World Cup Qualifying recap: Costa Rica 4–0 USMNT

Putting in the worst performance in a World Cup qualifier in a long time, the US men’s national team lost 4–0 to Costa Rica on Tuesday night. The only redeeming thing about the game was the play of Christian Pulisic, and the US appeared to have played truly without heart. There’s little else for many to say except that Jurgen Klinsmann should be fired but won’t be.

First half

Johan Venegas left a foot in on John Brooks a couple times in the early going, then nutmegged the big man for the first chance of the game, but Brad Guzan came up with a good kick save. Otherwise, the opening minutes were hectic but uneventful. Costa Rica had better pressure, though, keeping the ball in the US’s half for much of the time.

In the 14th, Bryan Ruiz nearly put the Ticos ahead in spectacular style. Taking a chip into the box on the chest, Ruiz then tried a quickfire overhead kick that Guzan only saved with his face, knowing nothing about it. The US was having a tough time getting its attackers on the ball, but every time Christian Pulisic got on the ball in the attacking third, he was very dangerous, earning free kicks, putting in dangerous near-post crosses, or connecting play.

As the half wore on, though, it seemed a bit like the Pulisic! show, with Christian the only US player able to do anything with the ball. Costa Rica’s conservative defensive shape was smothering any US attempt to use the ball. For a game that seemed like a goal could happen soon, it was surprisingly dull.

In the 41st, Bobby Wood skinned a man and finally got the US close, putting a cross through the Costa Rica box that beat the goalkeeper at his near post but squirted all the way through without a US attacker able to get a touch. 90 seconds later, Venegas got his head to a cross in the US box, but put it over.

It would be a portent of things to come, as, in the 44th minute, after a US turnover in midfield caught Timmy Chandler high upfield, the ball was played into his corner. Omar Gonzalez’s closeout was slow, perhaps thinking the ball would carry out of play, giving Cristian Bolanos plenty of time to measure his cross. And then, there was Venegas again, this time ghosting in front of Brooks and heading home from a near post run. It was a pu pu platter goal to give up, and a bad way to end the half.

Second half

Unfortunately, the story stayed the same after halftime, with Costa Rica the only team creating chances, and the US doing nothing with the few set piece chances they earned. Another good Guzan save in the 56th kept the US just one goal down, and the need for substitutes became more clear by the moment.

But instead of subs, the US just gave us more of the same, and another midfield turnover led to a second Costa Rica goal in the 68th. Ruiz got behind Matt Besler at left back, then Rosicky’d an outside-of-the-boot cross with his left foot that took out both US centerbacks. Bolanos got ahead of Chandler and not even a very strong hand from Guzan could keep out the header.

The first US sub came, following the goal, with Lynden Gooch coming on, but the man taken off was Pulisic, signalling a lack of faith by coach Jurgen Klinsmann that the US could get anything out of the game.

That turned out to be right, of course, as just minutes later, Brooks’s bad night got worse, with Costa Rica sub Joel Campbell making him look silly on a long ball over the top, rounding the big man with ease and tucking the ball past Guzan for 3–0 in the 74th. In the 78th, Campbell did it again to make it 4–0, taking a simple ball over the top and putting away an easy 1-v-1 with Guzan. The US was playing without heart. Luckily, they were spared further embarrassment by a sated Costa Rica and the finite nature of game-time.

U.S. verdict

We could break this down and talk about players that were poor (Brooks, Jones, Brooks again), but in the end, it’s difficult to put this down to any individual players. The whole team, Pulisic aside—and that’s not homerism, or hyperbole, Pulisic was again the best thing about the US, and it wasn’t close—underperformed, and at some point, the buck must stop with the coach. Between the needless tinkering of the Mexico game and the garbage fire of this one, it’s hard to see how Klinsmann can come out of this pair of qualifiers without bearing some blame. US Soccer and Sunil Gulati need to hold him accountable. They won’t, but if this type of performance doesn’t put his feet to the fire, what will?

Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Costa Rica
Date: Nov. 15, 2016
Competition: 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia – Qualifier
Venue: Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica; San Jose, Costa Rica
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
Attendance: 35,400 (so)
Weather: 69 degrees; Mostly cloudy

1-Brad Guzan; 21-Timmy Chandler, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 6-John Brooks, 5-Matt Besler; 23-Fabian Johnson (19-Graham Zusi, 77), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 13-Jermaine Jones (16-Sacha Kljestan, 74), 10-Christian Pulisic (11-Lynden Gooch, 70); 17-Jozy Altidore, 7-Bobby Wood
Subs not used: 12-Ethan Horvath, 22-William Yarbrough, 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 8-Alan Gordon, 9-Aron Johannsson, 14-Michael Orozco, 15-Steve Birnbaum, 18-Julian Green, 20-Cameron Carter-Vickers
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

1-Keylor Navas; 3-José Salvatierra, 19-Kendall Waston, 2-Johnny Acosta, 4-Michael Umaña, 22-Ronald Matarrita; 7-Cristian Bolaños, 14-Randall Azofeifa (17-Yeltsin Tejeda, 70), 5-Celso Borges, 10-Bryan Ruiz (13-Rodney Wallace, 84); 11-Johan Venegas (12-Joel Campbell, 67)
Subs not used: 18-Patrick Pemberton, 23-Leonel Moreira, 6-Pablo Salazar, 8-Bryan Oviedo, 9-Ariel Rodríguez, 15-Allan Miranda, 16-Leonardo González, 20-David Guzmán, 21-Marco Ureña
Head coach: Óscar Ramírez

Scoring Summary
CRC – Johan Venegas (Cristian Bolaños) 44th minute
CRC – Cristian Bolaños (Bryan Ruiz) 68
CRC – Joel Campbell 74
CRC – Joel Campbell (Ronald Matarrita) 78

Disciplinary Summary
CRC – José Salvatierra (caution) 9th minute
USA – Timmy Chandler (caution) 11
USA – Jermaine Jones (caution) 37
CRC – Johnny Acosta (caution) 51
USA – Michael Bradley (caution) 55
USA – Jozy Altidore (caution) 71

Stats Summary (USA / CRC)
Shots: 6 / 15
Shots on Goal: 1 / 9
Saves: 4 / 1
Corner Kicks: 4 / 2
Fouls: 13 / 12
Offside: 2 / 1

Referee: César Ramos (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Marvin Torrentera (MEX)
Assistant Referee 2: Miguel Angel Hernández (MEX)
4th Official: Fernando Guerrero (MEX)


  1. Klinsy has not moved this team forward in any way, shape, or manner in all the years he has been coaching it. US Soccer has no balls and lacks leadership at the top. Sunil needs to fall on his sword but he won’t and nobody (I am looking at you, Great American Soccer Public) will hold him accountable. You will still buy the shirts, buy the tickets, sing “I believe that we will win” and continue defending the selection of Bradley and the Germans when they are clearly not fit for purpose.

    What’s the goal of US Soccer? Cos it is not clear to me at all.

  2. Thank you for the write up, Jeremy.
    Depressing result. You are way too kind to Brooks and Guzan–neither belonged on that field tonight.

    That being said, totally agree with your final paragraph, Jeremy. Loss appeared due primarily to two factors other than the usual simple “Americans are technically inferior” excuse or blaming a single player or two.

    Numbers—everywhere the ball went, saw far more red than a B-horror movie. The Costa Ricans didn’t need Messi like moves or overwhelming speed to win…just better reading of the game and maintaining shape.

    And–TOTAL lack of effort by the US side…no energy, no sense of urgency, no passion, no drive. Defense showed no confidence handling the ball well before the goals were scored. That still isn’t technical issues, that’s mental.

    Either way you slice it, good motivational and tactical coaching could fix some of those issues. Klinsmann has yet to demonstrate that this year.


  3. Been a fan of Jurgen since he came onboard. But I think he’s done a pretty good job this week of manufacturing his exit. If the ax falls, he’ll deserve it. I think this team has largely quit on him. Give the job to Arena. Or promote Ramos.

  4. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Three goals surrendered in eleven minutes.

