USA vs. Costa Rica: Breaking Down Why the Americans Fell on Enemy Soil
United States took on Costa Rica in a critical World Cup qualifying match on Friday and, as has been the case each time they have faced the Ticos on the road, the Americans came up empty in a 3-1 defeat.
At first glance, the loss isn't devastating for Jurgen Klinsmann's team, who are still in a good position to punch a ticket to Rio for next summer. But given the circumstances, it's a worrisome setback.
Historically, the U.S. have had no luck in Costa Rica during World Cup qualification, having fallen to 0-8-1 in enemy territory against their neighbors to the south.
There's certainly cause for concern when considering their inability to put produce a winning performance against a decidedly less-talented bunch.
Furthermore, the loss snapped the Americans' 12-game winning streak, which obviously isn't a positive sign as far as momentum goes.
But there's time to make up for the loss, and on Tuesday the U.S. host Mexico, who shockingly lost 2-1 to Honduras on Friday.
With the defeat now in the rearview mirror for Klinsmann and company, here's a look back at what went wrong for the Americans.
The Absence of Michael Bradley
Just moments prior to kickoff, longtime national team member Michael Bradley went down with a nasty ankle injury, leaving the U.S. unexpectedly shorthanded.
The loss of Bradley was crushing, as the 26-year-old midfielder is a crafty playmaker for Klinsmann, and his absence was noticeable from the first seconds of the match.
With Bradley out, the U.S. were forced to insert Geoff Cameron (who ended up with a one-game suspension) into the lineup. The Stoke City defender did his best but he simply isn't the catalyst that Bradley is.
As NBC Sports pointed out, Bradley's presence was missed dearly at both ends of the pitch:
Will the U.S. bounce back against Mexico?
Without Bradley, the Costa Ricans were able to freely play through their wing backs from the midfield out wide, and they in turn fed their attackers flooding the box. They tossed men forward with pace, and yet there was no midfield disconnect because of the US disorganization.
Geoff Cameron stepped in, but without Bradley to feed his teammates, it was like a football team trying to play without a quarterback. You can snap it to the running back, but it won’t have close to the same effect.
Klinsmann will be hoping Princeton, New Jersey native Bradley recovers soon, because without him the U.S. are far less dangerous offensively.
The Terrible Start
Once Bradley went down, the U.S.' chances of ending their Costa Rican drought were certainly hindered, but one had to assume that they would at least put up a fight.
For whatever reason, Klinsmann's bunch stumbled mightily out of the gates, and by the time the match was 10 minutes old, Costa Rica had jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
Trying to imagine how the last 20 minutes could have gone worse for USMNT. Hard to.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) September 7, 2013
From then on, the outcome was never really in question, and the U.S. managed just three shots on target, despite maintaining the vast majority of possession.
Clint Dempsey's successful penalty in the 43rd minute gave the Americans a glimmer of hope heading into halftime, but the hole the squad dug itself after such a horrendous start was simply too deep to overcome.
Lack of Composure
The Americans may have also put a serious damper on their chances of defeating Mexico next week due to the loss of three players through suspension (via CBS Sports).
The U.S. hosts Mexico, shock 2-1 losers to Honduras Friday, in Columbus, Ohio this Tuesday. They will do so, however, without striker Jozy Altidore or defenders Matt Besler or Geoff Cameron, all of whom picked up their second yellow cards of the Hexagonal and will be suspended for the Mexico match.
Ultimately, the U.S. surrendered less free kicks than Costa Rica, but the fouls they did commit were rather costly. They will be without one of the nation's most potent offensive forces in Altidore against Mexico, a team that generally poses a formidable challenge to the red, white and blue.
The three yellow cards all came in the final 30 minutes, and with each infraction, the chances of an American comeback became more and more bleak.
By the time Costa Rica's Joel Campbell capitalized on a defensive lapse in the 75th minute, the U.S. had already gone into desperation mode.
One has to wonder what might have been had the U.S. not started receiving yellow cards soon after the second half began.
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