Copa America preview: USMNT v Costa Rica

The US takes on Costa Rica on Tuesday evening in Chicago, in the second of three group games (8 pm FS1, Fox Soccer 2Go, Fox Sports Go, UniMás, Univision, UDN). Having lost to Colombia in the opener, the US truly must win in order to have any hope of moving on to the knockout stages. The only problem? Costa Rica is good.

Sorting through the post-Colombia wreckage

The US lost. Don’t forget that part when you read the post-game quotes from US coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who thought “there was no difference” between the two teams. And yes, the US won the possession battle, had just one fewer shot than Colombia did, had more corners, and more total passes. All of that obscures the fact that the US was second-best the entire night, rarely put Colombia under any serious pressure, and were undone by mistakes in midfield and defense.

Are there any positives to take away from the game? Well, Clint Dempsey looked dangerous at times, though good goalkeeping from David Ospina prevented him from getting on the scoresheet. A goal for the US might have changed the tenor of the game, and Dempsey was the only US player looking like he might get one.

Unfortunately, Bobby Wood, who has looked so lively of late, was ineffective, Gyasi Zardes reverted from the game-changer version of himself last seen versus Bolivia to the wooden-footed lightweight of earlier vintage, and Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones got their wires crossed. Geoff Cameron, generally so solid, lost his mark for the first goal, and DeAndre Yedlin, much improved defensively of late, gave up a handball in the box, leading to a penalty kick.

It just wasn’t what the US needed, regardless of all the silver linings that might be in evidence.


For their part, the Ticos managed a cagey, conservative draw versus Paraguay in their opening match. Certainly they would have wanted more, but that point might be critical. If they beat the US, they won’t need to do anything against Colombia in their final group match, and if they draw, they’ll likely need only to match what the US does on the last day of group games, against a Colombia team that will probably already be assured of advancing (assuming a Paraguay loss to Colombia).

The US, however, really must win. Failing to do so opens up too many possibilities. A win over Costa Rica means a final day win gets the US through (probably, again assuming a Paraguay loss to Colombia). Simple, really.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica has seen its profile rise from a good CONCACAF team, always competitive with Mexico and the US but ultimately too inconsistent to stay on their level over time, to one of the best teams in the hemisphere. This is thanks to a phenomenal 2014 World Cup, where they topped their group, which included Uruguay, Italy, and England, before going out on PKs at the Quarterfinal round to the Dutch. Few expected this level of performance from Costa Rica, but the quality of their game was undeniable.

2015 didn’t begin well for them, with the team going 0-3-2 before the Gold Cup, where it was eliminated by Mexico in the quarterfinals. A stretch of four friendlies followed the Gold Cup with a mixed record of 2-2-0, concluding with a 1-0 win over the US in Harrison, NJ on October 13. Since then, the team has gone 5-1-2, including the draw with Paraguay last Saturday. The US will have to hope that loss at Red Bull Arena was a one-off, as while Costa Rica holds a one-game edge in the all-time series between the two teams, the US has been generally dominant at home, winning 13 of 17 games at home.


Those in the US camp have said all the right things, and it’s true that a win changes the view for the better quite a bit. And the US will probably be better than they were against Colombia. But it’s hard to believe in this team right now. If they have a calling card, it is their ability to underwhelm. The pieces are there for success, but the Klinsmann-era team has just never hit real heights, at least not enough of them. I expect an unchanged starting lineup, but am predicting a similar scoreline: USA 1–2 Costa Rica.


  1. those old dudes starting again? nah, I hope not
    team USA! USA!! USA!!! not playing well recently, but also not as bad as they looked against Colombia, so I’m looking for 1) some youths to start and 2) a slight regression to the mean
    of course, I have no argument with your predicted 1-2 outcome, in fact, it may be overly optimistic [sigh]

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    Really discouraging to me the manager thinks we played the 3rd best team in the world even up. Was he at the game? My 5 year old lands a bunch of good punches and near take downs against his 9 year old Gracie jiu jitsu practicing brother… my oldest uses the playful sparring as practice for perfecting technique when he then stands in against 12 year olds in class.
    To think we played Colombia even up is simply, and excuse my foul language, fucking delusional. Colombia coasted. Just like the Germans coasted in the World Cup against us. Hard to support this manager at times… he needs to be calling his team out publicly like he calls out his players publicly for a pathetic performance.
    They were better in every aspect of the game.

