- 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