The USMNT fell 2-0 to Costa Rica in what was a very disappointing Friday night at Red Bull Arena for Bruce Arena’s squad. Here’s three things we learned.
Well, that could have gone better. The USMNT were frustrated by an energetic and opportunistic Costa Rica side, losing 2-0 in their World Cup qualifier on Friday night.
The Yanks created a few chances they probably should have scored on. The final ball, however, was rarely there, and, when it was, the shots were well off-target. Costa Rica took their chances and buried the U.S. Also, Keylor Navas starting in goal for Real Madrid isn’t an accident. He had two huge saves that allowed his team to hang on for the giant win.
Qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia is in doubt once again for the USMNT. Here are three things we learned from this hexagonal matchup.
1. John Brooks is vital to this team
The center-back pairing of Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream were absolutely dreadful at Red Bull Arena. Poor passes, poor positioning, and a great big ol’ helping of Tim-Ream-is-slow-as-hell. They were both at fault for the first goal, but Ream looked extremely sluggish as Marcos Urena turned him around and scored past a uncharacteristically out of position Tim Howard.
The absence of John Brooks was acutely felt. Many, including myself, thought Arena would go with Matt Besler or Omar Gonzalez as Cameron’s partner due to their recent usage in the Gold Cup. The USMNT manager had other plans. It did not go well. Not to brag, but I did tweet this before the game:
2. It is unwise to leave Bradley on an island
It’s doubly unwise to leave him on an island against a team that are pressing the hell out of him. Costa Rica effectively pressed the U.S. all night, going so far as to cover Howard’s shorter options on goal kicks.
The Yanks managed to breakthrough on occasions, especially in the second half, but most of the time Michael Bradley was overloaded and had to pass back to Howard or hoof it downfield towards no one in particular. Adjustments were not made quick enough. The USMNT paid the price.
3. Christian Pulisic is human
Other than a few great runs with the ball and a few decent passes, Pulisic had a rough night. Tonight was probably his worst performance as a starter in a USA shirt. He was dispossessed frequently and got visibly frustrated.
Costa Rica’s plan was obviously to keep the 18-year-old from getting loose. They swarmed every time he touched the ball, sending him to the grass with nagging fouls and pressing him off the ball when possible. A bad game from Pulisic was inevitable, but it really came at a bad time for the USMNT.
The United States do not have time to whine or lick their wounds. They travel to Honduras in five days. Winning on the road in CONCACAF is rare. The Yanks cannot afford another loss.