USA’s misery continues with lifeless loss against Costa Rica

Costa Rica's Joel Campbell sucks a pacifier in celebration after scoring his side's winner vs. the United States.

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

HARRISON, N.J. —

This miserable international window wound to an unsightly conclusion for the United States men’s national team on Tuesday. Not even the return of Tim Howard for the first time since the 2014 FIFA World Cup incited the type of response required after the CONCACAF Cup defeat to Mexico on Saturday. Costa Rica took full advantage of the unkempt Americans after the break to secure a deserved 1-0 victory at Red Bull Arena.

Joel Campbell settled a scruffy match by completing the best move of the match. Campbell’s assured, side-footed finish looked out of place on this evening when Marco Urena wasted several presentable chances, but it proved more than enough to carry Los Ticos to victory and send the Americans spiraling to a third consecutive defeat.

Klinsmann must contemplate the method of this demise carefully as his makeshift side looked ragged in possession and impotent in the final third. It is hardly the performance he wanted after the disappointment at the Rose Bowl on Saturday and the debate surrounding Fabian Johnson’s exit from camp on Monday. His position remains safe, but he faces several difficult decisions as he attempts to improve his side ahead of the World Cup qualifying opener against St. Vincent and the Grenadines in St. Louis, Mo. on Nov. 13.

The litany of missing players influenced the cohesion and the sharpness of both sides in a ragged first half. Neither side mustered much from the run of play with the reliance on direct, vertical balls underscoring the lack of combination play inside the attacking third. There were a couple of instances where the Americans scrambled clear in the early stages, but those sequences only highlighted the lack of quality in the first half.

Most of the American threats arrived from set pieces with Jozy Altidore a robust, if often isolated, presence up front in the Americans’ 4-4-2 setup. Altidore controlled a Brad Evans free kick and earned a free kick with his tidy touch. Brek Shea’s delivery on the half-hour paved the way for Tim Ream’s header at the back post, but Keylor Navas slid over well to turn the attempt around the post.

Costa Rica enjoyed the most profit when playing through the wide areas and using wingbacks Cristian Gamboa and Bryan Oviedo. The exploration on the right prompted the best opportunity of the first half when a low cross somehow fell to Johan Venegas at the back post. Evans kept his position well and charged down the shot before it could nestle into the empty net.

MEXICO VS. UNITED STATES

Venegas’ effort provided a genuine glimpse at goal in a match short on them. Klinsmann made three changes at halftime to freshen up his starting eleven and watched the proceedings tilt in favor of Los Ticos when play resumed.

Both teams committed more earnestly to pushing forward after the interval. The initial balance favored Los Ticos as Urena dragged wide from a promising area early in the second half, while halftime substitute Bobby Wood scurried about earnestly in a bid to conjure something from the scraps created down the other end.

As the second half progressed, Los Ticos started to exert control over the proceedings and use the space more proficiently. Campbell forced Howard to push his effort over the bar, while Urena squandered some tidy work in the buildup by sliding wide from eight yards.

All of the pressure told when Campbell secured a deserved lead with 20 minutes to play. The quality of the combination play — a series of passes to unlock the Americans down the right with Celso Borges behind the most important one — yielded an enticing ball from the end line by David Myrie. Campbell drifted into position and slotted inside the far post.

Campbell’s goal prompted the introduction of Lee Nguyen and Andrew Wooten in a bid to spark some sort of creativity going forward. It proved far too little, far too late for an American side with little incisiveness or menace on the evening. Costa Rica looked the more likely to grab a second inside the final 15 minutes, but it never arrived.

One goal proved more than enough on this night as the Americans stumbled into World Cup qualifying with a host of pressing concerns to address.

"When you’re on the floor, you have to get up." Klinsmann added. "And then we’ll start all over again."