The United States Men’s National Team has extended their win streak to a record breaking eight games with a 1-0 win over Costa Rica.
While the first two games in the tournament were wins against inferior teams, this game provided the first true test of the Gold Cup. Costa Rica is actually a sneaky good team because of their incredibly disciplined defense.
#USMNT ends Costa Rica's shutout streak at 785 minutes. Previous goal allowed was to Clint Dempsey in Snow Bowl.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) July 17, 2013
Some American fans overlooked the Costa Rican team—comparing them to Belize and Cuba—but Brek Shea’s first international goal in the 82nd minute won the game for the United States. The US had to overcome a lot in that game—including some very questionable reffing—but they were able to move past that adversity to win their group.
Let’s take a look at some of the must-see moments from the Gold Cup opener and see what good and bad we can take from this game.
The 4-4-2 isn’t the right formation for the US
During his tenure as U.S. head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann has donned the recently successful 4-5-1 formation, but he has changed that in the Gold Cup.
For the last two games, the U.S. have implemented a 4-4-2, with Landon Donovan and a combination of either Herculez Gomez or Chris Wondolowski.
While the U.S. was able to score four goals against Cuba, none of them were because of a combination play between the two forwards. If you take a look at the highlights to the right, there was not one combination play between Donovan or the other striker.
The U.S. is much better off in the 4-5-1, either dropping Donovan into an offensive midfield role or moving him to the wing and moving someone else into the central midfield.
Donovan's strength on the wing is shown perfectly in the goal against Costa Rica. Once Joe Corona finds Donovan streaking down the wing, without even looking up, Donovan plays a perfect ball to a streaking Brek Shea.
Ives Galarcep agrees that Donovan's pass was absolutely incredible.
That pass from Donovan to find Shea streaking down the middle of the field was world class. Really has had the Gold Cup he needed to have— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) July 17, 2013
Klinsmann needs to put Donovan in the right position to succeed; bringing him back to possess the ball and distribute more will give the U.S. a better chance at winning.
Chris Wondolowski can’t play at the international level
I said it before and I’ll say it again: Wondolowski can’t succeed at a high international level.
Many people wrote about how Wondolowski deserved a World Cup roster spot because of the opening two Gold Cup games where he scored a plethora of goals.
Against a superior defense like Costa Rica, Wondolowski was far from successful. He rarely touched the ball, and when he did, he missed the shot.
One Twitter user had his thoughts on Wondolowski:
Wondo just missed a shot by fifty yards. He was right yards from goal. Then CRC has goal saving empty net hand ball outside the box.— Scott Chasen (@ScottChasen1994) July 17, 2013
He summed it up perfectly. Wondolowski missed shots by miles, mistouched the ball and generally performed badly in the U.S. uniform.
With Herculez Gomez leaving the Gold Cup camp, it will be interesting to see if Wondolowski continues to start. If he continues to play against competition on par with Costa Rica, I doubt he will be a factor in any of the remaining games.
Classic CONCACAF reffing
Before the very questionable yellow card by the Costa Rican goalkeeper—I’ll get to that in a minute—I thought the refs were unbelievably lax.
For the better part of the first half, the refs didn’t call a foul. The game was very physical on both sides of the ball; any good ref would have taken control of the game early.
One thing that caught my attention was after Stu Holden fouled one of the Costa Rican midfielders; they came face to face and started jawing. The ref did absolutely nothing to break them up, leading to more physical play in the future.
I could have let that go, but with the decision to give GK Patrick Pemberton a yellow card as opposed to a red card in the 55th minute was asinine.
If you watch the video at the 2:55 mark, you can see Pemberton intentionally use his hands outside of the box. For a goalie, that is a red card offense.
55' 0-0: Controversial decision by Courtney Campbell as Pemberton parries the ball outside his own area. It's a red card offense, surely.— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) July 17, 2013
The decision here was pathetic. It was a very easy decision that could have changed the game in the American’s favor. If it wasn’t for the Brek Shea goal in the 82nd minute, this would be a much bigger deal.
Looking forward to the Gold Cup quarterfinals, Jurgen Klinsmann has some very important decisions to make as Sunday’s game against El Salvador approaches.
Donovan needs a successful game to continue his road to the 2014 World Cup, because in my opinion, he hasn’t earned it yet.
With Gomez out of camp, Klinsmann will have to find a feasible option at striker, because we know that answer is not Wondolowski.
Klinsmann has shown the ability to make these difficult decisions in the past, but we will see if the win streak will continue.