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Costa Rica 3-1 USA: Saprissa Strikes Again


To those fans of the US National Team who have been around their was nothing surprising or alarming about this match or the scoreline. For newcomers to US Soccer who have begun to expect more or have been told to expect more. But for old veterans of the USMNT program nothing about this match was surprising other than perhaps how quickly Costa Rica scored.

Bob Bradley has to be given credit for confidence in youngsters Jose Francisco Torres, Marvell Wynne and Jozy Altidore. The pity of the early goal is that this  was the most attack minded lineup Bradley has featured on the road since taking over in 2007 and we’ll never know how the US really intended to play. Bradley obviously wanted a quick athletic team to counter on the turf.

The US  lost its shape totally at the back, with the holding midfielders totally out of position and the first touch of the defenders often times serving to help Costa Rica. The Ticos attackers had acres of space to exploit from the get go and many times had a mind numbing amount of time on the ball to make decisions. This was apparent on both the 2nd and 3rd Costa Rican goals.

Jose Francisco Torres after a rocky start settled in and played very well in the second part of the first half. But for some mysterious reason the only American attacking player who could hold the ball and had figured the hops of the turf out was subbed at halftime for Bradley favorite Sacha Kljestan.

Pablo Mastroeni had a poor match and his inability to close down defenders and his poor tackling technique was shocking. DaMarcus Beasley’s performance at left back was also poor. Michael Bradley tackled poorly and was consistently caught out of position.

The stoppage time PK goal by Landon Donovan produced a scoreline that flatters the US. But the truth is in historical terms this performance was predictable and the late PK may have actually made the game feel better than some other performances at Saprissa.

The US is still not good enough to win on the road in tough CONCACAF venues. For all the smoke being blown up the rear ends of some US fans by other US fans about dominating CONCACAF, this is still a team that looks scared and tactically naive when they go on the road. Saprissa, and Azteca will continue to be dungeons for the USMNT in the near future.

Any expectation that the US can get a result in Mexico or Honduras goes out the window. But the United States still has itself a massive home field advantage in CONCACAF qualidfers and Gold Cups that needs to continue to be exploited.

Player Ratings

Howard  6

Wynne   4

Bocanegra 2

Onyewu  5

Beasley 3

Mastroeni 2

Bradley 3

Torres 6

Donovan 5

Dempsey 4

Altidore 6

Kljestan 4

Adu 6

Davies NR

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  1. Carlos

    June 9, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    It’s a shame hearing US people… They talk about “Saprissa is a rat infested, urinated hell hole”, but they don’t realize that they are acting in the same way, with racism… In Costa Rica we love soccer, it’s a passion! Ricardo Saprissa Ayma Stadium shows that, shows the vibe of a country! THE PASSION! and USA always are intimidated about that, it’s a hell inside! There’s a rumor that Altidoore told to Donovan: “Hey Donovan, how does it feels play in Saprissa Stadium..? And Donovan response: Wednesday…. The Wednesday you’ll feel hell, a hell that you can’t get out…” I see that in a papernews, i don’t remember exactly the name, but sincerely, come to Saprissa always will be a heavy-duty match, not because the stupids excuses about turf, it’s heavy-duty because our players, costa rican players feel the passion! and costa rican fans too… Saprissa is magical, the people united… VAMOS SELE! USA don’t be racist….

  2. eplnfl

    June 4, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Still dazed by it all. I would note that from Bradley on down no one had a good performance. So, lets not pick on one player no matter how lost in space various members of our team looked.

    I feel that the management and players had written this one off before even getting on the plane to make the trip. In my mind one of the reasons had to be schedule. The US was forced to play this game last night because of the Confederations Cup commitments. I submit that we would have looked awake at least if the first game we had was Saturday the 6th like most other teams. Additionally, the MLS schedule hurts since our players had to leave their various MLS sides, (where applicable) and walk into the USMNT training camp. The performance was poor to be mild about it but think about the above factors a bit to understand where the team may have been mentally.

  3. Mexican football

    June 4, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    It’s painful to see Joe Francis Towers play for team USA instead of for Mexico. He’s the best player you guys got, despite his playing 2 games a week for the past month due to the Mexican league playoffs. What a trooper. I’d kill to see him in a green shirt rather than in your colors.

    He wanted to be a part of the Mexican selection, but Phlegm-Moron Erricson never picked him. So now you guys get to enjoy his football. Ugh. You lucky bastards.

