After a disappointing 2-1 loss to Honduras in their first game of the Hexagonal, the USMNT were in dire need of a good result against Costa Rica in World Cup Qualifying play.
Although it wasn’t pretty, the US pulled off a 1-0 win in Denver on a snow-covered pitch. The hard-earned three points helped them jump from last to second place in the group standings.
With a trip to Mexico looming, winning three points from Los Ticos was crucial, but the win did so much more than vault the team up the standings; Jurgen Klinsmann’s team had a very rare opportunity to show their true nature.
Just three days before the match against Costa Rica, the US soccer community had their worst fears confirmed as Sporting News’ Brian Straus published a truly insightful article on the USMNT’s internal struggles.
If you haven’t read it yet, you’re missing out. The story is, in my opinion, one of the most significant US soccer articles of all time and will surely be remembered long after this World Cup cycle.
Costa Rica provided the USMNT with the perfect opportunity to clear the air and prove a point. It was a chance for the team to come together and show that they could earn a much-needed win. Add the facts that the US backline was riddled with injuries and Landon Donovan is still on his sabbatical and the USMNT had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show what they’re made of.
It’s in times like these when the captain needs to step up, lead, motivate and focus the team on the task at hand. Without longtime captain Carlos Bocanegra on the roster, manager Jurgen Klinsmann gave the armband to Clint Dempsey.
Naming Dempsey captain wasn’t all too surprising, but Michael Bradley has been one of the true leaders on the team.
Both Dempsey and Bradley did exactly what they had to do to help the USMNT prove their point; Dempsey scored the lone goal in the match thanks to Bradley drawing away three Costa Rican defenders.
In addition, the core of the German American contingent that has been so controversial didn't make the trip due to either injury or illness. Timothy Chandler, Fabian Johnson and Danny Williams have apparently caused splits in the locker room and have affected the team's on-field chemistry according to Strauss’ article.
Although the German Americans provide the US more talent on the field, the fact of the matter is that the chemistry problems that they partially cause may offset the talent they add. The match against Costa Rica finally gave us a look at what the team could play like without those three.
With the recent criticism of Jurgen Klinsmann’s tactics and lineup selection, the USMNT manager finally put out the right lineup to get the job done. He smartly deployed DaMarcus Beasley at left-back to boost the offensive presence on that side and it paid off throughout the match.
With the match against Costa Rica being played on home soil, Klinsmann knew that he had to put out an attack-minded team, and he did just that. He deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation with Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley as the two defensive midfielders. Usually going with three holding midfielders, Klinsmann's alteration was no doubt the right move to make.
From the match almost being called off to all the media attention swirling around, the victory in the snow is definitely one to remember. The US now travels to Azteca to take on Mexico on Tuesday night. With Jermaine Jones out due to an injury suffered against Costa Rica, Jurgen Klinsmann has an even tougher task at hand.
Just last August in a friendly, the USMNT defeated Mexico 1-0 to win their first match against El Tri in Estadio Azteca. The Americans had lost 23 times and had only drawn once since the two played each other for the first time in Mexico City on September 12, 1937.
In addition, Jurgen Klinsmann has never lost to Mexico as a player or manager. Over his career as a player for the German national team and as manager of the same team and now the USMNT, Klinsmann has a 3-0-3 record.
With revenge in their minds after being beaten by the US months ago and after giving up a 2-0 lead to Honduras on Friday, winning in Azteca will be no easy feat. A depleted roster just makes things even more difficult.
However, with new-found confidence and momentum from beating Costa Rica, what was once an automatic notch in the loss column for the US is now a different story as Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT are poised to make history once again.