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Americans take long way to San Jose to play Costa Rica.

Players need to impress Arena in Costa Rica qualifier.

Arena selects roster for qualifier in Costa Rica.

New U.S. lineup produces lackluster 0-0 draw with Guatemala.

With dominant effort, U.S. dumps Mexico and qualifies for World Cup.

Wasted chances don't stop U.S. from defeating T&T, nearing World Cup berth.

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  • Costa Rica earns World Cup berth, blanking Americans 3-0.

    U.S. men

    Arena saw little to please him in U.S. loss to Costa Rica.

    By Robert Wagman
    SoccerTimes

    (Sunday, October 9, 2005) -- With a berth in the 2006 World Cup secured, United States men's manager Bruce Arena said his main objective over the final two qualifying matches was to get a look at players who might help next year at Germany 2006. He certainly could not have been very happy about what he saw on the artificial turf of rainy Estadio Ricardo Saprissa where Costa Rica brushed off the U.S. 3-0 yesterday to become the third representative of CONCACAF, the region of North America, Central America and the Caribbean, to earn a spot in the World Cup.

    To immediately put this loss into perspective, playing in Costa Rica has always been as difficult for the Americans as playing in Mexico's Azteca Stadium. The U.S. has never won a qualifier in Costa Rica, losing six times and drawing once. When that draw occurred in 1985, many of today's U.S. players were still toddlers.

    Add to this the torrential rains, the artificial playing surface and the travel problems the U.S. endured to get to San Jose, even the best American 11 would have been facing a difficult assignment.

    The U.S. offense was completely out of joint all night. With no one in the central midfield to orchestrate, the anemic U.S. attack had to come down the wings. With a converted defender -- Chris Albright -- playing on the right side of midfield, the U.S. was forced to frequently come down the left side with Eddie Lewis and Bobby Convey. At times it was somewhat effective, but at other times Costa Rica shut it down with ease.

    The U.S. started two strikers -- Brian Ching and Taylor Twellman -- who are more comfortable playing with their backs to goal and both of whom depend upon good service. Except for a few crosses from Lewis, the pair received little support and created few chances.

    The big change for the Americans came on defense where Arena went with just three backs -- Oguchi Onyewu, Eddie Pope and Carlos Bocanegra, a move necessitated by needing Albright and Lewis in the midfield. None of the defenders looked really comfortable in the three-man set and were often pulled out of position. The first two Costa Rica goals came when defenders were not where they should have been.

    For Costa Rica coach Alexandre Guimaeres, tonight was an exercise in back to the future. He brought back a number of veterans who had been absent when Costa Rica lost to the U.S. 3-0 in Salt Lake and they all responded well.

    When all was said and done, however, the first half was very close with neither side really having much of an advantage, except for one play where Wanchope and Saborio got loose and put the Ticos ahead 1-0. The difference in the second half was Costa Rican substitute Carlos Hernandez who scored a pair of goals. He looks like the Ticos' star of the future.

    "I thought for large segments of the game, play was even," Arena said. "In the first half, we had the better of the chances. Some mistakes were made that more experienced players would not have made but, overall, I accomplished the objective of watching certain combinations of players play together."

    The bottom line was the U.S. was short of talent in a situation where the best American 11 would have been severely challenged.


    U.S. player ratings

    Starters

    Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 4.5: Sitting on the bench at Manchester United is clearly taking a toll. He simply was not sharp. He made both mental and physical errors. Did little to prevent the three goals. His distribution was poor. A sub-par effort.

    Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 5.: Was called upon to cover a great deal of space because of the confusion that was often present in the back. Had difficulty marking the much taller and faster Wanchope, but was often the best U.S. defender on an off night for them all.

    Defender Eddie Pope - 4.5: Over the years, he has been a steadying influence on the U.S. back line. Tonight, he was more the problem then the solution. He was often pulled out of position by Wanchope or Saborio. He had a difficult assignment and did not respond like the Pope of old.

    Defender Oguchi Onyewu - 4.5: He was as poor tonight as he was good against Mexico in a2-0 victory September 3 in Columbus, Ohio. Through much of tonight's match. he seemed out of sync.

    Midfielder Pablo Mastroeni - 4.5: With three in the back, it was his job to give support in the middle and, on key occasions, he was simply absent. This was certainly one of his poorer performances for the U.S.

    Midfielder Eddie Lewis - 6: Was the only U.S. player to show any consistency. His experience showed as he repeatedly pushed forward and then tracked back on defense.

    Midfielder Chris Albright - 4.5: The defender, formerly a striker, was called upon to play the role of right-side attacking midfielder. It was obvious he was out of position and really only seemed comfortable when dropping back defensively. He pushed forward occasionally, but not with much effect.

    Midfielder Bobby Convey - 5.5: He put out considerable energy and was one of the few Americans to have an overall positive night. However, he is not as comfortable in the middle as he is on the wing.

    Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley - 5: Worked hard all week to get fit after suffering a mild hamstring injury last weekend in the Netherlands, but was never able to use his pace and seemed bothered by the rain and artificial playing surface.

    Forward Brian Ching - 4: Was never in the game. Admittedly, he received no service, but did little off the ball to make himself available or to create space for himself.

    Forward Taylor Twellman 5.5: While he too suffered from lack of service, he did more to create chances, including his negated goal which was clearly offside. He still needs to show more to convince he belongs on the World Cup roster.

    Reserves

    Midfielder Santino Quaranta (63rd minute for Albright) - 5.5: Not a bad showing over the final half hour. Made several good offensive runs and showed good range.

    Midfielder Kyle Martino (75th minute for Bocanegra) - 5: Came on for a defender and didn't leave much of a mark on the match.

    Robert Wagman is a SoccerTimes senior correspondent. E-mail Robert Wagman.

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