Klinsmann's faith in starting lineup rewarded as US hammer Costa Rica

CHICAGO – Despite the losing result, US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann never backed down from his belief in the team he put on the field against Colombia to open the Copa America Centenario.

Klinsmann repeatedly expressed confidence in his team following Friday’s loss, then displayed it with his actions on Tuesday. While plenty of fans and media pushed for changes in the USMNT lineup against Costa Rica in their second game of the group stage, Klinsmann opted to stick with the same starting 11.

This time, he and his team were rewarded. The starters carved out three goals in the first half, and three substitutes came on in the second half to help add another as the US defeated Costa Rica 4-0 at Soldier Field, registering three vital points in their quest to advance out of Group A.

Klinsmann thought the US may have actually played better in Friday's 2-0 loss.

“I think again we played a very, very good game with Colombia,” Klinsmann said after Tuesday’s victory. “We lost it because of two set pieces. Tonight, even there, maybe we didn’t actually play as good as we did with Colombia, but we scored the goals. The goals came and obviously goals are a confidence builder.”

US goalkeeper Brad Guzan put it even more succinctly.

“Goals change games,” Guzan said. “The first half, again, I thought we were good, but at times we probably gave the ball away too easily and put ourselves under a little bit of pressure. But like I said, goals change games and the guys up front took care of that.”

Those guys up front for the US were again Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood and Gyasi Zardes in Klinsmann’s 4-3-3 formation, which was later changed to a 4-4-2 in the run of play.

Leading up to Tuesday’s game, Klinsmann stressed that his attacking trio needed to gain some chemistry, and the way to do that was by playing together more. He saw Tuesday’s output as a sign of growth from them. Dempsey bagged a goal and two assists, one of which was a feed for Wood after the German-based striker moved up into a more familiar striker's role.

“You could see them actually start to smell each other, make runs off each other,” Klinsmann said. “This is a learning process. It’s a developing process. To integrate a younger striker up front with Bobby, Bobby has to learn to play off Clint. Clint has to get a feeling for Bobby. Where’s he coming from, what is he doing and all these things. We had the luxury to finally send the same 11 out.”

For a multitude of reasons, Klinsmann has often had a different list of players to pick from game to game. Finally, he had the same players to choose from in consecutive games, and he went with that option.

“Our hope was obviously to build a more fluid style by keeping the guys connected together, same starting 11, which that luxury we never really get in World Cup qualifiers or other times of the year,” Klinsmann said. “We’re always missing guys. We always kind of have to improvise and fix things up. Now this is how we started the tournament, this was our idea with these guys. We could continue this in the second game.”