CHICAGO (AP) — For all the talk about possession, solid defense and offensive chances, the U.S. men’s national team needs a win to validate the positive vibes coming from its camp.
And everyone knows it.
“The result is always the most important thing at the end of the day,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said.
The result of the United States’ opener in the Copa America Centario was a 2-0 loss to Colombia on Friday that ramped up the importance of Tuesday night’s game with Costa Rica. The Ticos played a scoreless draw with Paraguay on Saturday night, so a winner in the all-CONCACAF matchup at Soldier Field moves into an ideal position to grab one of two spots in the knockout round coming out of Group A.
The United States warmed up for a rare appearance in South America’s championship with May victories over Puerto Rico, Ecuador and Bolivia by a combined score of 8-1. But it got mixed reviews for its Copa opener against Colombia, one of the top teams in the world.
The U.S. had good possession numbers, but a defensive lapse by Geoff Cameron left Cristian Zapata open on a corner kick, and DeAndre Yedlin was whistled for a hand ball that set up James Rodriguez’s penalty kick for Colombia’s second goal.
It was more than enough to put away the Americans.
“If you base everything just by result, then it was a negative start,” Klinsmann said. “But the performance was a good performance. We went through that game again. We talked the team through that game as well, and it was a lot of good stuff coming out of that game, which makes us very positive going into the next game, which is a very tough Costa Rican team that we all know, that we all respect.”
The loss generated more criticism of the 51-year-old Klinsmann, who said last month that the Copa objective for the U.S. was the semifinals. But captain Michael Bradley brushed away any outside analysis before Monday’s practice at the home of the NFL’s Bears.
“We’ve got much bigger things to worry about than what goes on on the outside,” he said. “I think since I’ve been on this team one of its strengths has always been the ability to respond on big days and be able to close the door, know who we are, know what needs to be better, understand that we’re still good and get ready for whatever comes next. And obviously that’s what we need to do tomorrow night.”
The U.S. is unbeaten in its last 15 home matches against Costa Rica in official competitions, dating to 1989. It is 13-14-6 against the Ticos, with each of the 13 wins coming on U.S. soil.
But Costa Rica’s defensive style could present problems for the U.S. after it failed to score against Colombia, even with the Ticos missing Kendall Waston after a red card against Paraguay.
“We need to be better. We want to be sharper,” Bradley said. “We need to in certain moments create a few more chances, defend a few more plays in front of your goal better. It’s the entire package, and just understand we have a few more games and need a lot of guys to play well. It’s a basic way to put it.”
It’s a homecoming of sorts for goaltender Brad Guzan, who is from nearby Homer Glen, Illinois, and is expecting so many friends and family in the stands that he happily declined to even provide an estimate. Defender John Brooks also has family ties to Chicago, and a tattoo on his right arm that pays tribute to the city.
“It’s always nice to come back home,” Guzan said. “You know, Soldier Field, we’ve obviously had some good success here with the national team. So hopefully, we can repeat that tomorrow night.”