CARSON, Calif. — After the come-from-behind draw with Mexico last month, it was understandable that new US manager Jurgen Klinsmann would be brimming with optimism and joy.
But after losing 1-0 to Costa Rica – a side he admitted this week was not on par with Mexico – surely he could not be the upbeat, carefree “dude” he sometimes appears to be?
“Bad result, you never like to lose a game, but very good performance,” he said after the match. “I was pleased with the way the players tried to implement all the work that we did on the training field throughout the week.”
The US dominated the first half hour of the match, moving the ball quickly, hounding on defense, and taking full advantage of the modified 4-3-3 formation that freed creative attackers José Francisco Torres and Landon Donovan to run the show in the middle. The side created several half-chances, but none of them materialized into actual shots.
And with 10 minutes to play in the half, the US suddenly seemed to run out of gas.
“To keep up that pace, the players are starting now to learn what it means that if you really want to play your way through and keep a very high tempo and a high pace, it’s difficult,” Klinsmann said. “It’s difficult to carry that through 90 minutes.”
Many managers would see the sudden lurch as a sign to make a change at the break. But Klinsmann didn’t make any substitutions until the 63rd minute, when he brought on New York striker Juan Agudelo. In the end, he only used three subs, despite the fact that he could’ve used six.
“I want them to go through those down periods as well,” Klinsmann said. “We saw here and there the players getting tired or their heads for a couple of minutes struggling. But they need to go through those minutes. They need to fight their way through it.
“Then they got a second breath or third breath, and they did excellent. The way we combined the way people were looking for each other, and the way they passed their way out very difficult tight spaces was good to see.
Despite the scoreline, Klinsmann shrugging away any questions about the strikers’ inability to finish – a problem under his predecessor, as well. All that mattered to the new “dude” in charge was the performance.
“From a performance point of view, it was very, very positive what we saw,” he said.