COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The US national team took whatever positives they could in the days leading up to Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica, even as a group of unnamed players publicly sounded off against the team’s leadership and threatened to throw the team into turmoil.
So after their gutsy 1-0 win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park put a positive punctuation on an otherwise tumultuous week, it came as no surprise when a number of players insisted the adversity had drawn them closer leading up to the match.
“Everybody wanted to see us lose with everything that happened this week, but we turned it around and got three points,” defender Geoff Cameron said. “All the pressure was on us – the defense was this, the defense was that. Everything that was said is thrown out the window now because we all stuck together.
“And that’s one of the biggest things the US is all about. It doesn’t matter where you come from or who you are, you work together as one, you wear the crest and you leave it. It’s pride.”
Striker Jozy Altidore – who helped set up the game-winning goal with a shot that deflected directly into Clint Dempsey’s path for the easy finish – echoed Cameron’s sentiment about the recent anonymous players who questioned head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s acumen in a Sporting News article released on Tuesday.
“That stuff is nonsense,” Altidore said. “Look, unfortunately these things happen in sports today. At the end of the day I hope those guys look at themselves in the mirror and change their attitude, because it's important that we're a group moving forward.”
Midfielder Michael Bradley, who earlier this week blasted the anonymous players and called the entire situation “shameful” and “embarrassing,” praised the team’s camaraderie on Friday night ahead of the team’s huge match against Mexico on March 26.
“The commitment, the fight, the willingness of every guy to suffer … to win at the highest level it’s those little things that separate teams,” Bradley said. “Tonight, we can be proud of all that, and now as we go to Mexico on Tuesday night, that stuff has to be there again.”