    Despite last nite’s loss, you people have nothing to worry about. Team USA will clinch in Mexico, when they win there for the 1st time ever, thanks to The Gringo Torres’ tiebreaking goal that will give you people a 2-1 victory. That win will seal the deal for you, while pushing the Tri to the brink of elimination It pains me greatly to predict this, but there’s nothing I can do to stop this from happening. Team USA has the talent to pull this off.

    If only Texas was never conquered by the USA, then Torres wouldn’t be eligible to lead you guys to glory. But, unfortunately, he is and will.

  4. Joe in Indianapolis

    June 4, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Holy crap that game was frustrating to watch. Did we have a single shot on goal? I don’t think we did.

  5. Pieter Brown

    June 4, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    The best thing about that game were the ad boards. VAMOS MIAMI!!!

  6. Park Bolivar

    June 4, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    I just started following the USMNT – can anyone better explain the ‘cronyism’ charges against Bradley? Is it that Kljestan played under Bradley at Chivas?

  7. eplnfl

    June 4, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    I’m still to sick over the hammering to comment.

  8. Will

    June 4, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Last night’s game was atrocious. USMNT looked flat from kick-off and looked like they all had other places they would rather be. I think the team has hit a plateau and needs a fire lit under them to get them to the next level. I don’t think that Bradley is the guy for that job. He is too defensive minded and even though he tried an offensive formation last night, he lacked the players to pull it off. A 4-3-3 formation requires a strong presence in the middle of the field and we don’t have that player right now.

    And don’t give me any excuses about the artificial turf. USA is the king of artificial turf. I’ve played on turf that was over 20 years old before and I didn’t have the terrible touches our players had last night. Our players just don’t have the technical skills to compensate for things like that.

    I hope they turn it around on Saturday because that game last night was a hot mess.

  9. Haley's Comet

    June 4, 2009 at 11:37 am

    WAs it just me or was Bradley’s boy Kljestan out of gas by minute 60 even though he was a halftime sub? When our selection policy is based on cronyism, of course we lose!

  10. Roger

    June 4, 2009 at 9:32 am

    kartik keeps telling us how bad mls is and how bad the usmnt is on the road. personally i don’t totally buy it. mls is bad because of its setup and the coaching. the players are never tactically put in the best positions to suceed. on the national team level with an ex mls coach we defend and bunker to the point where we have no shape and bad spacing. it’s the coaches stupid!

  11. Ginge

    June 4, 2009 at 9:19 am

    So what you’re saying is that we should encourage new fans of the USMNT to accept road defeats in qualifying, a scared team and naive tactics?

    And that’s all ok because the US has home field advantage and can do enough to coast by?

  12. adam

    June 4, 2009 at 9:09 am

    The pity was Costa Rica didn’t play as well last night as they have in the past. But for them it was like playing Greneda who they barely beat in the second round or Guyana.

    Also Kartik as aperson who thought you were too negative and living in 2000 with the USMNT claiming we weren’t the dominant team in CONCACAF and somehow this region was tougher than we all think I owe you an apology.

    The Tactics were all wrong and worse we simply didn’t care. Maybe that MLS side you proposed for the summer because of the tired European based players should have happened.

  13. Joey Clams

    June 4, 2009 at 9:01 am

    You know what else? I didn’t think that CR was that great last night.

  14. Joey Clams

    June 4, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Does anyone have any faith in Bradley after last night? Beasley shouldn’t even be capped, let alone starting out of position. And was last night not the night for the old double holders? Subbing Torres was stupid if only because it looked stupid. Folks, no one knows who should be playing and where players should be playing. The game day roster didn’t include Spector. And Junior picked up a yellow. Well, at least Donovan is growing a moustache and Mastroeni – like a good little androgynous Argentine – now wears a cute little headband. The coach is an idiot and the players haven’t a clue. Honduras will now step on them on Saturday. Remember my prediction: the team will lose three straight. Oh, does Gulati blame last night’s loss on white people?

  15. Pumas Fan

    June 4, 2009 at 3:07 am

    Saprissa is at a 3/4 of a mile altitude so let’s prepare in Miami? No wonder 2/3’s of the guys had no gas left. Next time train in Denver or Flagstaff or Laramie or somewhere other than sea level. Sheesh. Poor showing, only Bradley and Torres – among the starters – seemed to get into a rhythm. Honduras is way better on the attack – bigger and more physical – than Costa Rica. Could be another long night at Soldier Field if the lads can’t shake off the rust.

