The United States’ 4-0 win over Costa Rica Tuesday night saw the Americans’ respond to their critics. However, they still have a lot more to prove in Copa America.
At least they’re breathing. That much can be said.
After lazily suffering a 2-0 loss to Colombia in the opening match of Group A play in this year’s Copa America tournament, the United States Men’s National Team responded to their critics by defeating Costa Rica 4-0 last night at Soldier Field in Chicago.
“We stepped on the field for a big game with the right mentality,” USMNT midfielder and captain Michael Bradley said. “From start to finish, we handled the game in a really good way.”
The U.S. earned a penalty kick in the eighth minute as forward Bobby Wood was pushed down to the ground, waiting for a cross from Deandre Yedlin. Clint Dempsey’s penalty kick gave the Americans the go-ahead 1-0 advantage. The Yanks struck twice more on a rocket by Jermaine Jones in the 37th minute and another rocket by Wood just five minutes after.
Graham Zusi came in the game late and gave the U.S. insurance with his goal in the 87th minute.
Despite getting back on the positive track – via both earning the win and by pushing their goal differential into the plus side – Jürgen Klinsmann’s crew still has a way to go. That is, if they can get back to whatever they “should’ve been” when they came off of their surprising 2014 FIFA World Cup run.
“Here and there, we maybe didn’t play as well as we did against Colombia, but we scored goals,” Klinsmann said after the win.
Not only did the USMNT not score goals, they looked completely disinterested and lackluster in the loss to Colombia last Friday, almost as if they were just going through the motions. Whatever Klinsmann said in the trainings lead up to and in the pregame in Chicago seemed to work especially since he played the same exact starting XI.
If he’s smart, he’ll do the same thing Saturday against a Paraguay team that is also in desperation mode to advance to the quarterfinals after their 2-1 loss to Colombia in the late game Tuesday.
“The result, in this country that’s all that matters to a lot of people,” Klinsmann added.
The result is the most important thing. The Yanks cannot afford a loss – if they lose, they’re out of Copa, plain and simple. A draw against Paraguay puts them in a tricky spot.
Here’s the scenarios as we know them:
-Out of Copa
they’ll advance to the quarterfinals. If they finish in first place in the group (considering Colombia loses to Costa Rica and factoring the goal differential) they’ll play the quarterfinal in Seattle. If they finish in second (the most likely scenario) they’ll play at MetLife Stadium on June 17th against the winner of Group B.
–Colombia beats Costa Rica or both draw: USMNT finishes in second in the group (similar result as a win)
–Costa Rica wins: USMNT advances if Costa Rica cannot win by six or more, Costa Rica advances if they win by six or more.
Given the circumstances, the USMNT controls their own destiny. A win and they’re in, a loss, and they’re out. A draw and they need help, which they should most likely get from a Colombia side that’s been dominant through group stage so far.
The USMNT should be able to earn a result against a depleted Paraguay team that has mustered all of one goal in group stage play so far.
However, Paraguay knows that they have a shot to advance as well, meaning the Americans cannot take this upcoming match lightly.
The USMNT has had a knack for playing surprisingly well with their backs against the wall.
Whether or not Klinsmann decides to continue to try a 4-3-3, or with the 4-4-2 formation that gave the USMNT life Tuesday night remains to be seen, but if the Yanks want to prove that they can hang with the big boys, clinching a spot in the quarterfinals is a must.
This knack for playing well when cornered needs to come true again for the Americans Saturday.