Copa America recap: USMNT 4–0 Costa Rica

An unchanged US starting lineup from Friday’s 2–0 loss to Colombia nevertheless looked a team transformed on Tuesday night, comprehensively demolishing Costa Rica, 4–0. It was the perfect response from Jurgen Klinsmann’s team, and sets them on course to move out of the group stage with a win over Paraguay on Saturday. Goals from Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, and Bobby Wood in the first half set the stage, before substitute Graham Zusi capped off the night with a fine individual effort late on.

First half

The teams came out like hell for leather, playing a million miles an hour, and it almost went horribly wrong for the US. In the 5th minute, a shanked clearance from DeAndre Yedlin popped the ball up invitingly for Joel Campbell at the top of the US box. He hit a first-time scissor-kick shot that had Brad Guzan in the US goal diving despairingly, but it flew just wide. Moments later, though, Yedlin would play a part in getting the US on the board. A US break led to Yedlin crossing from the endline into the Costa Rica box. Bobby Wood, waiting for the ball at the far post, was shoved in the back and went to ground. It’s the sort of foul that happens often in the box but is rarely called, but this time fortune smiled on the US, and the PK was awarded. Clint Dempsey made no mistake, cooly tucking the ball away for his 50th international goal.

The rest of the half was all about the US’s counterattack. While Costa Rica was winning the possession battle, and getting into deep positions in the US’s side of the field, the US’s swarming, scrambling defense took the ball away again and again, and led to swift breakouts, often through Dempsey dropping deep to pick up the ball early. Two such breaks led to the US goals, and there could have been more, with Gyasi Zardes shooting over from an excellent position in the 33rd and Jermaine Jones firing high from a wide position in the 36th.

It was Jones who would get the second, though, in the 37th. Dempsey, on the break, seemed to have run himself into trouble, but the ball popped out to Jones, in a similarly wide position on the corner of the Costa Rica box. This time, his first-time shot was low and curved just inside the far post.

Then, in the 42nd, Michael Bradley sprayed the ball wide to Alejandro Bedoya, who found Dempsey yet again. Dempsey turned and was surrounded, but good movement into a central position by Bobby Wood opened a passing lane. Dempsey found him, and Wood swiveled his hips around and fired the ball into the near post from the top of the box. Wood had looked ineffective, again, out wide, but in a central position, he showed the quality that earned him a transfer to a top-flight German club.

Second half

With the game effectively won, the US didn’t attack Costa Rica as vigorously in the second half, content to sit back and pick its spots. Costa Rica, while seeming to lack real belief that they could get back into the game, did have some decent chances. In the 55th, a long ball from the Costa Rica keeper, Pemberton, found a white shirt. The ball was laid off to Bryan Ruiz, who found Celso Borges in the US box, but he put his shot over from close range. In the 67th, Ruiz put a header off the US post from a corner.

But in the 73rd, the US nearly scored the fourth. US pressure found Bedoya with the ball eight yards out. He centered across goal for Zardes, but the ball was just touched away by the Francisco Calvo. It was a good ball from Bedoya, but he might have taken the shot himself.

The best chance of the half for Costa Rica came in the 83rd. A free kick 25 yards out was sent into a very dangerous area at the US back post, where Bryan Ruiz got his studs to the ball, sending it back across the six, but it drifted just behind Alvaro Saborio, and was cleared.

In the 87th, the US put the cherry on top. The Costa Rica left back dawdled on a pass out from a goal kick, allowing substitute Graham Zusi to bundle him off the ball and drive toward goal. He cut in from the right and finished deftly with his left foot.

US verdict

Same team, different result: Is a loss ever a good thing? No, the answer is no. However, perhaps the humbling loss versus Colombia was what the US team needed to light a fire under them and get them really motivated, because this team looked like a whole new animal, in the best possible way.

Possession is overrated: The US looked like Borussia Dortmund at times, pressing and then counterattacking with speed and precision. It’s the sort of style that could really suit the US if they can actually do it consistently.

Deuce on the loose: Clint Dempsey was at the heart of the US’s best moves in the first half, drawing multiple defenders with every touch, and finding teammates in good positions ahead of him. Jones’s and Wood’s finishes were impeccable, but neither goal happens without Dempsey’s involvement.

