Costa Rica 1, United States 0
Date- September 2, 2011, Home Depot Center LA, California
Goals- Rodney Wallace (65')
Announced Attendance- 15,798
United States- Howard, Chandler, Bocanegra, Castillo, Orozco, Edu,Torres, Shea, Rogers, Donovan, Altidore
Costa Rica-Navas, Umana, Johnson, Miller, Acosta, Barrantes,Azofeifa, Sanchez, Saborio, Brenes, Martinez
If you watched the first 20 minutes or so of the United States vs. Costa Rica match yesterday, you would have thought the Americans were going to run away with the game. However, Costa Rica survived an initial impressive performance from the American side, and eventually took the lead off a Rodney Wallace diving header in the second half to put the game away.
Oh my, the United States started this game looking like a completely different team than the Bob Bradley "counter-attack" teams that we have known throughout his tenure as the coach of the USMNT. The Americans were sublime early on, showing a substantial amount of flair, and confidence in their passing and their aggressiveness. We got an early sneak peak of what kind of team we should maybe expect from new coach Jurgen Klinsman.
I have to say, early on I was elated. I've been waiting for a long while now for a US team to attack the way that the Americans did last night during the first half. It was definitely a beautiful thing to watch, most notably midfielder Jose Torres, who was consistently creative with his passing all night long. It kind of makes you wonder why Bradley buried Torres on the bench all of this time. Torres was a difference maker last night, and from an American perspective, he was the clear cut Man of the Match for the US. Torres is the kind of player that should thrive under Klinsmann's coaching.
In general, it looked as if the US squad was more relaxed then they ever really were under Bradley. Klinsmann's moto seems to be "Have fun with the game. Work your tail off, but have fun." He definitely allows the US players to express themselves on the pitch, much more so then we've seen in recent years.
Landon Donovan started the game, and had a few good moments, but also missed a sure goal early in the first half. Seeing as the game was played at the Home Depot Center, had Donovan scored, it may have changed the entire outcome of the match. The place would have been electric. But it wasn't meant to be. It wasn't exactly the quintessential Donovan performance we've grown accustomed to, but I understand that this is a completely new system employed by Klinsmann, and it's going to take time for the players, even players as good as Landon Donovan, to figure out exactly how they fit into the new scheme. Last night was one of those nights where chances were in abundance for the US, but actual scoring never materialized.
I was glad to see Klinsmann naming so many young players in the starting lineup. One thing you have to be excited about if your a United States fan is that it seems Klinsmann is a lot more willing to give younger players in the U.S system a chance. Brek Shea is one of those players that I think will end up shining the brightest because of this philosophy. Shea looked good for most of the night, as he was confident and aggressive all match long. The one down side being that his crossing in the game left a lot to be desired.
Crossing in general, seemed to be one of the biggest problems the US were having vs. Costa Rica. The crosses, whether from Shay, or Robbie Rogers, were simply not accurate enough to actually create any real chances. Had they been more accurate, perhaps we would be talking about a 2-1 US victory instead.
The second half would probably be best described as lackadaisical from a US perspective. The performances from most of the first half compared to how the USMNT played in the second half were night and day. The Americans struggled to regain possession from Costa Rica. The few times they actually did regain possession, they had a hard time keeping it. The only real explanations being that after Costa Rica survived the initial onslaught from the US, they actually settled down, and started making things happen. I'm sure the Americans inexperience came into play as well. Hats off to the Costa Rica team, by the way. They weren't at full strength either, and it was rather impressive watching them regain their composure after the early minutes, and dominate the second half the way that they did. Rodney Wallace's score was a well deserved outcome, as US goalie Tim Howard had just made a nice save of a Michael Barrantas shot, but was unable to handle the ball, and Wallace converted off a diving header.
There are still a slew of problems Klinsmann will have to solve if this US side is going to flourish. I still don't think we have an honest clue on who's going to play left back for the American side. Edgar Castillo had a couple of nice plays, but for the most part looked overmatched, and easily pushed off the ball. The Americans must also find a way to finish their chances, as they were aplenty early in the 1st half and yet the United States never capitalized.
Definitely a Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performance from the United States in this one, which is to be expected from a team with so much youth, and with a coach trying to put together the massive jigsaw puzzle that is the American roster. Maybe I'm grasping for straws as a US fan, but those first 20 minutes or so of the game were beautiful to watch, and hopefully an indication of things to come in the Klinsmann era.