Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for the United States against Costa Rica. It will be important to turn things around in a hurry with the team set to face Mexico.
Some issues will not be able to be resolved. Michael Bradley injured his ankle and will miss at least the next game, according to Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News. The team will also be without Jozy Altidore, Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler, who will all be suspended after picking up yellow cards in the loss.
Still, there are plenty of ways that the team can improve after the 3-1 loss, even without this many key players.
Here are the biggest keys to defeating Mexico based on what went wrong in the previous match.
Cut Down on Long Passes
When Bradley plays, he really makes it look easy to play a 40-yard pass directly to the foot of an offensive player. However, no one else on the roster is capable of doing that.
This was obvious against Costa Rica, as the defensive players and midfielders continually tried making long passes in hopes that one of them would find a forward with a clear look at the net. While being down 2-0 forced the team to take risks, this was still not a good strategy.
The Americans excelled over the past few months by controlling possession and making smart passes to move the ball up the pitch. This helped set up better looks at the net as they were able to beat the defense.
With a distributor like Landon Donovan, he needs to get the ball and make things happen. That is not possible if the team regularly sends the ball out of bounds with long passes.
When USA faced Costa Rica, it seemed as though it was a bunch of guys who had never played with each other before. There was no chemistry, and there were a number of instances where two players were right on top of each other.
While this could be blamed on the fact that this team has not competed in about a month, every national team goes this same problem.
It is vital in the next match for the players to do a better job of staying where they are supposed to be on the pitch and better communication throughout.
This will allow the team to move the ball more effectively and it will eventually lead to stronger opportunities on the attack.
Additionally, it will prevent opposing players from getting open while two American players collapse on one person with the ball.
Maintain Focus on Defense
This has been an issue all year, but fortunately the weakness has been masked by efficient play offensively.
However, the Costa Rica loss showed that the back line is still capable of giving up a goal due to mental errors. The second goal of the match came when there were not enough players back to mark Celso Borges, who finished a header. The third goal happened when Joel Campbell beat the sleeping defense on a clearance.
Against a tough team like Mexico, the United States cannot afford to give up easy goals. The defensive players have to know where the opponents are on the pitch at all times, and they cannot stop for any reason during the 90 minutes.
The talent is there to have a clean sheet in this match, but the lack of focus could lead to a loss.
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