USMNT Report: Can’t Forget the Ticos

The US travels to Costa Rica for difficult CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier
by Herb Scribner   |   Friday, September 06, 2013

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

It’s been all positive for the United States Men’s National Team this summer. From capturing the Gold Cup to friendly wins over Germany and Bosnia, the Americans haven’t faced much worry or disappointment.

All of that changes tonight when the USMNT faces Costa Rica at Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica. The Ticos will especially be looking for redemption after the blizzard bowl last spring in Colorado that led to a USA victory, which was later appealed by Costa Rica and subsequently dropped by FIFA.

THE ROAD TO NOW: The Yanks are currently riding a 12-game winning streak, which is the best all-time for the USA and 5th best all-time internationally. The run of wins began in June when the USA snuck past Germany with a 4-3 victory. After breezing through the Gold Cup and capturing the trophy, the Americans are prepared to secure their ticket to Brazil with wins over Costa Rica and Mexico.

PRE-GAME CHATTER: Landon Donovan, who made his return to the red, white and blue during the Gold Cup, said the Americans face a daunting task this weekend.

“The hardest thing to do in this whole process is finish it off,” he said. “There’s more pressure, and there can be more tension. What I would emphasize is to just continue on the path we’ve been on. This team is in such good form right now. The confidence is so high. The camaraderie is really good in the group. We don’t need to worry about external stuff and just focus on playing because we’re talented enough and we have a good enough team that we can get results in these next couple games and we can be celebrating in a really big way Tuesday night.”

Donovan also said that although he’s back with the USA, he still needs to prove himself consistently.

“I really feel l like I deserve to be here,” Donovan said. “I feel like I’ve really earned it, and I also feel like I can really help. So even if I’m not playing, I think there’s ways I can be impactful and help the group. In a perfect world I get to play, but at the end of the day I want us to qualify and I want us to do well in the World Cup regardless of how much I contribute on the field.”

ANALYSIS: Winning in Costa Rica may be bigger than winning against Mexico.

With a US win, a draw between Mexico and Honduras, and a Panama loss or draw, the Americans would book their ticket to the 2014 World Cup. And the United States would shake off one of its long-lasting demons by downing the Ticos at their home, which the US has yet to do.

The Americans certainly have the tools to do so. USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann has amassed the top shelf US talent. Donovan is back on the A squad to help breathe fresh air into a team that had been relying on offensive jumpstarts from Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, who will be earning his 100th cap.

By mixing together the Gold Cup roster’s best with the typical A team members, Klinsmann will have a taxing job ahead of him when establishing the USMNT’s lineup against Costa Rica. Jozy Altidore (if healthy) and Dempsey should lead at the forward positions, with Landon Donovan, Fabian Johnson and Graham Zusi behind them. Bradley will likely be joined by Jermaine Jones in the defensive midfielder slots, and they’ll play in front of any number of messy backline combinations. Other than Beasley, no other defender has solidified a starting spot in the back, which makes it borderline unpredictable.

This team – at least based on whose been successful under Klinsmann – is the best the USA has to offer, and is the closest we’ll get to a World Cup lineup in 2013. Defeating Costa Rica on the road, especially with the added pressure of a winning streak and a possible qualification to Brazil, would be a huge benchmark for the Americans, and solidify them as the team to beat in CONCACAF to an even greater extent than the Gold Cup did. Filled with mostly B teams, the regional competition wasn’t the greatest barometer for judging CONCACAF.

But to perform well, the United States can’t get caught giving the ball away on sloppy plays, which has been a consistent issue throughout the year. While the Americans have attacked more in their matches, intercepted passes – or just careless play in general – has led to opponents taking charge of the game.

It’s also important the Americans don’t play out of position and stick to their strengths. A simple and obvious task, yes, but the US’ players tend to drift out of position (likely because Klinsmann moves them around into their unnatural slots). Altidore shouldn’t be playing on the wings, and Eddie Johnson can’t be hanging back in the midfield when he’s meant to be playing closer to goal.

While tonight’s game isn’t a must-win by any sorts, a victory would propel the USA to another level in its region. Not only could they possibly qualify if other results go their way, but the Americans would be victors in a venue that often yields unfavorable results. It’d be the right step forward on the path to Brazil.

NEXT UP: September 6 – World Cup Qualifier: United States vs. Costa Rica, Estadio Nacional, San Jose, Costa Rica. 10 p.m. EST, beIN Sport.


UMass Amherst
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SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.