The U.S. Men’s National Team took on Costa Rica Tuesday night in Hartford for their final group match up in Gold Cup action. Thanks to a late second-half goal by Brek Shea off a US counter attack, the boys walked away with a 1-0 win.
Now, a show of hands – who wasn’t really surprised by this game, how it was played and the outcome? Come now, be honest folks. I for one wasn’t surprised by this at all. In fact, leading up to this match, I was so sure of how it was going to go, that I pretty much missed the first half. Hey, I had other obligations! Don’t hold it against me.
Anyway, I did watch the majority of the match and like I said before, I wasn’t surprised by this at all. Going into this group, US fans as well as the coaching staff knew who the toughest competitor would be. Costa Rica. Not only would they likely be looking for revenge from the Battle-of-Hoth-snowpocalypse World Cup qualifying match in Denver earlier this year, they were the other strong contender in the group. And let’s all be honest, Costa Rica is not a team to be trifled with. Even Jurgen Klinsmann knew they would be a real test for the USMNT.
Add in the fact they like chippy, dramatic play, stir in some expected CONCACAF referring and put in a dash of a questionable USMNT starting line up and you get what happened Tuesday night.
Don’t get me wrong now; I’m not one of these fans that’s sitting around complaining about what happened, dissecting Shea’s goal and calling it sloppy or harping up on Landon Donovan for not making anything happen in the first half. I think that’s silly. They won the game against a tough opponent, they are on the top of the group and now they play a team Sunday that should be relatively easy for them.
Was the ball Shea hit toward goal right at the keeper? Yes. Did Donovan do much of anything the first half? No. Was Wondo being Wondo? Yes. Did the midfield act like they were holding hands and following each other around the pitch rather than spreading out and opening the play? Yes. But like I said, I was expecting a strong Costa Rica team, a USMNT squad struggling to find a rhythm against them and some chippy play. I expected Costa Rica to have them scrambling, to shut down the midfield, to be fast on their offensive pressure.
Am I the only one that is pretty much happy with how this turned out? It took a whole half, but the US settled enough to get the majority of pressure and get shots on goal. The play opened up a bit – not as much as I would have liked – but things got a little better for the US. Donovan was making plays, Mix Diskerud looked strong and Stuart Holden had a solid game. Even Joe Corona – a player I haven’t been overly impressed with – had a good showing in the second half.
Let’s be happy, people! Look at some positives:
1.) Sean Johnson was doin’ some work in the second half. Man had some great saves, one of which started the counter attack which led to the US goal.
2.) That counter attack. Lord all mighty was it beautiful. The save from Johnson, the run from Corona, the perfectly-weighed pass from Donovan and the pace from Shea. It was very, very lovely to watch.
3.) The fact that – even though Costa Rica does what they do in their play – the US were able to work through the scramble and make some things happen. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t what some of us were hoping for, but they got enough of a foothold to get the game-winning goal. And in the end, isn’t that the point?
The quarterfinals will begin Sunday and be a hell of a test of endurance – among other things. The US will play three games within seven days of each other … all around the country. I’m still counting on seeing different Starting XI line ups for every match as Jurgen likes to change those like I change my socks. And I’m also expecting to see this US team put in a good second half. Because this tournament has been all about the second half for the USMNT.
And if that keeps them winning and moving through the Gold Cup, I have no problem with that at all.