The US national team's Costa Rican nightmare continues.
The USMNT turned in a chaotic, ragged performance at the Estadio Nacional on Tuesday night, and were duly punished by a dominant Ticos side in a 4-0 humbling that leaves the Yanks with an 0-2 mark two games into the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for the first time in decades.
Montreal Impact attacker Johan Venegas headed home a cross from Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Christian Bolaños shortly before the break to give the hosts a halftime lead, arguably a letoff for a US side that was second-best in every respect. But things got worse, much worse, in the second 45 minutes.
The Yanks continued to struggle despite fielding nearly an identical lineup, and in a 4-4-2 shape, to the one that controlled the second half vs. Mexico on Friday. Bolaños nodded home a saucy outside-of-the-foot cross from Bryan Ruiz for Costa Rica's second in the 68th minute, triggering a full meltdown by the US defense.
Center back John Brooks' poor first touch gifted Joel Campbell a free run at goalkeeper Brad Guzan a few minutes later to push the scoreline to 3-0. And Campbell bagged a brace in much the same situation just four minutes later as Brooks and Omar Gonzalez could not keep a clean line, allowing the striker another breakway off a deep cross from New York City FC fullback Ronald Matarrita.
The loss runs the USMNT's history of futility in qualifiers in Costa Rica to 0-9-1 all-time, and leaves them with plenty of hard, painful questions to ponder before they resume their Hexagonal campaign at home to Honduras in late March.
- 44' – CRC – Johan Venegas (Christian Bolaños)
- 68' – CRC – Christian Bolaños (Bryan Ruiz)
- 74' – CRC – Joel Campbell
- 78' – CRC – Joel Campbell (Ronald Matarrita)
- Full Box Score
- ALL AT SEA IN THE BACK: Not much went right for the USMNT in this one. But the dull, disorganized nature of the defensive performance was particularly striking. Brooks and Gonzalez lacked focus or fire and couldn't command any sort of sustained organization or shape. Right back Timmy Chandler worked hard but was all over the shop. Left back Matt Besler played like a center back shoehorned into a still-unfamiliar role (which he is).
- SUNK BY MLSERS: Expect US fans to spend plenty of time dissecting the flaws in the player pool over the coming months, and how much it might limit coach Jurgen Klinsmann's ambitions of proactive play. But it will take some contortions to blame MLS, given that Bolaños and Venegas (who has struggled for sustained minutes with Montreal this year) are league regulars, but not superstars in the league (much the same can be said of Vancouver's Kendall Waston).
- UNCHARTED (ROUGH) WATERS: The USMNT have plenty of time to right the ship and set sail for Russia 2018; eight of of their 10 Hex games remain and their first two games were two of the Hex's hardest. But this start is historic in all the wrong ways...
#USMNT has lost its first two Hex games for the first time.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) November 16, 2016
U.S. had never started with fewer than three pts from its first two Hex games.
#USMNT has lost consecutive World Cup qualifiers for the first time since 2001.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) November 16, 2016
This is the third year in which the #USMNT lost multiple competitive games by four goals.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) November 16, 2016
The other two: 1949 and 1957.
- CRC: World Cup qualifying, at Mexico (March 24, 2017)
- USA: World Cup qualifying, vs. Honduras (March 24, 2017)