Direct from Columbus

Lesson Learned in Costa Rica Leads U.S. to Win

The Americans suffered a difficult defeat in San Jose last week. But their victory against Mexico came as a direct result of correcting the mistakes they made. Beckerman, Jones, and Bedoya explain.
BY Noah Davis Posted
September 11, 2013
1:14 AM
COLMUBUS, OHIO—On Friday, the United States gave up three goals in a loss to Costa Rica. The poor showing wasn't what head coach Jurgen Klinsmann wanted from his team, nor was it what he expected.

"We were upset with Costa Rica, with that game, with how it went, but we couldn't change it," he said on Tuesday night after the Americans defeated Mexico at Crew Stadium and qualified for the 2014 World Cup.

The squad couldn't alter the result, but they could minimize the mistakes that led to the Ticos' goals. In San Jose, the three lines of players were too frequently spread too far out, a result of playing a bit too quickly. Gaps formed, and the intelligent opponents exploited them with ease.

Eliminating those spaces was a priority for the U.S. against El Tri, especially for the central midfielder pairing of Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman.

"In Costa Rica we make the mistake for trying to play in front and try to play fast. They scored two goals on the break," the Schalke star said. "Today, we tried to make the game slow. Me and Kyle. We knew they were sitting back and waiting for mistakes from us."

The strategy was especially noticeable in the first 45 minutes. Whereas Mexico pushed the pace every time the Americans turned the ball over, the U.S. was content to gain possession, assess the situation, and give the formation time to re-adjust.

According to Beckerman, this was a conscious decision based on the loss in San Jose. "At times we were trying to go forward a little too fast and we were getting into this run and gun game with [Costa Rica]," he said. "[Tonight], there were times when we needed to knock the ball around and tire them out a little. When we did that, they eventually tired and we were able to score some goals."

The U.S. loosened the strings a bit in the second half, playing a little faster and looking to move the ball quicker, but they still didn't push the pace as they had in San Jose. They didn't want to get burned.

For surprise starter Alejandro Bedoya, it's all part of the process of developing the U.S. style.

"One of the main things we always talk about is when we win the ball back to be able to connect two, three, four passes and to keep it. You don't just want to go forward," he said. "When we get the ball back, we'd like to play that first pass forward. But we'd also like to keep it, to connect a few passes together before going forward."

On Tuesday night, patience paid off. Now that the Americans are through to the World Cup, they can go forward all they want in the next two matches.

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