  16. Esteban

    June 4, 2009 at 2:01 am

    Saprissa Strikes Again. Hey dudes!! im costarrican and i live in San José. I think that San José is the only place wher USA can’t win. I love my team you know but let’s face it!! It’s the same for us!!! Everytime we go to your country, we lose!!! This time, Costa Rica played so much better than USA but it’s not over and we all know that. So, don’t worry dudes!! Be happy and soccer rules!!!! hahaha

    PURA VIDA!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Phillip

    June 4, 2009 at 1:18 am


    We couldn’t control the ball due to the concrete pitch, but the poor first touches were inexusable.

    Blame for goals from my point of view:

    1) Beasley, Torres and Mastroeni
    2) Mastroeni, Wynne, Bocanegra, Gooch, Beasley
    3) Bradley, Bocanegra, Kljestan

    I don’t mind the Torres sub from the point of view that he’s just coming off of the Mexican season, went 90′ in the first leg of the Mexican Championship last Thursday, went 50’+ on Sunday in the second leg of the Mexican Championship, and not has to go 90′ on Saturday.

    Bob took a risk with Wynne and Beasley at the corners and both failed miserably. He was hoping that by placing two extremely fast players on the outside that they could keep up with the CR wingers, and they failed.

    Dempsey, Donovan, and Altidore were non-existent. That had as much to do with their service as their lack of effort. This was the perfect match for a Ching and Altidore combo up top. Unfortunately Ching’s hamstring derailed that.

    Disappointing? Yes. It’s still a better performance than what we put in in 2001 or 2005.

    For some unknown reason people still expect this team to roll over this region. “It’s so easy.” Of course these teams aren’t THAT difficult at home. The ridiculousness of most of the road venues in this region make it nearly impossible to win south of the border.

    Costa Rica has 1 loss at home since 2000. They’ve outscored their opponents 19-1 so far in this year’s WCQ at home.

    Mexico is pretty much the same.

    Honduras, too.

    And we’re pretty good at home, also.

    Bob experimented tonight and clearly it did not work out.

  18. Larro

    June 4, 2009 at 1:13 am

    Kartik- the 2001 and 2005 games were pathetic down there, but the game in 2000 was robbery. I know you talked about it the other day but got the player wrong- Berhalter not Lewis (easy to confuse as they are both on social security now and playing for the Gals.) So in reality this was just the third bad performance at Saprissa in a row and one, 2005 was with reserves. As you pointed out several times this week the Ticos in 2009 are worse than the Ticos in 2001 or 2005. So this was in fact the most humiliating and unacceptable performance of all time down there.

  19. IZZY

    June 4, 2009 at 1:10 am

    Torres was out of position on the first goal but played almost heroically after that. But he doesn’t fit bunker bob’s defensive philosphy and the goal at halftime by inserting Kljetsan appeared to be an effort to defend deeper and deper and hold the scoreline down. I mean do you realize how deep we defended AFTER the goals? We came out in the second half playing what looked like a 6-3-1. And we were down by two goals!

    Bradley must be fired. Sure we’ll beat Honduras at home, and get smashed whenever we play them on the road, but these types of performances show this team cannot be taken seriously in any way on the big stage. This is the toughest game every cycle in CONCACAF and they were out of it after 90 seconds. That’s a team of unskilled, overmatched players.

  20. Seybold

    June 4, 2009 at 1:08 am

    Nothing new? I’d say it is, but not in a good way re: Saprissa matches.

    In 1997, the USA controlled the ball reasonably well and fought back from deficits before eventually losing 3-2. Not a single player today had anything remotely resembling the composure on the ball Eric Wynalda had in that match. In 2000 they lost 2-1 on a dubious late penalty, after controlling the first three-quarters of the match with a 1-0 lead.

    Those were competitive, close matches. This was nothing of the sort. The 2005 match was irrelevant, it was the USA reserves that lost as the USA was already qualified. So this is different: previously, full USA teams were competitive at the Saprissa until the very end.

  21. Ian

    June 4, 2009 at 1:05 am

    CONCACAF as Kartik has pointed out regularly is tough on the road. When you have tired and somewhat disinterested players this tends to happen. Let’s face it: we have a bunch of guys who either don’t play key roles at their clubs or are in MLS, a third rate league.

    I agree with Philip. Torres played 90 for Pachuca last Thursday, 42 for them on Sunday, 45 for us today and will have to go 90 on Saturday. That’s a lot of soccer in ten short days, all of the Mexican final or WC qualifying variety. We weren’t going to win so give him a blow.

