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U.S. Men's National Team

Jozy Altidore Sums It Up: "We Were Second Best"

The Americans fell to Costa Rica Friday night in Red Bull Arena, and there was plenty of blame to be shared. ASN's Franco Panizo reports from Harrison, N.J., with quotes from the coach and key players. 
BY Franco Panizo Posted
September 01, 2017
8:00 PM

HARRISON, N.J.—There was no sugarcoating it. The U.S. men's national team simply was not good enough on Friday night.

The U.S. suffered a setback in its World Cup Qualifying campaign by being on the wrong end of a 2-0 result against Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena. That the defeat came at home added to the disappointment and frustration, but what made things even worse was the lackluster performance the Americans put forth.

In a game it knew it had to win to stave off pressure after a slow start in the Hexagonal, the U.S. was not sharp enough to top the talented Costa Ricans. The attack finished with just two shots on target despite having 61 percent possession; the defense made some costly mistakes that allowed Marco Ureña to bag his brace; young playmaker Christian Pulisic was largely negated; and the team in general just was not up to snuff.

“We obviously did not play well tonight,” said U.S. head coach Bruce Arena. “I think on the night we didn’t make any plays that mattered. We were probably outplayed in most positions on the field and made some critical errors, didn’t capitalize on potential opportunities, didn’t have a good night.

“Give Costa Rica credit. I thought they outplayed us and outcoached us tonight.”

The U.S. knew going into the match exactly what to expect from Costa Rica, but still could not prevent Los Ticos from executing their gameplan to perfection. They kept numbers behind the ball and waited to hit on the counter, and found some success in doing so in the opening half-hour.

Then, acres of inexplicable space between centerbacks Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream materialzied on one quick play in transition, allowing Ureña to strike in the 30th minute. Cameron and Ream were not solely to blame, however, as goalkeeper Tim Howard also appeared to take a bad angle while shuffling over to the near post.

“We should have been a little bit better,” said Arena. “Having said that, and I haven’t seen the play, but I thought Tim [Ream] then did a good job and Michael [Bradley] came with him to push [Ureña] wide. It didn’t look like he got much on the shot and Tim [Howard] perhaps lost his angle in the goal a little bit and he was able to roll it in.”

Ureña’s opener hurt the U.S. twofold. Not only did it give the Costa Rica the lead, but it allowed the Central American nation to throw even more players behind the ball. That gave the U.S. even less space to work with, and the hosts could not come up with clear solutions for breaking down the defensive-minded opponent before heading into the intermission trailing.

Things improved in the second half, especially midway through, when Arena started to push more players into the attack. Still, the U.S. managed to only create near-chances and not concrete ones. The only really dangerous attempt it had was from Pulisic in the 67th minute, but an incredible reaction save from Keylor Navas denied the teenager the equalizer.

The Americans continued to push hard for the tying goal but a giveaway from Cameron in the 82nd minute sealed the home team's fate. Cameron misplayed a pass, feeding it to David Guzman near midfield before the Costa Rican slipped Ureña through. The forward made no mistake on his look, firing a low shot past Howard to all but ensure the U.S. would fall.

“I think we’ve done this to teams quite a bit in my time with the national team, where we absorb, we absorb, and then hit them on the break and score goals,” said Jozy Altidore. “You have to give credit to them. They did exactly what we did to some teams for some time. Look, you’ve got to regroup, take it for what it is on the chin. We were second best.”

Added right back Graham Zusi: “They performed their gameplan better than we did.”

The defeat, combined with Friday’s other results in CONCACAF, left the U.S. in third place in the Hexagonal, but now only one point separates the team from falling out of the World Cup picture altogether. A tough challenge in Honduras awaits next, and a victory there on Tuesday is far from guaranteed.

Especially if the U.S. performs as poorly as it did against Costa Rica.

“We were beaten by a good team tonight, and we’ve got a lot to do,” said Howard. “The pressure is back on us.”

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