That was definitely not what Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT were hoping for in Costa Rica. Both historical precedent and the odds were against them – after all, the USMNT had never gone to Costa Rica and win. But their performance on Tuesday in World Cup qualifying was nothing short of awful. They got walloped, 4-0, and now they have to wait until March for another chance at getting some points in the Hex.
This was a historically bad performance
This loss wasn't just bad. It was historically bad. It was the most goals the USMNT had ever conceded in a World Cup qualifier since 1980. (That is just another dubious milestone that the USMNT has set under Klinsmann.) It was the USMNT's second straight loss to open the final round of qualifying, which is their worst-ever start to the Hex too. It's not panic time yet, but the USMNT is now going to have to chase their way up the table and hope this poor performance doesn't haunt them.
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The back line lacked any semblance of chemistry
Something is up with the American back line because, over the past two games, they have looked bad – and they looked especially awful on Tuesday. Just look at the goal they conceded to Costa Rica just before the half. Omar Gonzalez put no pressure on Christian Bolaños to stop the cross, John Brooks got beaten badly by Johan Venegas, and Timmy Chandler was slow to track back. It was all around horrible defending, and it would only foreshadow three more defensive breakdowns that would lead to goals. Brad Guzan was forced to make a very good early kick-save and a very lucky face-save in the first half as Costa Rica got their share of quality chances.
If Geoff Cameron hadn't been injured, he'd probably be starting instead of Omar Gonzalez. But messing with a back line that has had good chemistry and swapping DeAndre Yedlin for Timmy Chandler and Fabian Johnson for Matt Besler was Klinsmann's choice. Those choices will surely come under scrutiny now.
DeAndre Yedlin deserves the opportunity to overtake Timmy Chandler
Timmy Chandler has been a tough player to figure out. He plays quite well in the Bundesliga, which is one of the best leagues in the world. And for Eintracht Frankfurt lately, Chandler has been in the best form of maybe his career. But it's rarely translated directly to the USMNT and it sure didn't in Costa Rica on Tuesday. Chandler was often slow to get back in position in transition, beaten without too much resistance and, though he wasn't the only culpable player on Costa Rica's goals, he struggled to get back and close down space.
DeAndre Yedlin will get at least one chance because Chandler earned a yellow card on Tuesday and will be suspended when the Hex resumes in March. But Klinsmann should give Yedlin serious consideration for taking over that spot in light of Chandler's less-than stellar performance on Tuesday.
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The Americans could not hold onto the ball
It's a cliché, but it's true: You can't score if you don't have the ball. And the USMNT could not hold onto the ball. Consider this: The Americans had their second-worst first half in terms of pass completion in three years, coming second only two their disastrous showing against Argentina in Copa America this summer. If you're a data nerd who decided to check out the USMNT's passing chart during the game, it was a sea of red arrows.
Most concerning, some of the team's best players – or players who are automatic starters – were as guilty as anyone else of struggling to move the ball around. Jermaine Jones could be seen passing to no one, while Michael Bradley often made similar attempts, not to mention his corner kick that floated way over everyone and out of bounds.
Christian Pulisic may already be the USMNT's best player
He's only 18 years old, but there was no player more dynamic for the USMNT on Tuesday than Christian Pulisic. Everytime he had the ball, there was a sense of possibility, and he very nearly helped create a couple goals. Whether it was drawing fouls, dribbling through a sea of defenders or just crossing the ball, Pulisic created threatening moments when the rest of the USMNT rarely did. One of the big problems of the evening was probably that the Americans just didn't get Pulisic the ball enough. But if there's a bright spot from a very dismal loss, it's that Pulisic, as good as he was, is only at the start of his career.