Bobby Wood is a striker: This is no great insight, but finding things difficult out wide, Wood found a way to get central, and the result was a wonderfully taken goal. After that he looked more dangerous, as his confidence surged. He certainly needs to be on the field, and with Dempsey in such form, that might mean he stays nominally on the wing, but the man does his best work from the middle of the field.

Final thoughts

While many were predicting a US win (I was not one, I must say), few would have expected the level of domination on display by the US. Getting four goals and keeping a clean sheet against a very good Costa Rica side was the prefect riposte to the absolute lack of cutting edge shown against Colombia. Now, the US holds its fate in its own hands, which is all Klinsmann and all of US Soccer fandom could ask for.

1-Brad Guzan; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 20-Geoff Cameron, 6-John Brooks, 23-Fabian Johnson; 11-Alejandro Bedoya (15-Kyle Beckerman, 83), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 13-Jermaine Jones; 9-Gyasi Zardes, 8-Clint Dempsey (18-Chris Wondolowski, 78), 7-Bobby Wood (19-Graham Zusi, 70)
Subs not used: 3-Steve Birnbaum, 5-Matt Besler, 10-Darlington Nagbe, 12-Tim Howard, 14-Michael Orozco, 16-Perry Kitchen, 17-Christian Pulisic, 21-Edgar Castillo, 22-Ethan Horvath
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

Costa Rica
18-Patrick Pemberton; 16-Cristian Gamboa (15-José Salvatierra, 46), 6-Óscar Duarte, 2-Johnny Acosta, 3-Francisco Calvo, 22-Rónald Matarrita; 5-Celso Borges, 7-Christian Bolaños; 10 Bryan Ruiz (capt.), 12-Joel Campbell (14-Randall Azofeifa, 46), 21-Marco Ureña (9- Álvaro Saborio, 18)
Subs not used: 1-Dany Carvajal, 4-Michael Umaña, 8-Bryan Oviedo, 11-Johan Venegas, 13-Esteban Granados, 17-Yeltsin Tejeda, 19-Kendall Waston, 20-Johnny Woodly, 23-Leonel Moreira
Head Coach: Óscar Ramírez

Scoring Summary
USA – Clint Dempsey (penalty kick) – 9th minute
USA – Jermaine Jones (Clint Dempsey) – 37
USA – Bobby Wood (Clint Dempsey) – 42
USA – Graham Zusi – 87

Disciplinary Summary
USA – Fabian Johnson – 44
USA – John Brooks – 81

Stats Summary (USA / CRC)
Shots: 10 / 7
Shots on Goal: 5 / 3
Saves: 3 / 1
Corner Kicks: 2 / 4
Fouls: 10 / 14
Offside: 3 / 1

Referee: Roddy Zambrano (ECU)
Assistant Referee 1: Byron Romero (ECU)
Assistant Referee 2: Luis Vera (ECU)
4th Official: John Pitti (PAN)

Venue: Soldier Field; Chicago, Illinois
Attendance: 39,642


  1. el Pachyderm says:

    My idealism is stepping on the windpipe of my pragmatism. I’m glad they won — but phew…
    Good goal by Wood — sloppy sloppy play by him the rest of the time.
    The game was so frenetic…
    I actually think the pressure by team USA was completely disjointed and a better team carves them up. Jones pressures no one else does. Bradley pressures no one else does. Dempsey pressures no one else does. Very little coordinated pressure. The same thing happened to Costa Rica that happened to team USA against Colonbia after the early gol.
    Interesting Nagbe and Pulisic see action in a 2-0 hole to one of best teams in the world but see nothing in a game spent on cruise control for 35 min of second half. Can’t really argue JK subs I guess but interesting is all… He’s an enigma.
    Anyways— I guess the 99% of everybody figures, “yeah!” so I’ll carry the albatross… used to it.

    • ”Twas right, they say, such birds to slay”

    • I would not say domination… Costa Rica deserved at least a goal and things could have just as easily started with CR in a much better position in the first :15.
      Last night shit just bounced the right way for the US and did not for CR including I think some very generous officiating for the US.
      The US deserved the win, but I don’t see it as any sort of vindication… yet…

    • The four goals deny it, but that could have been a much different game. Costa Rica look very dangerous, especially prior to the goal. There was a lot of last ditch defending and lucky bounces (for the USA). The USA was sloppy in possession and in pressuring. Costa Rica had soo much time and space in midfield. There were points in the game where they were literally standing still with the ball and just looking around with no pressure. If the past two games are any indication, we’re going nowhere in this tournament. Ugh…Dempsey, would’ve been a poor game if Jones and Wood didn’t make him look good.

