US must "look in the mirror" after nightmare start to the Hex, says Bradley

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — The United States' shocking start to the Hexagonal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying left Michael Bradley at a loss for words.

Following his team’s 4-0 loss to Costa Rica at Estadio Nacional on Tuesday night, the US national team captain took a long, palpable pause as he tried to sum up his disappointment for reporters.

“On a night like this there is no point in trying to look at it any other way,” Bradley said after his team’s second straight loss to begin the Hex. “We have to be big enough and strong enough to say we weren’t good enough.”

When asked why the US weren’t good enough, Bradley paused for another 15 seconds before responding. He said his team wasn’t ready for “what the game was going to be about” and crumbled in the face of the moment.

It’s hard to argue after the US failed to show any energy or aggressiveness out of the gates in front of a hostile Costa Rican crowd.

The United States looked devoid of any attacking identity, and collapsed repeatedly on the defensive side.

Los Ticos began their scoring barrage in the 44th minute when the US gave away a deflating goal right before the half to Montreal Impact forward Johan Venegas, who caused problems for the opposing defense all night with his speed and energy.

When Venegas trotted off the field in the 65th minute, it was Joel Campbell who stepped up in Venegas’ place with two goals and one assist against the lackluster US backline.

“They are a team that can really smell blood,” Bradley said. “They have guys who are dangerous on the counter and take those advantages to really punish you.”

The US had planned to respond to Friday's bitter home defeat at the hands of rivals Mexico by securing their first positive result at Costa Rica in their modern era. Instead, they came up empty-handed and will have to wait until March 24 for their next chance at points, a home qualifier against Honduras.

Bradley said the long layoff from the national team puts the onus on players to get back to the top of their game as the US try to scratch their way back into the 2018 World Cup reckoning.

“We’re going to have a few days to get together and understand that there’s going to need to be some urgency,” Bradley said. “We have to look in the mirror real hard at ourselves and understand it’s not going to be a good start. But the reality in this Hexagonal format is that nothing is lost yet.”