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Three things we learned from USMNT 3-1 loss at Costa Rica

Sep 7, 2013, 1:58 AM EDT

Donovan of the U.S. leaves the field after losing their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Costa Rica in San Jose Reuters

The United States were outpaced, out-passed, out-coached, and ultimately out-played en route to a 3-1 loss to Costa Rica Friday night.

And while it’s only one loss on the road in CONCACAF play – which certainly puts this sole match into perspective – there are still many things that Jurgen Klinsmann can take from this.

First off, it was reaffirmed that Michael Bradley is without a doubt the most important player in the United States squad.  I tackled that in another post, so what else did we come away with from this loss?

1) US defenders need to return to the basics

Very fundamental mistakes proved to be the undoing of the USMNT defenders at Estadio Nacional.  On the first and second goals, marking in the air was a struggle for Gonzalez and Besler.  Not only was jumping an issue, but tracking back with the ball in the air was a serious problem as well – especially on the second goal.

DaMarcus Beasley found himself out of position quite often. It’s not just his fault, as Beasley was often forced to cover for Fabian Johnson, who ran wildly around the pitch in all sorts of positions.  However, Beasley also needs to do his part on the edge, where Costa Rica repeatedly targeted as points of weakness.  The two of them need to figure out where their best and most comfortable position is, and soon. Overall, the organization from the back four wasn’t there.

The final goal was the biggest mistake, however.  Many will crucify Tim Howard for not coming out of goal to collect, but that aside, both Gonzalez and Besler were caught way too high up.  Sure the scoreline had something to do with that, but for a Costa Rican clear to find the feet of an attacker and nobody behind him is unacceptable.

2) The depth, while improved, still isn’t stellar

It’s almost impossible for any team to replace their star anchorman when injured, but the missing pieces were never replaced adequately.  Imagine if – knock on wood – Jozy were to get injured long-term? There’s no replacement up front other than moving Dempsey to striker, where he more often than not gets lost.  Geoff Cameron wasn’t able to come close to filling Bradley’s shoes, and now the US will even be without the Stoke man for Tuesday.

With Besler also suspended, it appears the most likely replacement will be a call up for Clarence Goodson.  The names emerging as tactical substitutions are decent, but when absences are compounded, the squad still looks dangerously patchwork.  It’s a lot better than it used to be, but still has a ways to go to be able to cope with losses of this magnitude.

3) It’s not all so bad

On the surface, most people will remember what stood out – the two goals inside 10 minutes for Costa Rica to begin the match, when they battered and bruised the US into submission, and the visitors were never able to recover.  That may have been the case, but the United States had plenty of bright spots, and if it weren’t for the outstanding goalkeeping of Keylor Navas, this match could have been wildly different.  He saved a bullet volley by Fabian Johnson in the first half which was headed for top corner, and had help from the post on Dempsey’s line drive towards the end.

Given all of the hardships the US were supposed to overcome – Bradley’s absence, Jozy’s fitness, the Orozco right-back experiment (which went poorly), Donovan’s lack of playing time with the first team – it wasn’t a terrible result.   Sure, the first 20 minutes were a train wreck, but once they settled in to match Costa Rica’s blistering start, the build-up was there…sort of.

Right then, it’s on to Colombus. The loss is but one match on the road in a very hostile environment, and with it over the shoulder and in the past, a date with a struggling El Tri looms.  It will be a test for both sides…

  1. hildezero - Sep 7, 2013 at 3:12 AM

    “And while it’s only one loss on the road in CONCACAF play…”

    Actually it’s two loses. The US also lost to Honduras on the road.

  2. gra42 - Sep 7, 2013 at 3:14 AM

    “DaMarcus Beasley found himself out of position quite often. It’s not just his fault, as Beasley was often forced to cover for Fabian Johnson, who ran wildly around the pitch in all sorts of positions.”

    That’s because Beasley was playing defender, where Johnson has usually played, when they should have just started in their normal positions.

    • wfjackson3 - Sep 7, 2013 at 9:31 AM

      Dude, wake up. Fabian Johnson plays in the midfield for his club.

      • mikeevergreen - Sep 7, 2013 at 10:11 AM

        And? He’s our best laft-back, and dare I say it, he should be doing that at his club, too.

  3. gra42 - Sep 7, 2013 at 3:25 AM

    “..Once they settled in to match Costa Rica’s blistering start, the build-up was there…sort of.”

    We have no “build-up” without Johnson’s help settling things at the back the way he has, and then coming forward to give us numbers and organization in attack.