  5. Yedlin. Cameron. Brooks. Johnson… had really begun to develope a chemistry — so….tinker tinker the alchemist.
    Stunning to me that in all these years JK has yet to settle on a backline. Every failing starts from the back and moves forward. Of all times to switch to a 3-5-2 …he chooses the early stages of the Hex against the two most difficult teams the US will face. Stunning.
    All that to say… Michael Bradley’s game has so precipitously fallen off since he returned from Europe that it is safe to say he really does not even belong on the field. He’s slow. He reads the game slow. He failed over and over to provide a useful and MUCH needed outlet in the build up and then when he did get the ball in an attempt to go forward he turned it over… as in the first goal against last night TOTALLY exposing his three man back line that Omar was picking his nose in.
    It’s the off season and I’m committed to taking a break but this coaxed me out.
    So truly inept as to be shameful.

    • Jones was the one who turned it over on the first goal. He blasted a ball back at Brooks who couldn’t control it which started CR forward. Bradley had nothing to do with that turnover.

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Bradley is the one player who suffers the most under Klinsmann as the team is disorganized and his central midfield partner thinks he has a free role to roam wherever he pleases. You can’t be effective in this type of environment if you’re playing where Bradley is as it’s total chaos around you.

      Remember, when things are going bad for a team, some players will hide out on the pitch while others don’t and the ones that don’t typically bear the brunt of the criticism as they look to be the ones to blame.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        I can stand corrected thought for sure it was Bradley’s errant pass.
        And if Jones is the 8 isn’t his role to be the box to box guy? …that said his incessant dribbling last night irritated the hell out of me.
        Either way it is my opinion that out of the chaos the 6 rises to bring order and I don’t see Bradley doing that…
        — when the formation is chaos what can u expect though which is why these last two games fall at the feet of JK… not withstanding the entire US Soccer federation up line who is destroying any semblance of the US ever competing at a high international level.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        BTW regarding hiding …. it is Bradley that I feel is hiding.

      • Do you really think that watching Jones last night made you think he was playing as an 8? Seemed more like a 10 or even a free role to me.

        If you’re Bradley, how can you bring order and calm when everyone around you isn’t sure what they should or shouldn’t be doing? Even watching our back four try to play simple passes across the back was an adventure. These are all good players who are performing well at their clubs and when they play for the US, they look terrible.

        Read Bobby Warshaw’s article on Howler to get a better idea on how this type of uncertainty has a ripple effect throughout the entire side.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        I will. Thanks for heads up.
        I’m not sure what’s happening but 3 in the back seems to have brought significant positional problems I agree and it is not all MBs fault by any means- last night his consistent inablitly to link play stood out to me.
        And yes I saw a lot of Arturo Vidal in JJ last night only no where near as good, one part his fault one part the children he was playing with.

      • BTW – Watched Trainer doc over weekend…fantastic! Thanks for the recommendation.

  6. The Oenophile says:

    The chickens have come home to roost. You lie in the bed you make. I could go on and on with more aphorisms but if this does not wake up people, then goodbye Russia 2018.

  7. Richie Marquez and Ken Tribbett could have done a better job back there than Brooks and Gonzalez. Come to think of it, put in Pulisic for the injured Bedoya and the Union probably could have done better than the US last night.

  8. Brooks looking like a high school junior varsity basketball player pulled onto the underfunded, undercoached, hapless soccer team who can’t scrape twenty-two feet together for ninety meaningful minutes. Gag.
    edit: To comment on the whole squad is unfair when the only vitriol should be directed at the former player whose only pedigree was shining Jogi Low’s shoes. I’m tired of the German experimentation. The majority of CONCACAF squads know what they’re good at and don’t stray far. Klinsy has never respected American soccer strengths. Booooooooooooo.

  9. While I have been a Klinsy supporter for much of his tenure, including the controversy with Landon, the last two matches have flipped me. We need results and we have the pieces but we didn’t have the plan.

  10. Sam Allardyce is available….

  11. The Con Man strikes again.

  12. I mean this in no way as an indictment on Pulisic, but he should not be the best player on the field for the U.S. at this point in his career. I’m so happy for him, and so impressed, but with multiple-World-Cup vets on the field and guys who ply their trade overseas he should not stand out as the ONLY player that does not look out of his place. Either way good for him, keep up the good work kid, and hopefully his teammates get their s**t together and play with some fire.