    I get Kartik’s point about our road woes. He’s said it regularly and been shot down by eternal optimists who don’t really understand how tough CONCACAF is on the road or how bad the US is from a technical standpoint when presured by decent opposition. What I don’t agree with him about is that this was like any other performance. Previously at Saprissa and Azteca we’d bunker and counter for 30-35 minutes before the dam broke.

    Tonight they should have scored in the 1st minute, and did in the 2nd and again in minute 13. Howard made a big save in minute 23 and Ruiz put a shot just over the crossbar in minute 27. That’s five major defensive lapses in 27 minutes when we were fresh. As the game went on the defending became more comical as it often has been in the past at Azteca and down in San Jose.

    The PK goal was meaningless and gift from the ref.

  22. T Rex

    June 4, 2009 at 12:57 am

    When you have a bunch of players either with no tactical sense, no technical skill or totally neutrered by a defensive minded coaching staff, 3-1 in a match where you were dominated and humiliated is a flattering scoreline which should make the players happy.

    Oh and someone pelase get John Harkes off the air. He said when the US got that pity pk goal at the end that the US had momentum heading into the Honduras game. Pleeeze.

    By the way, the US will not get to play a home game in the World Cup. So do you really think this team has a prayer of getting out of the group?

  23. John

    June 4, 2009 at 12:43 am

    An absolute disgrace. A joke. This is very typical of the Bradley/Arena regime on the road. Defenders that resort to hacking and chasing rather than working together and keeping their shape. Mid fielders that are playing so deep that they can’t spring a counter and any clearance inevitably goes right back to the opposition. Forwards with no service and absolutely no fire and leadership. The performance was pathetic. Nothing new as Kartik said. We hope for more but should expect this every time we go on the road against a decent opponent.

  24. Manuel

    June 4, 2009 at 12:35 am

    yes the USMNT played horrible. But also keep in mind that the stadium has artificial turf which is very difficult to get accustomed to. Costa Rica is very keen on playing there because it gives them an incredible advantage. Although the USMNT played horrible, I also believe the field played a major factor

  25. The Gaffer

    June 4, 2009 at 12:32 am

    Embarrassing. The way the U.S. played tonight reminded me of their performances in the 2007 Copa America where they looked completely outclassed and light years behind where the national team should be at this stage in their development.

    The Gaffer

  26. Tony

    June 4, 2009 at 12:32 am

    Kartik, a good piece and no nothing about this game is surprising. We’ve seen this script before and watched it before. But how is that acceptable? When will US Soccer make some serious changes, bringing in a new style of play and stop rewarding cronies both in management and on the field. Why the heck is DaMarcus Beasley playing when he can never get a game at Rangers? How many absolutely embarrassing performances do we need on the road before we stop sending talking points to all the bloggers and TV hosts that the US dominates CONCACAF and MLS is so strong. When do we finally wake up and realize we need a well thought out plan B?

  27. joe

    June 4, 2009 at 12:31 am

    torres played better than sasha please bradley keep sasha off the team and give a chance to coop!!!

  28. Roger

    June 4, 2009 at 12:26 am

    I guess I am one of those relatively new fans that had hopes, but saw them dashed in the most shocking of ways. Kartik, I do agree with your assessment, but feel a bit more dire about what it means. That they cannot get a win or result on the road bothers me and makes it look like it is going to be such a bad World Cup. That lineup had me excited and then to see the timid play (or scared as you say) and that they ran circles around us (did you see that third goal? It was freakin embarassing…i mean embarassing…like we were toddler running around chasing a dogs tail). Time for some defense


    Maybe Costa Rica is just plain excellent.

  29. Phillip

    June 4, 2009 at 12:25 am

    I’m thrilled that Torres was subbed out.

    He went 50+ minutes on Sunday. He went 45 minutes tonight. Now he has to go 90 minutes on Saturday.

  30. larry

    June 4, 2009 at 12:24 am

    Good write up on the game. Acres of space and no shape at the back. What the hell were these guys doing in training all week down there in Miami?????????????????????

  31. Eric

    June 4, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Kartik, excellent assessment. I remember you criticizing Beasley’s play at LB earlier in the year when I thought he did a good job, but you were right. I don’t want to see Beasley at LB anymore or anywhere on the field. He’s a sub at best now.
    Beasley and Mastroeni looked like they were strangers at a pick-up soccer game. Mastroeni can be blamed for both first half goals, and his and Beasley’s inability to pass or hold the ball without turning it over is what killed the US.
    Torres was the only bright spot. I want to criticize the defense, but when Mastroeni and Beasley simply don’t play It’s impossible to think of what Gooch or Wynne could have done better given the situation they were in.

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