    Costa Rica was all over Beasley tonight in Beasley’s corner when the ball was at his feet, and that’s what any coach would have asked his team to do. That scenario will continue to be picked out at this non-Gold Cup level of competition, unless JK just goes back to what worked over the last year; Johnson at the outside back.

  4. gra42 - Sep 7, 2013 at 3:26 AM

    Without Johnson at the back, we’re left with “The Bucket”.

    • skipvanmeter - Sep 7, 2013 at 12:25 PM

      Disagree. The only way to avoid The Bucket is having a central midfield player effectively distribute. That’s Bradley’s job and we didn’t have him yesterday. That was a huge loss.

      F Johnson has consistently played better for the US as a midfield wing rather than a fullback.

  5. futbol247365 - Sep 7, 2013 at 7:32 AM

    Not enough people getting on Orozco for his poor display. He was out of position far more than Beasley. On the 2nd goal he wasn’t even on the TV screen when the cross was delivered.

    • wfjackson3 - Sep 7, 2013 at 9:32 AM

      Exactly this. When you have an outside back that can’t get back to cover, it absolutely demolishes your defense.

  6. mikeevergreen - Sep 7, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    Remember one thing, gents. If you think we have problems, try Mexico.

  7. jimmycrackcorn99 - Sep 7, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    I don’t understand why Beckerman or Diskerud didn’t take Bradley’s place as holding midfielder rather than Cameron.

    • mikeevergreen - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:29 PM

      Both are on yellow card. They get one against CR, they don’t play against Mexico. If they get one against mexico, big deal. Bradley will be back for Jamaica in October.

    • gr8force - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:00 PM

      Agreed. While the other two have YC in the bag I still can’t understand what JK see’s in Cameron (and Jones). Too many touches. Too many sloppy passes. Too many times I saw them simply fall down with no one around them. Too slow. No sense of urgency. No vision. No… Oh hell, I’m sure y’all get the picture.

  8. skipvanmeter - Sep 7, 2013 at 12:22 PM


    – You would think that Klinsmann will go with Parkhurst over Orozco now at RB as he at least will stay back. In the long run though our fullbacks are our weakest positions.

    – Oner thing that hasn’t been said is that when Zusi was subbed out for GAM, the team lost it’s width and the whole game stagnated. This has implications for several positions. With Zusi out, Donovan was the nominal right winger and he kept pinching in-which makes sense since he operates best in the middle of the park and plays basically the same position as Dempsey. How to play both Donovan and Dempsey is something that Klinsi has to work out but in all fairness this game was the first time he’s had this issue.

    It made sense to put E Johnson at striker but it might be that he and not Donovan needs to play right wing and he did this fairly well before. I’m saying that E Johnson has more positional flexibility than Donovan or Dempsey. But I am worried that Klinsi didn’t see that width problem with Zusi’s exit because he then brought in Altidore who just clogged things up in the middle of the field. At the end we basically had Altidore, Donovan, Dempsey and E Johnson all pinching in making it easy for Costa Rica to clog up the defense thereby putting even more pressure on Beasley and Orozco to provide that width thereby dropping their defensive responsibilities. The team became too attacking oriented. No wonder their got their 3rd goal with Gonzo and Besler pinched too far up the field.

    – Cameron is another player who can work well in specific circumstances but not others that are seemingly similar. Against Honduras in Salt Lake, he did well as a d-mid but there he was alongside Bradley. Being d-mid and playing alongside Jones is an entirely different thing as we found out yesterday and he’s not up for the job. If Bradley can’t go vs Mexico (and Cameron is out too) I imagine we will see either Diskerud or Beckerman. Either will be a gamble but we need to find someone else who can hold the ball and distribute in heavy midfield traffic cause Cameron can’t without Bradley’s steadying influence.

    • upstateirish - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      Great insights and totally right.

    • mikeevergreen - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:30 PM

      Zusi MUST play the 90, even if he’s tired. He keeps the defense spread.

      • merinarj21 - Sep 7, 2013 at 5:11 PM

        He had a bad game last night. He got beat all up and down the right side.

    • fillpnz - Sep 7, 2013 at 3:44 PM

      Ah the old Right Back Conundrum…
      Brad Evans has been getting time at right back, gets a call up but first has to play a MLS game in (wait for it)….
      Columbus- sight of the upcoming show down with Mexico.

      The game is on a 2 hour weather delay then hurriedly started and in no time-oops-there goes the USMNT right back out with a calf strain.

