Despite what Gregg Berhalter, Earnie Stewart, and Carlos Cordeiro have tried to tell US fans, 2019 was a resounding disappointment for the USMNT.
A trio of ugly friendly losses to Jamaica, Venezuela, and Mexico, failing to win the Gold Cup, and then losing to Canada for the first time since Ronald Reagan was president do not constitute a successful calendar year. Nor were any of the wins anything to write home about: a Guyana team ranked 177th in the world, a typical rock fight 1-0 result against Panama, a 1-0 win over Curacao (in which the US was outplayed, out-hustled, outshot, and outworked) and then a pair of blowouts against Cuba in the Nations League. But with the calendar flipping to 2020 there comes that dangerous feeling of optimism that US fans get trapped by all too often. With a new year is the chance to start fresh and see what Gregg Berhalter’s much ballyhooed master plan is made of. The first opponent is a team the US actually managed to beat by more than one goal in 2019: Costa Rica.
The roster for this January Camp is predictably MLS heavy (as it always is for the January Camp). Of the 22 players on the roster for the Costa Rica game, just three are not based in MLS (Christian Cappis of Hobro in Denmark, Uly Llanez of Wolfsburg in Germany, and Bryang Kayo who is currently without a club).
While it seems that Berhalter couldn’t resist calling in a few of his favorite players (Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola, and Aaron Long) most of the players here have fewer than ten caps for the US. In fact, 16 of the 22 players have appeared fewer that ten times for the US and of those 16, twelve of them have never played for the US before. Goalscoring (which has already proven very difficult for the US to do against teams with anything resembling talent or a gameplan so far under Berhalter) will be at a premium as only five of the players have scored for the US. Of those five, only Zardes has double digits.
One of the positives of so many young and uncapped players is Berhalter’s stated intention to get these guys some experience at the full international level in order to help prepare them for Olympic Qualifying in March. While many of the decisions and results under the current US Soccer regime can certainly be questioned, they deserve to be applauded (for now) for appearing to prioritize qualifying for the Olympics in Tokyo this summer. Not only are some of these new faces getting experience, but Berhalter has said that it’s possible that a number of the full national team players who are age-eligible could participate in Olympic qualifying as well. Having missed the last two Olympic tournaments in London 2012 and Rio 2016, getting to Tokyo is vital.
Costa Rica had a rough 2019. They finished with a record of 4-6-3 (W-L-D). They got the year started with a 2-0 loss to the US. Their campaign at the Gold Cup was less than stellar (for some reason Costa Rica never performs well at the Gold Cup) as they finished runners-up in Group B and fell to Mexico in the quarter-finals, exiting via a penalty shootout. And while they topped their Nations League group and advanced to the next round (to face Mexico) it wasn’t pretty: 1-1 against Haiti, 0-0 against Curacao, 2-1 over Curacao, and 1-1 against Haiti. Their roster for this game is based entirely in either Costa Rica or MLS. The MLS players are a number of the usual suspects and a few new guys: Giancarlo Gonzalez of LA Galaxy with 80 caps, Ronald Matarrita of NYCFC with 36 caps, Joseph Mora of DC United with 3 caps, Randall Leal of Nashville SC with 15 games, Ulises Segura of DC United with 8 caps, Luis Diaz of the Columbus Crew with 2 caps, and Marvin Loria of the Portland Timbers with 1 cap. But the key guy for the US defense to watch is long-time Tico, Marco Urena, who at ejust 29 has already amassed 65 caps and 15 goals.
1. Most of the training for this camp (including a pair of exhibitions against European club teams) was scheduled to take place in Qatar. However due to tensions in the region arising from airstrikes against Iran, the camp was moved back to the US.
2. Saturday’s game against Costa Rica will be the 13th January Camp game at Dignity Health Sports Park for the US.
3. The last time the US played Costa Rica in Carson in September of 2011, the Ticos won 1-0 in Jurgen Klinsmann’s second game in charge.
Series tied 16-16-6
Saturday, February 2, 2019
San Jose, California
USA 2-0 Costa Rica
Current FIFA Ranking
Costa Rica: 46
Netherlands vs. USA
Thursday, March 26, 2020
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