Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Day After Yesterday: Costa Rica

I'm here to kick off a new series in which I add some stray observations on the day after a USMNT game. It won't be three things or seven things or any set number - just whatever amount of items I have to share regarding the given match. And away we go...
  • In press recaps and analysis of the game, I noticed a lot of headlines and lede paragraphs stating how the team, the manager and various players "proved the doubters wrong" by smashing Costa Rica. I find this type of assertion to be off the mark.

    Sure, the haters and Chicken Littles were shown to be wrong, but frankly speaking, those who expressed doubts about (insert relevant individual or group here) had plenty of valid reasons to exhibit concern leading up to last night's game - if not also beyond it. This type of finger-pointing may read well in a story, but it's actually quite unfair commentary. Just sayin'.
  • One of those guys placed under some level of doubt was Fabian Johnson, who rebounded with an nice left back outing against the Ticos. Let's be clear (yet again) about any reservations held about his use as a fullback, including mine; nobody is saying he's a terrible left back, we are simply weighing the opportunity cost of moving him out of attack.

    And let's not pretend he did it all by himself on Tuesday. Jurgen Klinsmann made an excellent move by starting Jermaine Jones on the left side of midfield. It completely disrupted the supply line to and performance of Joel Campbell. Moving Bedoya out wide at the break had the same effect on his replacement. In all, those two midfielders pitched in with a whopping total of 15 defensive stops on that flank over 90 minutes.

    And let's also not pretend that Costa Rica is as strong as Colombia (against whom Johnson was largely invisible) or some of the heavy hitters that we could face as the US progresses through the tournament. Just because FabJo excelled at left back on one night, that doesn't bin the issue of where he is needed most/performs best.
  • Not only would I like to see how this squad performs without Gyasi Zardes in the line-up, I also think he could make for one hell of a sub threat against tiring defenders. While he often takes too much flak, he is another guy who I believe could be put to better use in this tourney.
  • Don't be fooled by the full time possession (nearly 60% to Costa Rica) and passing accuracy (Ticos 86%, USMNT 78%) numbers from last night. Not only did an overwhelming majority of the visitors' completions come deep in their end or near the midfield stripe, but the US actually had almost twice as many completed passes when the halftime whistle blew (if I recall correctly, the tally was 151-86 in our favor) and then took their foot off the pedal until late in the contest.
  • Speaking of Bedoya, be sure to check out NSC pal Matt Doyle's quick hitter on how easy it can be to overlook the little things that he offers to the team. As you can see in the video attached to the article, the Jones goal likely does not come off without Bedoya's recognition and hustle.
  • For those who assume Klinsi is untouchable over at Soccer House, Sunil Gulati's comments before Tuesday's victory certainly suggest otherwise. The reality is he may well have saved his job with this win.
  • Looking ahead to the group closer against Paraguay, the key men to contain in my estimation did not actually play in their loss to Colombia. Nevertheless, on a club with striker issues, wingers Derlis Gonzalez and Juan Iturbe could cause us plenty of problems if utilized on Saturday.
  • One more sobering thought: the US still are on a probable course to face Brazil in the quarters. And while this edition of the Samba Kings looks ripe for the picking, we could become temporary but major Costa Rica boosters for what looks to be their Centenario farewell match against Colombia. Last night's rout has put us in an outstanding position to smash 'n' grab the top spot in Group A if the Ticos can find their 2014 form for a night.

    And not to get too far ahead of myself, but alternatively, we should all start backing Peru right now. If the Nats finish second in group play (which now seems rather likely) and Peru can manage to top Group B (which is in their hands at this point), we could easily find ourselves on a course to A) avoid both Argentina and Brazil until the final & B) face Mexico for a place in the title match. Yeah, seriously. Don't believe me? Check the knockout bracket.

And in case you missed it, here are my US player ratings from the win.

- Greg Seltzer


Freegle said...

On the other hand, some are putting too little value on how much better Johnson is than the next best option at MF, as well as his own personal stated comfort preference, and the fact that he is a terrific MF regardless of opponent, but his defending ability waxes and wanes based on the quality of the opponent

Dr.Jon said...

That was my take too Freegle. I and I am sure the coach want both. FJ at LW/LM AND a top notch LB (maybe villafana, maybe someone we don't know yet)

Unknown said...