      So we can blame the whole mess on Ohio right? No I don’t think so.
      Our guys made a game of it, it’s just those cruel Soccer Gods turned our attack into a counter punch in the gut for goal 3.
      And thus the Right Back Conundrum rears it’s ugly head

    • schmutzdeck - Sep 8, 2013 at 9:03 AM

      “skipvanmeter -thereby dropping their defensive responsibilities. The team became too attacking oriented. No wonder their got their 3rd goal with Gonzo and Besler pinched too far up the field.”

      If you are down 2-1 I find it hard to criticize someone for becoming “too attacking oriented”.

  9. mfmaxpower - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    4th thing we learned: Klinsmann got it wrong, terribly wrong. Played with two defensive mids and without a CM who is a competent distributor. Played without a true striker. So without a distributor and someone to hold up the ball up top, there was no one to act as an outlet. Took a risk at right back that failed.Then he waited too long to make changes.

    Also, a lot of fault goes to the back four, true, but neither Johnson nor Zusi – especially Zusi – provided enough help defensively. Aside for a nice cross or two, Zusi was terrible last night, and while Johnson almost scored a great volley, he was completely invisible for most of the first half.

    Oh, and am I the only one ready for Guzan to be given a starting role. I get that Howard could be said to have earned his spot based on his past performances but he is not playing well. Two goals last night – the first and third – could have been stopped if he was a little more brave and came off his line.

    • outlawsoccer - Sep 7, 2013 at 8:31 PM

      I agree completely I just watched sach kljestan look phenomenal
      and I don’t get the zusi thing at all, Fabian has to play defense
      for the US we don’t need him at all up front, the way we go at mexico
      is mix dixerud Dempsey Donovan and bedoya with aaron johannsson as our false 9
      and have him track back when needed.
      our defense needs 5
      goodson gonzalez brooks Beckerman and the right side is a problem
      parkhurst is more than likely the go to guy. I just don’t see putting
      Fabian in any of these positions sorry and jurmaine was invisible and horrible.
      looking now at the game again I am not that upset with Dempsey but
      his shots did not fall. Donovan had an ok game considering he had little help.
      I think bedoya and eddie Johnson work better with landon.
      id use them on one side and clint on the other with dixerud

  10. gr8force - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    We need to get Brooks in. He was excellent in Bosnia! With the way the others are playing what the hell do we have to lose? Nothing. We have everything to gain with him in.

  11. futbol247365 - Sep 7, 2013 at 5:03 PM

    I would have liked to see Cameron run out at RB and Beckerman with a shot in the midfield. He would have truly played as a CDM helping the back 4 and given Jones the ability to freelance more and go box to box (when he is at his best IMO). Maybe this is the midfield setup we will see in Columbus, maybe it’s not. Either way, as long as Orozco doesn’t get run out there I’m happy.

    And for all you Tim Howard bashers, get off it man. The guy had one bad game, so did Besler. He has been our best CB, want to replace him too? Put down the pipe, step away from the drugs. If Timmay has a stinker against El Tri, talk then.

    • outlawsoccer - Sep 7, 2013 at 8:41 PM

      I watched howard get bombed by so many teams now its like

      do him a favor and start gauzan for Christ sakes,

      after the job we saw rimando do in the gc.

  12. outlawsoccer - Sep 7, 2013 at 8:35 PM

    aaron johannsson
    dixerud Dempsey Donovan bedoya
    goodson gonzalez brooks Beckerman parkhurst

    this is how we go at mexico

    at the half look at aaron and maybe sub in eddie Johnson.

    I have seen the defenders live and in person and I will tell you this
    athletically goodson brooks and gonzo are big tall and effective
    and can be real defenders, Beckerman is great at poking the ball out.
    our problem is what to do over on the right with parkhurst and id look at licajh
    right now we would have to use Castillo on the left goodson on the right
    and brooks gonzalez in the middle with Beckerman the holding outlet.
    and dixerud the linking offense.
    this is after 1,000 hours of watching them live
    goodson is underrated and has an attack capability that I have seen him score
    on corners and with his shots.
    hes a lot stronger than Beasley and better up in the air so I have no idea why
    hes not our left back or right back with gonzo brooks in the middle as besler
    was never fast enough tall enough or good in the air at all.

  13. outlawsoccer - Sep 7, 2013 at 8:38 PM

    I don’t see Beasley getting the start maybe hell put Fabian back
    with parkhurst on the right gonzo and brooks in the center.
    the midfield will have to include Beckerman dixerud Donovan and Dempsey
    eddie will start if I know klinsy, I would use bedoya as my right wing.
    and there you have it, I still favor using aaron to mix it up as a false 9
    get the kid to track back and work for one half and then go with eddie
    after halftime as a true 9 see if he can out run the defenders just like
    happened to mexico last nite.

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