November 15, 2016
An embarrassing performance for so many reasons
By Michael Lewis
Jurgen Klinsmann certainly did not like what he saw in the USA's 4-0 loss to Costa Rica Tuesday night.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Regardless how the team performed, regardless of the final score, one of the defining hallmarks of the U.S. national team has been its work ethic. The rest of the word knows that the Americans never quit.
Well, at least until Tuesday night.
In a mid-week horror show at Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica, the U.S. did give up in its 4-0 thrashing at the hands, feet and heads of Costa Rica in the second game of their World Cup qualifying hexagonal.
The result propelled the Costa Ricans (2-0-0, 6 points) into the CONCACAF final round lead while the USA is hold up the six-team group with a 0-2-0 record. It is bad enough that the USA has never won in 10 qualifiers in Costa Rica. It was worse and the teamís play was embarrassing to the nth degree.
During a nightmarish 10-minute span in the second half -- perhaps the worst performance in the modern era of U.S. Soccer -- the Americans surrendered three goals as Costa Rica broke open a close game.
Moreover, the USA gave up. Quite frankly, I don't recall very many times when the USA gave up or played so poorly. Of course, there was that third-place loss to Panama in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup as the home side in Chester, Pa.
If I didn't know any better, I would say the Americans played as though head coach Jurgen Klinsmann lost the locker room. Would not be surprised at all if he had.
His tactical moves in the 2-1 loss to Mexico in Columbus, Ohio were confounding, from the 3-5-2 formation he started with to not utilizing Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan at all. Klinsmann also did not start the Major League Soccer assist leader in Tuesday night's, bringing him on late . By that time, Costa Rica had scored all four of its goals.
I only saw a part of the post-game excuse, err, press conference with Klinsmann on beIN, so I don't know as I write this column before midnight whether he took any of the blame. I hope he did because usually blames the players. Well, they should get their share, but he must take the brunt of any criticism coming the team's way. After all, he's the coach and receiving millions a year to coach what has turned into a train wreck.
By the way, I called for Klinsmannís head in a March column and I know it will surprise many readers that I am not flinching from that at all (thatís sarcasm, by the way, folks).
Winter is coming, as they say in a mythical TV land, a long, hard winter in which Klinsmann and the rest of the team can think about how to correct the problems over the next eight matches.
One thing is certain: the Americans will be chasing five teams and the game for a good portion of the hex.
The good news is that the USA has gotten two of its most difficult games out of the way.
Despite the USA's poor standing in the hex, it still has time to rectify the situation beginning with the March 24 home game against Honduras at a site to be determined. While every World Cup qualifying home match is must-win, that would-be must, must, must win. A loss in that would be devastating.
As it is, 0-2 is bad enough.