Zardes has holes in his games no doubt but I truly believe his desire to track back and defend whilst also make marauding runs makes him valuable as a starter. He would be my bet to win the beep test out of this 23 and his combination of speed/team approach and guts make him a dependable starter.

Joe Bailey said...

We need to have a 4-4-2 with Zardes and Wood up front. They're not wingers.

Gaelen Schumann said...

It's not that people didn't have some valid concerns, it's that there was a substantial majority (of pundits and commenters at least), who seemed to lose their freaking minds. Klinsmann needed to be fired, Dempsey, Bradley, Jones, or Zardes needed to be benched. And this after a relatively even game against one of the better teams in the world. I mean, Bradley played maybe his worst game ever in a US uniform and there were a number of people calling for him to be benched permanently, same for Deuce, and same for Jones. I think it's pretty clear a lot of this was a massive overreaction. At the very least, every commentator I read called for some sort of lineup change. But, we rolled out the same lineup and put Costa Rica away in the first half. That sounds like vindication to me.

Unknown said...


Agreed, not sure why everyone wanted Demp, Bradley and Jones heads on a platter. Granted those 3 are the leadership of the team. But an off game happens. I'm not sure I agree with you saying it was an even game. But also it was not a matter of panic. Maybe Klinsman has set the precedent of canning the best players before your most important games, so now every one is a fair target. Had the US not won by a convincing margin maybe you could start making some of those concerns about Jones and Demps. but a 4-0 win will work. I will say the odd thing about the Costa Rica game were the subs. As some one wrote, "I'm glad we are getting Wondo and Beckerman those important minutes in preparation for the next WC."

Gaelen Schumann said...


I said relatively even :) Colombia outplayed us, and, more importantly, finished their chances. But, if I remember correctly, the expected goals for both teams were only .02 or .03 apart.

I actually got into an argument with friends about the subs in the Costa Rica game. Basically, as much as I'd like to see Nagbe and Pulisic (I'd probably start one or both), ensuring that we end the game with a clean sheet and a +1 goal difference was the primary concern. Zusi and Beckerman were the best defensive midfielders on the bench, and have been in high pressure situations before. Which doesn't explain Wondo. But one inexplicable decision per game is as good as we are going to get.

JustinV said...

I felt like the subs had something to do with how chippy the game was getting. Woods and Dempsey had been in a few kerfuffles already so you protect them a bit from themselves and from retaliation. And replacing them with some of our more rough and tumble types makes sense same with bringing in Beckerman. Also if those 3 pick up a yellow, no big deal.

I'm not saying it was the only reason and you can make an argument that letting Nagbe and Pulisic get experience against a desperate opponent who may lash out will make them stronger in the long run, but I'd rather protect them. And it turned out to be the right decision for the game.

Tom said...

The subs didn't make sense because JJ and Clint are old but still good and we'll need them later in the tournament. We really didn't need them in the game 3-0 after the 60th. Would have been fine to sub Beckermerman for Jones and have a 2 dmid situation. A better choice would have been Kitchen, to blood him. For Dempsey, I'd prefer to have subbed in Nagbe and told him not to break the shape, even if we didn't get anymore goals.

I would have left Wood on and subbed Johnson out, as he's only a little back from injury and we really, really, need him. I'd probably have put in Castillo or even Besler. Probably Castillo. If one really didn't want to let Johnson rest, I *guess* Wondo was an okay choice. I probably wouldn't have had him on the team at all, though.

I really don't see the point in playing some of our oldest guys an extra 30 minutes and subbing on guys who really don't need the time and can't really grow much in the game or the team.

Dr.Jon said...

@Tom - Yeah, I'm with you.

Gaelen Schumann said...


It's all about keeping that clean sheet. If CR had gotten a goal back its possible they could have moved past us with a 3-1 victory over Colombia, which, while unlikely, is not out of the realm of possibility if Colombia rested some players. Subbing in Castillo or Besler (who looked out of place on the left v. Bolivia) makes little sense to me if you are trying to protect a lead. Again, JK put the best defensive players he could into the 4 midfield slots, which is a safe, and in my opinion, smart move.

I agree on Nagbe for Dempsey though.

Tom said...

yes, I get that there's good in protecting a +1 gd as opposed to achieving a 0 gd, but my sense of balance is to lean a bit more forward with the future of the team and preserve the best *players* for the rest of the tournament when you can. Getting another full-ish and excellent shift out of CD and JJ matters tons, as does keeping FJ going the whole tourney--most especially in game 3 of group.