    • Let me preface my comments by saying I do not believe Klinsmann to be savvy enough to do this sort of thing on purpose:
      But coaches often do not tell the truth to the media to try to effect their team. If his words to his team were trying for positive motivation, like “yes, we were not at our best but the goals we gave up where fluky” to try to keep confidence high for the next game then he would have to reinforce that in the media. He could also be trying to protect his players from criticism if he thinks it will discourage them more then motivate.
      I guess what I’m saying is this type of talk from a manager should not always be considered discouraging or delusional. Nor does it always reflect their real belief.
      But in this case there is more evidence to go on…so…yeah…

      • Alicat215 says:

        There is truth to this. Sir Alex said it that night in town, you have standard punch lines you give the press to chew on that really don’t have much to do with what you discuss in house about the match. That stays in the bubble. You feed the press BS. Curtain was pretty good at it last year I thought, maybe a little too obvious. This year he’s much more nuanced and mature about it. Tip of the hat to him in that respect. I guess confidence and relative success on the pitch can do that.

      • Agreed about Curtin. He has gotten much better about what and how he shares with the media.

    • Alicat215 says:

      And yes……they were better in every aspect of the game. They cruised after they scored the first goal……absolutely 100% confident we weren’t going to break them down.

  3. I don’t feel good about the U.S. getting out of the group. The team has a look about it like they’re not terribly interested in winning for Klinsmann. I dunno. Just a Spidey sense thing for me. Maybe it’s nothing. I’m really setting my expectations for a loss tonight and a quick and deflating exit for team USA. I do hope I’m wrong.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Well and when you see the way Mexico or Argentina or chile play it is a bit easy to think why bother to be honest. The one thing I was afraid of, is looking like a bunch of complete amateurs and that is just how we looked in our one game versus the first games of other teams. Maybe they turn it around and win. Either way~ we have an Aesthetic problem with this incarnation of players who are original cell phones in a day and age of handless do everything devices.
      The Joker in me wonders, “why so serious.”

      • I agree that this team doesn’t have much of a chance if it does get out of the group. AS a soccer fan, the matchup I’m most looking forward to — if possible — is Mexico Argentina. Both look unbeatable right now.
        As for the U.S., I’m not confident Klinsmann (1) has the best team the U.S. could produce or (2 and more significantly) that he has a coherent game plan. JJs complaints about a lack of consistency after losing to Colombia was telling to me. It feels a lot like Klinsmann has been drifting since the World Cup, trying to get more miles out of an older team and not doing more in friendlies to identify and develop other options. Again, I dunno. I’m not really an expert. I guess I’m just not buying what Klinsmann is selling.

  4. Let’s all go to the Field House tonight and watch the game there! The boys have to step up; They usually step up when under pressure and when it counts. I predict a draw which should result in a great game on Saturday at the Linc.

  5. The US looked a lot better in the Colombia game than either Costa Rica or Paraguay in their opening game. CR in particular was surprisingly listless. So while we’re rightfully freaking out that the US doesn’t look as good as it did 2-6 years ago, I think we win our next 2 games and get out of our group. Klinsmann will misappropriate our weak accomplishments as progress, but we all know what we’re seeing on the field.
    Predictions: Pulisic starts, US wins 2-0.

  6. Andy Muenz says:

    Jeremy, while I think your prediction is likely (Costa Rica still looking for revenge from the snow game…) I do have one correction to make. If the US wins tonight and wins again on Saturday, they will advance. No need to qualify with probably or assuming Colombia beats Paraguay. Wins in their next two games gives the US 6 points. Since both Costa Rica and Paraguay would have a max of 4 (0 against the US and 1 against each other, plus a possible 3 against Colombia) there is no way either could match or beat the US so the US would go through.
    A great rule of thumb for single round robin of 4 teams is that if you win 2 games and there is at least 1 tie in any game in the group (whether or not it involves you), you are guaranteed to finish in the top 2.

    • Jeremy Lane says:

      Good point! I definitely managed to confuse myself, trying to keep the different options in my head for all the games.

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