The Soccer Desk

First Contact: Thoughts on USA 1 – 0 CRC

costa rica

It didn’t work, but it kinda did.  Thats the lesson the US takes away from the first real opponent Group C offered up to the Yanks.  Jurgen Klinsmann came into the match with a clear gameplan, deploying ball-controlling midfielders in the hopes of being able to hold a high offensive line and take pressure off a weak defense by denying Costa Rica the ball.  It was a good idea, the platonic ideal of Klinsmann’s philosophy, but like so many beautiful plans it couldn’t survive real world trials.  Costa Rica managed to deny the US and pressure heavily on counterattacks, and it was only a rock solid performance by the US centerbacks, a borderline miraculous save by Sean Johnson (which still doesn’t make up for the Olympic Qualifiers debacle) and a magical pass from Landon Donovan to an instantly redeemed Brek Shea that saw the US seize the win and a first place finish in the group.  Before we pack up for Baltimore, here’s three quick thoughts on the match.

Gringo the Winger.  Jose Francisco Torres can play on the wing; who’da thought it?  The master of “La Pausa” has had a strong tournament after being moved out to the left after several uninspiring performances in his natural hub role saw his plummet down Klinsmann’s depth chart.  Against the Ticos, Gringo was a revelation, displaying a calm assurance on the ball and a view of the unfolding game that his fans had often remarked upon in his club matches, but had yet to be unfolded in stars and stripes.  He may not have the speed to play the role against top opponenets, but for this tournament Torres may make the difference for the USMNT.

Buen Hijo.  The best player on the pitch Tuesday night in Hartford may have been the least remarked upon.  Clarence Goodson, the erstwhile “clearance Clarence”, former captain of Brondby and current San Jose Earthquake didn’t do any thing earthshattering against Costa Rica, he just managed to partner with an undersized converted fullback to contain a dynamic and greasy-fast Tico attack.  Goodson single-handedly shut down Columbus Crew man Jairo Arrieta, driving the forward into frustrated and senseless fouls late in the game.  Goodson will never be the most physically gifted player on the pitch, but when he is able to make the game come to his, to play on his terms, he can be a more than solid defender.

What is Klinsmann’s best team?  In the days leading up to the Costa Rica match, Jurgen Klinsmann stated that he would be fielding his “best team” against the Ticos.  If thats true, the lineup that took the field in Hartford raises some serious questions.  Is Sean Johnson really preferred over Nick Rimondo, who played every minute of the last three matches?  Does Klinsmann have the nerve to start Mix Diskerud over Kyle Beckerman?  Does Chris Wondo(w)lowski’s current form against minnows like Cuba and Belize place him higher than Herculez Gomez?  Probably not.  Still, JK got the win.  The knockout stages will see the wheat separated from the chaff.

The Gold Cup continues this weekend with quarterfinals matches in Atlanta and Baltimore.  Stick with the Soccer Desk for continuing coverage.