    • I think Klinsmann has completely lost the team. These guys are playing better for club than for country. The U.S. is more talented man for man than Costa Rica is and should win. I’m not buying any arguments that our players aren’t good enough. (I mean that more in general than a rebuttal to anything you said, Brian.) This team had enough talent to beat Mexico. It crushed Costa Rica in the summer. This loss is on the coach. He failed to get his team up for this game. He doesn’t support them and keeps them utterly confused. Time to thank him for his work scouting some really good players and for his service and move on.

      • Not to absolve Klinsmann for his role in last night’s fiasco, but the players deserve a major share of the blame as well. It’s time for some serious housecleaning within the USMNT, and a pink slip for the uninterested one wearing the captain’s armband would be a good place to start.

  13. The whole idea of setting up the Development Academies circa 6 years ago (and to drastically change the status quo at the time) was to improve the national team. I tell you one thing: we played a lot better prior to getting the DA’s in place. Also, the best player on the field (Pulisic) never attended a DA!
    Bruce Arena should replace Klinsy; his promises have just been that; just promises.

  14. What’s truly sad about this performance is the total failure of the manager to put a cohesive midfield and defense behind a very talented front attacking three (Altidore, Wood and Pulisic!). You could make the argument that the talent in our front attacking three is the greatest in USMNT’s history and as of right now, Klinsmann is not able to give them an effective platform to operate on.

  15. Lucky Striker says:

    Klinsmann was an all-timer as a player. Problem is, not too many of those make great coaches. Call this the soccer version of “the Frank Robinson theory”. Really hard to teach and motivate for someone who expects his players to understand and play with the expectations they once had for themselves……

    So; they manipulate. Tinker. Tinker some more. Always looking to thread a needle through a haystack.

    Sometimes; you just have to accept it’s SUN-(kneel)-down.
    Disappointing that they interrupt the Conference finals for this crap.

    Somebody above Gulati doesn’t flip the switch, and you can just start saying “nyet” to qualifying in the near future.

  16. Possible PSP Poll: If you could fire Curtin or Klinsmann but not both, which one would go?

  17. Klinsmann. Easily. Not even close.

  18. I cannot help but wondering if American political turmoil has anything to do with this. Don’t get me wrong — I’m exonerating neither the coach, who needs to go, unquestionably, nor the players, who embarrassed themselves. But we have an entire team full of immigrants and players of color. You think maybe they’re just feeling not so proud to pull on the USA kit right now?

    • I think that’s a real stretch. If the players were so frustrated with the results of last week’s election, why weren’t there any acts of protest during the anthem or any public comments of anger/frustration/etc. by members of the USMNT?
      Certainly, there were easier and clearer ways for the players to express their political opinions – if so desired – than to play like crap in the world’s greatest soccer tournament.
      To me, the only act that indicated politics was on the mind of any US players this past week was the group photo before the US-Mexico game – but that struck me as a positive reaction to the current political situation, not a negative.
      Of course, it may be true that there are some players who are embarrassed to wear the USA uniform these days, but it’s more likely due to the way the team is playing than any after-effect of this year’s ugly presidential campaign.

    • You’re way out on the springy part of the branch

  19. OneManWolfpack says:

    Chandler and Jones were completely terrible in both games, and to start and play them as much as you did last night is a testament to JK being a terrible game day manager. I am done with him as the head guy. We need someone who will make use of what decent talent we have. You can argue we may not be as good as Mexico or Costa Rica… but we certainly aren’t that much worse – 4-0 & 2-1 in Columbus. Period. And it’s not just the last two games. When is the last time we won a big, important, meaningful game? A change is needed.

    • One change now and forever no Timothy Chandler on the roster I do not get what anyone sees in him. He isn’t even that good for his club. I find it baffling that we can’t come up with one better rb (or whatever you want to call the position he trys to play). I’ve had my complaints about Yedlin too, but at least I can see where Yedlin can grow and every now and then he has a good game. Chandler has never had a good game for the national team from my understanding and I think he is one of the least cohesive players on the team. No one knows how to play with him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *