CHICAGO – Jurgen Klinsmann hasn’t changed his opinion about the US national team’s play in their 2-0 loss to Colombia in the Copa America Centenario opener.
Time has passed, but his tune has remained the same. On the eve of the US meeting their second tournament opponent, Costa Rica (Tuesday, 8 pm ET, FS1, UniMás, UDN), Klinsmann again reiterated he believed the US played well enough against Colombia.
"We were very disappointed there after the game, absolutely, because we thought we actually played a really good game,” Klinsmann said prior to a training session at Soldier Field on Monday. “Then you obviously read the final result and a lot of opinions go different ways then.
"There’s everything to play for in the last two games, and then hopefully you go through, which we are convinced we will. You start a whole new tournament again because the knockout stage is a completely different tournament than the group-stage phase."
First up is Costa Rica, a team that has a history of playing the US tough. Klinsmann doesn’t expect Tuesday’s game to be any different. He understands Costa Rica will load up defensively and look to create off their counterattack.
Costa Rica will be without Vancouver Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston after he received a red card in a scoreless draw against Paraguay on Saturday, but Klinsmann said Waston’s absence shouldn’t alter Costa Rica’s defensive play.
Additionally, Klinsmann stated that he is concerned about another area of the field.
“What is definitely a very positive characteristic from Costa Rica, at least from their end, is they don’t need many chances,” Klinsmann said. “Costa Rica is a team that you give them two, three chances they usually put one in. That speaks for them. Got be very, very alert about that. … It’s going to be a tough one tomorrow night."
Klinsmann wouldn’t discuss whether he’d make any lineup changes. He simply said he would approach the game as a must-win.
One possible move could be the insertion of Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe into the starting lineup. Nagbe came on during the second half of the Colombia loss, and is one of the more dynamic players on the US squad. Klinsmann spoke positively of Nagbe on Monday, but also said the talented youngster is experiencing a learning curve with the US.
“He’s becoming really a fixture of this team,” Klinsmann said. “It takes some time. His tremendous upsides are his technique, how smooth he’s on the ball, how he can create something out of nothing and take people on. What he’s learning right now is the tempo, the tempo of the international level in both ways, defensively and going forward. That’s the one thing is the tempo.
“The other thing is the learning curve for all players coming fresh into this program is there’s no space really. You saw Darlington coming in and you see how Colombia squeezes the field defensively. Suddenly Darlington sees there’s no space to go in. Where should I go? What should I do? He has to learn now how to find solutions with dealing with far tighter space than he’s used to in the MLS. That learning curve is just happening now. Give him some time. I’m very, very positive he’ll figure it out.”
Whether it’s Nagbe or whomever else, the US is approaching Tuesday’s game with just one result in mind.
“It’s a must-win situation,” Klinsmann said. “When you lose your first one, you know there’s only two games left, so you got to get your first three points and then you see how things will play out in the third game. Tomorrow night we are full of energy, full of optimism to get those three points.
"As I said again, respect for this Costa Rica team, but we've got to get it done tomorrow night here.”