The US national team's group stage clash with CONCACAF rivals Costa Rica on Tuesday night in Chicago is, as Jurgen Klinsmann himself opined, a must win. Technically, that's not true based on the scenarios -- a draw would keep them alive -- but for all intents and purposes, this is as must-win as it gets.
So after the disappointing result against Colombia in the opener, how might the USMNT "get it done"? Here's how:
1. Set pieces! Set pieces! Set pieces! This guy I know loves to kick and scream about set pieces, both offensively and defensively. Clearly the Americans need to generate a few more chances on the attacking side, but more importantly, they need to pick it up defensively. For example, stay with your man! Yes, we’re looking at you, Geoff Cameron.
2. Pulisic and Nagbe need to start. As my colleague Nicholas Rosano very nicely argued, this is a must. The US struggled for possession and passing accuracy against Colombia, and these two are like possession machines. Starting Nagbe and Pulisic would require a lineup shift, obviously. Could that mean (gasp!) not starting Clint Dempsey?
3. Feed off the fans. All due respect to the American Outlaws who brought the noise in Santa Clara, but the crowd at Levi's Stadium was clearly partisan for Colombia. The Windy City, however, has long been a USMNT bastion. Heck, the U.S. Soccer Federation is based there. Soldier Field should be clearly red, white, and blue, and the US players need to embrace that patriotic fervor. Furthermore, the USMNT has a good record -- 13-6-5 -- vs. Costa Rica on home soil.
4. Shut down Joel Campbell. The Arsenal star is the virtuoso lead guitarist for Los Ticos. (I've always thought Los Ticos would make a great band name.) The US need to smother him. That means not giving him space to turn and run at the back line. That will not be any one player's responsibility, because of Campbell's awesome movement. So the midfield and backlines need to be alert to where he is. Always.
5. No Waston! So what are you going to do about it? Vancouver Whitecaps massive centerback Kendall Waston will miss the match due to his late red card vs. Paraguay last week. The USMNT must take advantage of that. So, John Brooks, you’re like 8-foot-3...play like it!
6. Don’t take Jermaine Jones off the field with 30 minutes left. Regardless of what anyone might have said, I simply don't believe that JJ's engine ever runs out of gas. The Colorado Rapids talisman clearly doesn't like being subbed off when his team is losing. So, Klinsi, don't do it. Not only can he catch his second wind, he could catch a third or a fourth, and suddenly, you're not losing anymore.
7. Hit. The. Target. The US had only two shots on goal vs. Colombia, despite taking 12 shots. Not a great percentage. (By comparison, the Cafeteros hit on seven of 14.) The Americans need to test the goalkeeper, Patrick Pemberton, who is Costa Rica's back up and is definitely not in the same class as their injured number one, Real Madrid's Keylor Navas.
8. Wherefore art thou, General Bradley? This probably goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway: Michael Bradley needs to have a big game. Let's start with possession: He completed only 78% of his passes against Colombia. He's better than that, and he knows it. If he raises that into the upper 80s, the US will be in good stead.
9. Unleash FabJo: Fabian Johnson's thrusting runs from the back are arguably the USA’s most dangerous attacking weapon. He cannot be as self-shackled against Costa Rica as he was vs. Colombia. He basically had only six touches in the final third.