    • Zizouisgod says:

      It really depends if you look at the result of the match or the performance that the US delivered. Like you, I focus more on performance and there were some positives for sure, but there still are things than can be dramatically improved upon.

  2. Maybe Jurgen is finally understanding that tactics matter. It wasn’t mentioned in the article but I thought the switch from the 4-3-3 to the 4-4-2 really helped the US take control of the game. 2 of the 4 goals came after the switch and they seemed overall more in control to the point that I felt like CR would be likely to get even 1 back.

  3. “… Colombia nevertheless looked a team transformed …” into Costa Rica (I know that wasn’t the meaning). Biggest difference between the two games. more effort (which should never be an issue) and fortunate bounces/touches the transformation for US.

  4. Zardes looked lost and his iron touch is not starting XI quality, plain and simple. Bobby Wood can drive at defenses better than anyone (except Clint, probably) but he has to clean up his play. Fabian Johnson is tremendous on both sides of the ball. Yedlin put in a good 90, except for that horrendous clearing that dropped at the top of the 18. Bradley is a metronome and I’m glad he’s as calm as he is. Jones works harder than most on the pitch, very impressive showing. Brooks isn’t great, that’s all I’ll say about him. To everyone else I nod my head in approval of victory. To those who didn’t see the pitch but should’ve, I shake my head at the continued misunderstanding of JK.

  5. Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

    Nothing really changed, or has changed, for the last 12 years or so, let alone from the Colombia game to CR game. The US always, always, always does well when they are in a position to counter attack quickly. The soft PK call really changed the game, forcing CR to push and allowing the US to sit back, absorb and counter. We’ve been playing at our best in games like this forever. Pachy is right, there was no coordinated press, it was disjointed and the chaos allowed us to absorb the pressure. We’ll go through, but shouldn’t we always have? Paraguay is no world power and while Costa Rica is a good Concacaf team, we usually handle them on home soil.

    On a side note, I realize Yedlin hit the cross that led to the PK goal, but my god, does he over hit his crosses every time? The kid is a great athlete, but he has a box of rocks in his head for a brain and he drives me absoulutely insane!

    • There will not be a coordinated press with Dempsey up top. He has neither the will nor the legs left. He should be the attaching midfielder in the 4-4-2 and let the kids press. He is smart enough to clog the lanes in the middle behind initial press.

    • Just Rob f/k/a Rob127 says:

      Yedlin is fast. That is the extent of his skills.

    • Zizouisgod says:

      Your first paragraph is spot on. This is where the US is the most comfortable as a team and to be honest with you, there’s nothing wrong with that approach in tournament play.

      • Its funny you say this…because there is terrific truth to it and what is most frustrating to me is LETS EMBRACE IT… coordinated well trained defensive pressure is not as difficult as building play mesmerizing the other team and magic smile move through the keyhole. It takes commitment and the ability to close down passing lanes. It takes Vision. Philosophy. Plan.
        I’m not even saying high press or gegenpressen… just really well drilled coordinated defensive pressure to contain and cause turnovers, then when you are playing really good teams you have a ROCK SOLID defensive approach and can counter and use transitions to score.
        We see Real Madrid do this all the time. Granted its Real but the philosophy of play stands…they are perfectly happy giving the other team the ball and letting them make errors.
        This notion that we have to be a possession based country is silly… maybe someday when our technique is commensurate… we play the ‘role’ of defender in the world so build your national identity around it.

      • magic, smoke moves.
        if it belongs to Ray Hudson it needs not to be autocorrected.

  6. pragmatist says:

    Yeah, they won, but of Costa Rica scores any of the early simple chances they missed, the game changes. Or if their keeper stops the shots by Jones and Wood (and they realistically could have been saved), we’re talking about a different game.
    The scoreline hides the flaws that have not been resolved.

    • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

      That Jones shot was placed perfect and on the ground, can’t fault the goalie there.

      • pragmatist says:

        It wasn’t an easy save to make, but it wasn’t very fast, and it was from distance. It seemed to be a case of poor positioning and slow reflexes.
        But I’ll concede that point. Maybe I’ll point to the soft PK instead…

      • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

        I will not argue that the PK was soft!

  7. All the haters making excuses now.

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