When it rains, it pours.
The United States may have been held scoreless by Colombia on Friday’s Copa America Centenario opener, but on Tuesday night, it didn’t take long for the Americans to score their first goal of the Copa. Nine minutes in, Clint Dempsey tucked home a penalty and from there, Jürgen Klinsmann’s team coasted to a 4-0 win over Costa Rica.
Klinsmann is definitely still on the hot seat, but was pleased with how his lineup—the same one that lost to Colombia—performed.
“I think they deserve a huge, huge compliment, the team,” said Klinsmann. Sticking with the same personnel in the same formation was a chance for the German to prove he got his tactics correct, even if he doesn’t have the players at his disposal to play how he would like.
Bobby Wood didn’t take long to adjust to the pace of the match. He managed to find space on the left wing, although he still tended to drift inward toward a more familiar central-striking position. Getting into these more dangerous positions is what created the first goal of the match for the USA.
Wood attacked an in-swinging cross from the right wing at the far post, and Costa Rica right wingback Cristian Gamboa pushed Wood in the back in the middle of his jump, causing him to fall over. Ecuadorian referee Roddy Zambrano wasted no time pointing to the spot; it was a certain penalty.
Jermaine Jones doubled the USMNT’s advantage in the 37th minute with a beautiful curling strike hit along the floor. Clint Dempsey hit a perfect elastico chop to lose his marker, and picked out Jones cutting in from the left side. Jones shot from just outside the area, to the left of the D. Costa Rica keeper Patrick Pemberton had no chance as it nestled into the bottom corner at the far post.
Jones’ energy was crucial for the US. Right before kickoff, goalkeeper Brad Guzan gave the 34-year-old midfielder a quick pep talk, encouraging him to lead the team.
And that’s exactly what he did, making an extra effort to get back to defend in addition to venturing forward. On one occasion, he sprinted 20 yards to the touchline, slid, and kept the ball in play, clearing it up the pitch into the Costa Rica half. That earned him a large cheer.
“I know a lot of people talk outside, but to be honest, I don’t care. They can say what they want. I try to always give my best and I’m happy to keep playing,” said Jones, reflecting the ‘us against the world’ mentality of the Americans at this tournament
Throughout his career, Klinsmann has become quite familiar with this mindset, and while he may not have the most talented group at Copa, there are sometimes more important things , like team chemistry.
“The spirit is excellent, they’re all there for each other. The whole bench is jumping up and down,” Klinsmann said.
Soldier Field saw a lot of jumping around and partying, as the pro-US crowd of 39,642 had plenty to celebrate…like two goals within five minutes.
Wood made it 3-0 in the 42nd minute, with Dempsey providing another assist. This time, it went to Wood. Again Deuce drew a defender away from the goal, and was able to pick out Wood, who had his back to goal. The 23-year-old turned, fired and celebrated as his strike went in low at the near post.
By halftime, the ‘FIRE KLINSMANN’ banner that hung from the second deck just above the American Outlaws section had been taken down. Some fans need less convincing than others.
Possession soccer was the theme for Klinsmann’s USA in the second period, as Jürgen Klinsmann looked to protect the 3-0 lead his team jumped out to in the first half. The Americans continually declined to play the ball forward, instead choosing to recycle it through the defence. Graham Zusi extended the lead to four in the last few minutes of the match.
Moving forward, there are still plenty of questions to answer. This game wasn’t that different from USA’s 2-0 loss against Colombia. The US played similarly, but instead of conceding an early goal, they found themselves on the front foot after that penalty. Colombia is simply superior to Costa Rica.
A date in Philly with Paraguay awaits Klinsmann’s team on Saturday. A draw is all it will take to ensure progression to the knockout stages. A win for the Americans coupled with a Colombia loss to Costa Rica could see the US top the group, but another relapse against a weak opponent would be more cause for concern going forward.