SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica – An opening home loss to archrivals Mexico has some feeling the US national team should be in desperation mode heading into Tuesday's second of 10 matches in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in Costa Rica.
But you wouldn't have sensed it from manager Jurgen Klinsmann during his pregame press conference.
“It’s a long path,” Klinsmann said Monday from San José’s National Stadium, where his team plays the host Tuesday night (9 pm ET on beIN Sports and NBC Universo). “It’s a road of 10 games and we lost the first won. Our team is in good shape and the guys are really positive.”
After Friday’s 2-1 loss in Columbus, Ohio, the 52-year-old manager averted normal coach speak by calling for his players to develop a sense of urgency and “play angry.” The Americans could use every edge they can get given their 0-8-1 all-time record in competitive fixtures played in Costa Rica.
Where the players get their greatest edge, Klinsmann said, is by playing with their backs against the wall. After all, the last time there was this much criticism facing the team came last summer after the 2-0 loss to Colombia to open Copa America play on home soil. The USMNT promptly responded with a three-game winning streak to reach the tournament semifinals, beginning with the 4-0 clobbering of Costa Rica in Chicago.
Though Klinsmann said no one on his team is looking back at that last match between the two sides, he recounted Friday’s game with Mexico and his group’s ability to respond after going down 1-0 early.
“Once we go a goal down, suddenly our dynamic changes and we add another gear,” Klinsmann said. “It’s characteristic of our program and our players. Sometimes they need a wake-up call to get it going.”
Klinsmann added that he would like to see faster starts from his team, who he admitted were actually outplayed for the first few minutes of June’s match with Costa Rica before they poured it on after a Clint Dempsey penalty kick in the 10th minute.
He also pointed to the 3-1 loss to Costa Rica in 2013 during the United States’ last visit to San José when Los Ticos scored two goals in the first 10 minutes of play.
Though his team likely can’t afford a similar start to Tuesday’s match, Klinsmann said he can count on his team any time a difficult scenario arises.
“I would rather have it the other way around, but on the other hand it’s a good sign that we’re not putting our heads down,” Klinsmann said. “That’s a good thing for us coaches to know that if some things go wrong in the middle of the game we can still turn it around.”