COLUMBUS, Ohio – After Friday’s gut-punch of a loss to Mexico in Columbus, the US national team have nine games to turn 2018 World Cup qualifying around. But with a trip to Costa Rica looming, the team could very well start their Hex with no points from their first two matches.
The Americans travel to San Jose, Costa Rica Tuesday for their second match of the Hex in a place where they’ve never won, including 3-1 losses in each of the last two World Cup qualifiers (9 pm ET, beIN Sports, NBC Universo).
And after Friday’s disappointing start, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said the USMNT will be gunning for their first three points in Costa Rica and downplayed the effects of one loss.
“The message is very simple: We’ve got to go down there and get a result, which we will do,” he said. “[Mexico is] the first of 10 qualifying games. It’s obviously the big one – Mexico is the biggest one we play – but we always know that with Mexico it's guys eye-to-eye and it’s going to be a nail-biter. Sometimes it goes their way and other times it goes our way. I told them we’re going to correct it for Costa Rica and then in summer time we’ll go to Azteca and go for it at their home. It’s just part of the qualifying process, the whole long road.”
Though his status for the match is uncertain due to an injury picked up during Friday's game, goalkeeper Tim Howard said he’s confident the USMNT can go to San Jose and do to the Costa Ricans what Mexico just did to the Americans.
“We haven't won [there]. But the same way Mexico felt today, we will get the first win in Costa Rica,” he said. “I remember sitting in Honduras a couple years back – [US lost their] first game [in the Hexagonal], doom and gloom, World Cup's over, but it's the first game. We've got a whole bunch more to go.”
Midfielder Jermaine Jones said the match will be crucial for keeping pace with the other World Cup contenders in the group.
He said there will “definitely” be a greater sense of urgency, “especially after Costa Rica won in Trinidad” 2-0 on Friday night.
“You have to go there and get three points to keep the doors open,” he said. “It would be a tough one if Costa Rica goes out and wins so they have six points and you don’t’ know what Mexico is doing. So we have to go to Costa Rica and have that in our head that we have to get three points.”
Klinsmann said the opening-match loss is “not a problem, but obviously it’s disappointing.”
And days away from San Jose, he said the team needs to have the urgent mindset that Jones and other players laid out.
“I think it’s a sense of anger in us, a sense of urgency,” he said. “You don’t want to be behind. Costa Rica won tonight, so it’s right there. All those qualifying games are nail-biters; all these qualifying games are difficult. That’s what the players are prepared for. If we can pick up and play the way we played in the second half [against Mexico], I’m not worried.”