Putting in the worst performance in a World Cup qualifier in a long time, the US men’s national team lost 4–0 to Costa Rica on Tuesday night. The only redeeming thing about the game was the play of Christian Pulisic, and the US appeared to have played truly without heart. There’s little else for many to say except that Jurgen Klinsmann should be fired but won’t be.
Johan Venegas left a foot in on John Brooks a couple times in the early going, then nutmegged the big man for the first chance of the game, but Brad Guzan came up with a good kick save. Otherwise, the opening minutes were hectic but uneventful. Costa Rica had better pressure, though, keeping the ball in the US’s half for much of the time.
In the 14th, Bryan Ruiz nearly put the Ticos ahead in spectacular style. Taking a chip into the box on the chest, Ruiz then tried a quickfire overhead kick that Guzan only saved with his face, knowing nothing about it. The US was having a tough time getting its attackers on the ball, but every time Christian Pulisic got on the ball in the attacking third, he was very dangerous, earning free kicks, putting in dangerous near-post crosses, or connecting play.
As the half wore on, though, it seemed a bit like the Pulisic! show, with Christian the only US player able to do anything with the ball. Costa Rica’s conservative defensive shape was smothering any US attempt to use the ball. For a game that seemed like a goal could happen soon, it was surprisingly dull.
In the 41st, Bobby Wood skinned a man and finally got the US close, putting a cross through the Costa Rica box that beat the goalkeeper at his near post but squirted all the way through without a US attacker able to get a touch. 90 seconds later, Venegas got his head to a cross in the US box, but put it over.
It would be a portent of things to come, as, in the 44th minute, after a US turnover in midfield caught Timmy Chandler high upfield, the ball was played into his corner. Omar Gonzalez’s closeout was slow, perhaps thinking the ball would carry out of play, giving Cristian Bolanos plenty of time to measure his cross. And then, there was Venegas again, this time ghosting in front of Brooks and heading home from a near post run. It was a pu pu platter goal to give up, and a bad way to end the half.
Unfortunately, the story stayed the same after halftime, with Costa Rica the only team creating chances, and the US doing nothing with the few set piece chances they earned. Another good Guzan save in the 56th kept the US just one goal down, and the need for substitutes became more clear by the moment.
But instead of subs, the US just gave us more of the same, and another midfield turnover led to a second Costa Rica goal in the 68th. Ruiz got behind Matt Besler at left back, then Rosicky’d an outside-of-the-boot cross with his left foot that took out both US centerbacks. Bolanos got ahead of Chandler and not even a very strong hand from Guzan could keep out the header.
The first US sub came, following the goal, with Lynden Gooch coming on, but the man taken off was Pulisic, signalling a lack of faith by coach Jurgen Klinsmann that the US could get anything out of the game.
That turned out to be right, of course, as just minutes later, Brooks’s bad night got worse, with Costa Rica sub Joel Campbell making him look silly on a long ball over the top, rounding the big man with ease and tucking the ball past Guzan for 3–0 in the 74th. In the 78th, Campbell did it again to make it 4–0, taking a simple ball over the top and putting away an easy 1-v-1 with Guzan. The US was playing without heart. Luckily, they were spared further embarrassment by a sated Costa Rica and the finite nature of game-time.
We could break this down and talk about players that were poor (Brooks, Jones, Brooks again), but in the end, it’s difficult to put this down to any individual players. The whole team, Pulisic aside—and that’s not homerism, or hyperbole, Pulisic was again the best thing about the US, and it wasn’t close—underperformed, and at some point, the buck must stop with the coach. Between the needless tinkering of the Mexico game and the garbage fire of this one, it’s hard to see how Klinsmann can come out of this pair of qualifiers without bearing some blame. US Soccer and Sunil Gulati need to hold him accountable. They won’t, but if this type of performance doesn’t put his feet to the fire, what will?
Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Costa Rica
Date: Nov. 15, 2016
Competition: 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia – Qualifier
Venue: Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica; San Jose, Costa Rica
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
Attendance: 35,400 (so)
Weather: 69 degrees; Mostly cloudy
1-Brad Guzan; 21-Timmy Chandler, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 6-John Brooks, 5-Matt Besler; 23-Fabian Johnson (19-Graham Zusi, 77), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 13-Jermaine Jones (16-Sacha Kljestan, 74), 10-Christian Pulisic (11-Lynden Gooch, 70); 17-Jozy Altidore, 7-Bobby Wood
Subs not used: 12-Ethan Horvath, 22-William Yarbrough, 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 8-Alan Gordon, 9-Aron Johannsson, 14-Michael Orozco, 15-Steve Birnbaum, 18-Julian Green, 20-Cameron Carter-Vickers
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
1-Keylor Navas; 3-José Salvatierra, 19-Kendall Waston, 2-Johnny Acosta, 4-Michael Umaña, 22-Ronald Matarrita; 7-Cristian Bolaños, 14-Randall Azofeifa (17-Yeltsin Tejeda, 70), 5-Celso Borges, 10-Bryan Ruiz (13-Rodney Wallace, 84); 11-Johan Venegas (12-Joel Campbell, 67)
Subs not used: 18-Patrick Pemberton, 23-Leonel Moreira, 6-Pablo Salazar, 8-Bryan Oviedo, 9-Ariel Rodríguez, 15-Allan Miranda, 16-Leonardo González, 20-David Guzmán, 21-Marco Ureña
Head coach: Óscar Ramírez
CRC – Johan Venegas (Cristian Bolaños) 44th minute
CRC – Cristian Bolaños (Bryan Ruiz) 68
CRC – Joel Campbell 74
CRC – Joel Campbell (Ronald Matarrita) 78
CRC – José Salvatierra (caution) 9th minute
USA – Timmy Chandler (caution) 11
USA – Jermaine Jones (caution) 37
CRC – Johnny Acosta (caution) 51
USA – Michael Bradley (caution) 55
USA – Jozy Altidore (caution) 71
Stats Summary (USA / CRC)
Shots: 6 / 15
Shots on Goal: 1 / 9
Saves: 4 / 1
Corner Kicks: 4 / 2
Fouls: 13 / 12
Offside: 2 / 1
Referee: César Ramos (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Marvin Torrentera (MEX)
Assistant Referee 2: Miguel Angel Hernández (MEX)
4th Official: Fernando Guerrero (MEX)