Costa Rica routs US as Amer­i­cans drop to 0-2 in qual­i­fy­ing

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Wave af­ter wave of op­po­nents kept over­whelm­ing be­lea­guered and be­fud­dled Amer­i­cans.

Only these play­ers were Costa Ri­cans in red jer­seys, not Brazil­ians in yel­low or Ital­ians in blue.

With one of its worst per­for­mances in decades, the United States put it­self in a deep — but not in­sur­mount­able — hole in World Cup qual­i­fy­ing.

“There's go­ing to need to be some ur­gency,” US cap­tain Michael Bradley said af­ter Tues­day night's 4-0 wipe­out. “We're go­ing to have to look col­lec­tively real hard in the mir­ror at our­selves and un­der­stand it's not been a good start. But the re­al­ity of this hexag­o­nal for­mat is that noth­ing is lost yet, not even close. So any­body who thinks that is sorely mis­taken.”

Jo­han Vene­gas scored in the 44th minute, Cris­tian Bolanos dou­bled the lead in the 68th and sec­ond-half sub­sti­tute Joel Camp­bell beat be­lea­guered goal­keeper Brad Guzan in the 74th and 78th min­utes.

The US, which dropped to 0-2 in the fi­nal round of the North and Cen­tral Amer­i­can and Caribbean re­gion for the first time, had not lost a qual­i­fier by four goals since a 5-1 de­feat at Mex­ico in Novem­ber 1980 and had not dropped a shutout loss in a qual­i­fier by that mar­gin since a 6-0 rout at Mex­ico in April 1957.

Cen­tral de­fend­ers John Brooks and Omar Gon­za­lez, and right back Timmy Chan­dler had par­tic­u­larly poor games. The ab­sence of in­jured de­fender Ge­off Cameron was glar­ing.

“A very, very bit­ter mo­ment for us. There's no doubt about it,” said US coach Jur­gen Klins­mann, who called it “the de­feat that hurts most” of his five-year ten­ure.

Costa Rica (2-0), a 2014 World Cup quar­ter­fi­nal­ist, leads the hex with six points, fol­lowed by Mex­ico and Panama, both 1-0-1 fol­low­ing Tues­day night's 0-0 draw in Panama City. Hon­duras (1-1) has three points, and the U.S. is tied with Trinidad and Tobago.

“Was the re­sult em­bar­rass­ing? Yes. But I'm not em­bar­rassed by our team,” US Soc­cer Fed­er­a­tion Pres­i­dent Su­nil Gu­lati said. “I'm very dis­ap­pointed, ob­vi­ously.”

Seek­ing its eighth straight World Cup berth, the Amer­i­cans opened with a 2-1 loss to Mex­ico on Fri­day at Colum­bus, Ohio, their first home de­feat in a qual­i­fier since 2001.

The top three teams qual­ify for the 2018 tour­na­ment in Rus­sia, and the No. 4 fin­isher ad­vances to a play­off against Asia's fifth-place na­tion.

“Mex­ico qual­i­fied with 11 points,” Gu­lati said, think­ing back to the last hex. “There's a lot of points left on the board — 24 to be ex­act.”

As the US dropped to 0-9-1 in qual­i­fiers at Costa Rica, ju­bi­lant Ti­cos fans sounded air horns at the end of a match that reignited ques­tion­ing of Klins­mann's tac­tics. A for­mer World Cup cham­pion and coach with Ger­many, Klins­mann will be un­der per­haps the most scru­tiny since he was hired.

He in­sisted he is the right per­son to lead the team.

“I ob­vi­ously un­der­stand that when you lose two games and es­pe­cially two World Cup qual­i­fiers right af­ter each other, that there will be a lot of your com­ments,” he told re­porters af­ter the match. “That is just part of the job.”

Qual­i­fy­ing re­sumes with a March 24 home game against Hon­duras fol­lowed by a match at Panama four days later. Gu­lati would not be drawn into a coach­ing discussion.

“We don't make any de­ci­sions right af­ter games,” he said. “We'll think about what hap­pened to­day and talk with Jur­gen and look at the sit­u­a­tion.”

There was some whistling dur­ing “The Star-Span­gled Ban­ner” from the ca­pac­ity crowd of about 35,000 in Es­ta­dio Na­cional, where the field is sur­rounded by an ath­let­ics track and crowd noise dis­si­pates — even from a band in the sec­ond deck.

The venue ap­pears less in­tim­i­dat­ing to vis­i­tors than old Es­ta­dio Ri­cardo Saprissa, where fans were di­rectly be­hind the benches.

Costa Rica went ahead af­ter a give­away by Brooks. Ran­dall Azofeifa took a short pass from Jose Sal­vatierra in the cen­ter cir­cle and played a long ball into the cor­ner, where Bolanos ran it down on its third bounce. Gon­za­lez didn't close down Bolanos, who crossed for Vene­gas just out­side the 6-yard box. Vene­gas beat Brooks to the ball and sent a header across Guzan.

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