It’s still way too early to say anything substantial, but it looks like the United States is bound for some last ditch scramble in the COPA America from the get-go. Their upcoming match against Costa Rica will be anything but simple, as the Central American country will still have fresh memories of their stellar finish in the 2014 World Cup. They were favorites to be knocked out of the global tournament heading in, as they were in the same group as Uruguay, Italy, and England. What followed defined one’s belief, as Costa Rica ended the group stage as top dogs, remaining unbeaten in 3 matches (2 wins, 1 draw).
Unfortunately, their journey was ended in the quarterfinal stage when penalty shootout heroics from substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul served as one more emblem in Van Gaal’s tenure in charge of the Dutch.
Though the Tico-man, Keylor Navas, who was voted Goalkeeper of the Tournament in 2014, will miss the Copa through injury, there will be plenty of other threats coming the U.S.’s way. Bryan Ruiz, one of the sparks during the last World Cup, will still be commanding the midfield, especially in the final third where he can be very decisive.
Needless to say, Joel Campbell’s rise to prominence with Wenger’s Arsenal means that he will be much more motivated than anybody else to deliver for his country. Slightly ironically, he was also the lone goal-scorer for Costa Rica when these two teams played back in October of 2015.
Regardless of Costa Rican players’ individual abilities, they have a way of playing as a team that has grabbed the attention of many, and while it is arguable (hardly) that the U.S. can match them in terms of possessing talented individuals, there was not a single sign during the entire game against Colombia, from whatever aspect one decided to view it, that those group of individuals are capable of playing as a team during the remainder of this special edition of the Copa.
They looked, rather, like a bunch of disgruntled and frustrated individuals who were clearly trying their best out there, but were lacking a sense of direction.
Now, that is very concerning for the immediate future of the team in this competition, let alone in Russia 2018.
Jürgen Klinsmann, regardless of the pathetic dual-job situation he’s been put in by the USSF, needs to figure out this situation by sorting out the lack of identity problem within this team. For starters, he needs to identify his core group of 7 or 8 players that will serve as precedent to the rest of the team, and then, from there, he needs to make whatever changes that he needs to integrate more energy and dynamism to the team. His epic failure in performing this elementary task in terms of management since he was appointed in 2011 has only been saved by means of luck, as well as some extraordinary individual performances from players, who were invigorated by the crowd far more than by their manager.
Let’s better get praying.
United States vs. Costa Rica – Soldier Field, Chicago – 7 p.m. Central