As Klinsmann evaluates talent, U.S. suffers disjointed loss to Costa Rica.
By Robert Wagman
(Saturday, September 2, 2011) -- New United States men's manager Jürgen Klinsmann continues to look at players who might help the national team in the future and the result, once again, was a disjointed match which the U.S. lost 1-0 to a similarly, patched-together Costa Rican squad in front of 15,798 last night at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
This was one of those friendly matches where the final score line really didn't matter, but what has to worry Klinsmann is the lack of offensive coherence as well as the clear lack of communication, if not ability, on a back-line that featured three newcomers
The U.S. came out quickly and pushed forward well, but the Americans' bugaboo of poor finishing was again present. Instead of getting a first-half lead, the U.S. watched the game became mired in a lot of aimless play on both sides with neither team displaying much attacking flair.
Costa Rica was content to bunker in and play physical, clutch-and-grab defense, and to occasionally counter-attack, a strategy prevailed when striker Alvaro Saborio perfectly timed his run and was alone behind the U.S. defense to receive a pass. He caught up to it in the right side of the penalty area and fed charging midfielder Michael Barrantes, who triggered a point blank stop that U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard stopped.
Defender Rodney Wallace, whom was eligible to play for the U.S., but chose Costa Rica, dove for a header of a low bouncing ball and though Howard got an arm on it, he could not keep it out of the net.
They were successful on the counter once in the second half and that was enough.
This was far from the strongest lineup Costa Rica could have fielded. It did not call in several European-based players and instead relied on Major League Soccer players, including defender Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls), Saborio (Real Salt Lake) and Wallace (Portland Timbers). Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto will become Costa Rica's new coach, but tonight interim coach Ronald Gonzalez ran the team.
"It was a bad result. You never like to lose a game, but (it was a) very good performance," Klinsmann said. "I was pleased with the performance. I was pleased with the way all the players tried to implement all the work that we did on the training field throughout the week. . . What I told the guys in the locker-room was that from a performance point of view, it was very, very positive, what we saw."
There had been a hope that in this friendly and on Tuesday against Belgium in Brussels that Klinsmann would be able to put something close to his best 11 on the field and see what he has to work with. That didn't happen here with players, such as midfielders Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Stuart Holden absent. It also won't happen in Brussels with midfielder Landon Donovan announcing he won't make the trip.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 6: Not very busy, but did very well when called on. Even on the Costa Rica goal, he got to the first shot and almost stopped the rebound. A dependable performance from a dependable keeper.
Defender Timmy Chandler - 5.5: A decent first cap. Showed he could defend well and can get forward quickly. Was beaten on the goal and one can't help thinking he might be stronger in the midfield than in the back with Steve Cherurndolo still manning the right defensive flank.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 5.5: The strongest U.S. defender, but that would be expected of the veteran captain. Overall, he did not have his best match, but he constantly had to make up for the deficits around him.
Defender Michael Orozco Fiscal - 4.5: He has a physical presence, but that's about all. He does not pass well, nor does he appear to work effectively with others on the back-line. This was not a strong performance.
Defender Edgar Castillo - 4: He is obviously not the answer for the U.S.'s left-back problem. He had trouble defending and when he did get forward, he was unable to put in quality crosses.
Midfielder Maurice Edu - 5: Something of a strange performance. With the others in the midfield looking to push forward, it was left to Edu to be the defensive center. This may not be his strongest suit because he too likes to push forward and he works well with the absent Michael Bradley sharing the defensive role.
Midfielder Landon Donovan - 5: An all-too-typical Donovan game. He started strong, but after the first half hour, which included a strikingly poor finish that wasted the Americans' best scoring opportunity, he faded into the background and left little imprint on the second half.
Midfielder Robbie Rogers - 4.5: He had a good short reserve appearance against Mexico, but as a starter, his lack of technical ability stood out. He couldn't handle the ball and defenders at the same time. He had a poor passing night and overall did not show he belonged on the first team.
Midfielder Brek Shea - 6: One of the more interesting performances of the night. He provided some measure of offense on the wing, but looked less dangerous when he wandered into the middle. Did not work particularly well with those around him, but that might come in time. He looks like a player who needs more experience at a higher level.
Forward José Torres - 7: If one player made the most of this match, it was Torres. He ran what offense the U.S. was able to muster out of the midfield and his passes usually found their mark.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 5: He didn't provide the U.S. with the multi-goal outings he has been having in Europe, but did not play badly. He never got the kind of service he needs. He held the ball well, but his positioning was awful, earning multiple offside calls. That was often the result of poor communication with those behind him.
Forward Juan Agudelo (63rd minute for Altidore) - 5.5: He ended up as a lone attacker and he does not shine in that situation. He plays off a second attacker much better and in situations like he faced tonight, he was easily handled by a physical defense. The effort was there, but the results were not.
Midfielder Sacha Kljestan (66th minute for Rogers) - 5: He was not the spark the U.S. needed, especially after going down a goal. Certainly better than the player he replaced, he did not leave much of an impression on the match.
SoccerTimes Player of the Match: José Torres.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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