receives the ball he doesn't return the pass but goes into the opposite direction, looking for other options and in the meantime watches out of the corner of his eye if the player who gave him the pass is no longer watched by the defenders....

    Another thing I would have like to see is to have Llanez play right wing to see what different permutations would have resulted with our team.

  14. Bob Ashpole replied, February 3, 2020 at 11:44 a.m.

    Frank, I was a flank player and without thinking I would always have proper facing. Obviously flank players show with back to the touch line. It wasn't until later that I realized the importance of facing in the center areas. 

    My eureka moment was reading a comment about teaching forwards when checking back into the midfield to end their runs with a turn to the side for proper facing. That opened my eyes to how to move off the ball in the center.

  15. frank schoon replied, February 3, 2020 at 12:49 p.m.

    Bob, to me the flank player is the engine where it begins, therefore the wing has to be not only positioned in manner that  leads to a quick attack, means  always be able to see at the same time the ball coming and his immediate opponent, but also  receive a pass that is most efficient, meaning he doesn't have to apply extra touches to control the ball or is outnumbered where he's positioned. This is why it is so important for him to receive a ball from the halfback not the back for a pass from the halfback allows the wing the have better field vision...

    That in a nutshell is what makes the winger most effective but the problem is that he is dependent on his teammates to receive good service. A winger might not have a good game but that is usually the fault of his teammated not able to give the right type of service.

  16. Kent James, February 2, 2020 at 1:28 p.m.

    I think Mike has accurately assessmed the performances of the players.  Llanez was the most dynamic, I thought Vines was quiet early but then seemed to come on strong.  Always hard to assess things when so many variables are changed.  Zardes header was very well done (and he worked hard to get back onside), but the AR's call was accurate.  I was kind of disappointed in the Ticos, in that they seemed content to bunker in (all but the lone forward) and conceded possession, all while conceding acres of space on the flanks (which we did exploit pretty well, though our crosses were often not accurate).

     The one thing that concerns me about our style of play is the tendency to have the keeper playing one touch passes (changing the direction of the ball) to people up the middle under pressure.  I think we did it three times, and if that pass is just slightly off, our opponent will be shooting from the top of the box under no pressure with the keeper out of position.  I just don't the risk justifies the reward on that one (the reward being our midfielder having the ball with about 80 yards to go (and the rest of the team to beat).  

  17. Bob Ashpole replied, February 2, 2020 at 2:27 p.m.

    One thing that I took away is that GB instructed the team on our goal kicks to work on passing the ball accross and immediately in front of the goal mouth.

    That is the current convential wisdom of USSF. Why in the world are we training players to pass the ball back and forth across the goal mouth? Lunacy. We should be breaking lines with the initial passes, not "maintaing possession" in the six yard box.

  18. R2 Dad, February 2, 2020 at 3:06 p.m.

    Where can I find the replay? they've blocked extended highlights in spanish on youtube, doesn't appear to have anything other than short clips--why does US Soccer make it so hard to re-watch this match when I have time?

  19. frank schoon replied, February 2, 2020 at 3:52 p.m.

    R2,Have you got ESPN+, I watched it this morning....

  20. Ginger Peeler, February 2, 2020 at 4:56 p.m.

    One other positive I noticed: instead of keeping possession of the ball in our own half of the field, sending it all the way back to our goalkeeper and then slowly, advancing it toward the opponent's half of the field...while remaining at high alert and ready to pass back to the goalkeeper on a momen's notice, ad infinitem, we tried to control the ball on the Ticos' side of the field!!!
    Glory be!!! For once, that's not the way we played. If it was stolen or misspassed in Costa Rica's territory, we usually managed to recover it on the Tico's side of the field. And we drove the ball forward again and again. True, Costa Rica was definitely not playing up to their reputation, but the ball was only rarely passed all the way back to our side of the field and to the goalkeeper. Darned if it didn't look like we were trying to emulate the big boys and somewhat succeeding!  Reminded me of the old days, pre television, when we'd sit around the radio listening to the shows. One of my favorites almost always ended with a male voice asking, "Who was that masked man?"  The answer was always, "Why, he's the Lone Ranger!" Watching our young guys on the field, I found myself wondering who were these (young) masked men?  Why, they were the USMNT!!

  21. Philip Carragher, February 3, 2020 at 8:45 a.m.

    I suppose I could agree with much of the game commentary if I thought Costa Rica was putting forth a reasonble effort. Kind of reminds me of a USMNT v Jamaica friendly from not too long ago.

  22. Sam Bellin, February 3, 2020 at 8:32 p.m.

    I've enjoyed reading all these comments -- thanks to all for posting!  My 4 takeaways from this game:  1) Our younger players (say under 23) are significantly more confident playing the ball to feet and playing in tight spaces than the older Natties -- I think our future is brighter than our past:  2) Costa Rica was strangely deep and slow in their defensive shape the whole game;  3) Our commentators comment about everything under the sun except the actual game that is being played -- the worst announcers in any sport I have ever heard;  4) Costa Rican GK absolutely crushed Llanez with a flying knee to the head and of course was unpunished.  I too have played soccer 50+ years so I know this is "acceptable" GK behavior but it just makes no sense in the world that a play like that is not automatic red card. 

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