After a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Mexico in the first round of The Hex, the US National Team needed a favorable result against Costa Rica to rekindle some faith in their World Cup Qualifying campaign. Going into Tuesday night’s match, the US had never won in Costa Rica, but the last time they met, Jürgen Klinsmann’s squad battered Los Ticos 4-0 in the Copa América Centenario. Sadly, for American fans, it would be the same score line this time around, but with a different side getting the result.
In the first half, the US looked lethargic and their defensive unit was porous. After just seven minutes, Johan Venegas easily nutmegged John Brooks inside the penalty area, and it took a close-range save from Brad Guzan to deny an early goal. In the 14th minute, Guzan was again called into action with a painful-looking face save on Bryan Ruiz’s acrobatic attempt from inside the six-yard box. How much longer could the Middlesbrough keeper maintain this clean sheet?
The US’s only real chance of the half came in the 40th minute. Bobby Wood did well to work his way down to the end line before flashing a cross through the six-yard-box, but nobody was there to tap it home. Three minutes later, Costa Rica finally capitalized. Lazy defensive play from Timothy Chandler left the left flank completely unmarked, and Christian Bolaños took advantage of it. The 32-year-old whipped in a cross and Venegas beat Brooks to the header. 1-0 Costa Rica.
You could argue that Klinsmann’s side were lucky to just be down one goal when the first half came to a conclusion. A change in tactics and/or personnel was needed for the visitors, but when then second half kicked off, nothing had changed.
Los Ticos continued to look the better of the two sides through the early stages of the second half, and in the 68th minute, they doubled their lead. Once again, poor defensive backtracking from the US opened up the right flank for Costa Rica to attack. Ruiz, with acres of space, sent in a cross to Bolaños. He beat Chandler to the header, and despite Guzan getting a touch, he gave the hosts a deserved 2-0 lead.
Not even 10 minutes later, another defensive nightmare for the US saw Costa Rica put home the dagger. A poor touch from Brooks gifted a breakaway to Joel Campbell, and the Arsenal-loanee was never going to mess that up. Campbell easily nutmegged Brooks to go one-on-one with Guzan, and then he passed the ball into the back of the net to erase any hopes the Americans had of coming back.
As if 3-0 wasn’t bad enough, Costa Rica had another goal for the home fans. In the 78th minute Campbell found his second and Los Ticos’ fourth. A lofted through ball from Ronald Matarrita put the striker one-on-one with Guzan again, and this time a quick wiggle of the hips was enough to freeze the keeper before he passed the ball into the same exact part of the net.
The humiliating 4-0 result not only puts into question Klinsmann’s future with the team, but it also puts the US in a difficult position to qualify for Russia. Through two matches, the Americans now sit dead last out of the six remaining teams with away games against Mexico and Panama still on the horizon. Costa Rica, on the other hand, are now atop The Hex.
It’s hard to find any positives from this disastrous result, and now the USMNT must find a way to regroup before hosting Honduras in March. How much will change between now and then?