U.S. Men's National Soccer Team: 3 Observations Against Costa Rica
Many U.S. men's national team supporters were hopeful the team could build on its strong performance in its previous match against Mexico to propel itself to victory against Costa Rica last night at the Home Depot Center.
Despite looking like the better team most of the night, that didn't happen—thanks to Rodney Wallace's 65th minute goal in his international debut, which gave the Ticos the 1-0 victory.
Here are three observations from the friendly between CONCACAF foes.
Improved First Half
Unfortunately, the U.S. tended to start off very slow in important matches under Bob Bradley's tenure. That trend continued in Klinsmann's first match against Mexico as the Mexicans dominated the first half.
While it might be premature to conclude the U.S. has conquered first-half woes, it was very encouraging that the U.S. attacked aggressively at the start against Costa Rica, creating two great chances in the first 10 minutes. Brek Shea was especially dangerous, as he played a huge part in creating those chances for Jozy Altidore and Landon Donovan.
The U.S. did an excellent job of possessing the ball in the first half. In addition, Maurice Edu and the back four pretty much stuffed out any Costa Rican attack for most of the first half.
But Lack of Great Opportunities After the First 10 Minutes
Despite all the possession the U.S. enjoyed—especially in the first half—it never really forced Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas to make any difficult saves until late in the match when it was trailing 1-0.
Landon Donovan blew a great opportunity in the sixth minute when he shot wide after being fed by Brek Shea. It often seemed it like it was a missed final ball that killed an wonderful U.S. chance to score.
The U.S. looked most dangerous when it emphasized combination play (such as the attack that lead to the sixth-minute opportunity Donovan squandered) instead of crosses from Shea and right-back Timothy Chandler, which generally didn't threaten the Costa Rican defense.
In addition, Robbie Rodgers needed to make quicker decisions as his failure to feed Altidore quicker led to a couple of offsides calls—including one that nullified a goal in the 55th minute.
Jose Torres Looked Strong
Klinsmann has said he wants a strong Latino presence in the U.S. team, and one of those players who could be a mainstay in his team is Jose Francisco Torres.
The Pachuca midfielder was the strongest U.S. player against Costa Rica, putting in a strong 90 minutes. He played a big part in killing Costa Rican attacks, such as in the 32nd minute when he won the ball to prevent a Costa Rican counterattack after Timothy Chandler lost ball.
He also launched several U.S. attacks with his passing and forced a great save from Navas in the 71st minute.