It’s must-win time for U.S. Soccer.
The men’s national team takes on Costa Rica at Soldier Field on Tuesday in the Copa America Centenario and, after dropping a 2-0 game to Colombia in the opener, it will be a must-win game.
No one is denying that.
“I think we all do understand what’s at stake,” U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann said at his press conference on Monday. “It’s a must-win situation when you lose your first one. There’s only two games left so you got to get your first three points and then you see how things will play out in the third game. Tomorrow night we are full of energy, full of optimism to get those three points.”
Costa Rica is coming off a scoreless draw with Paraguay so they sit just one point ahead of the U.S. With Colombia looming in Costa Rica’s finale, Tuesday’s game is crucial for both sides.
“I think it is going to be a defining game in our group,” Costa Rica manager Oscar Ramirez said through a translator.
There is pressure on both teams, but it’s not hard to make the argument about how there could be more for the Americans. A loss would eliminate the U.S., but even a tie would require the U.S. to get some help from other results to get out of Group A.
The last time Costa Rica beat the U.S. on American soil in something other than a friendly was 1989. That’s a different era for U.S. Soccer, back before the U.S. started making every World Cup.
“In a tournament like this if you don’t get points in the first game, right away in the second game it’s important to turn around and get a result,” U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley said. “We certainly understand that.”
Much has been made of how Jurgen Klinsmann spoke about the team’s performance against Colombia. Despite the 2-0 loss, Klinsmann again repeated that he thought it was “a good performance.”
Defender Geoff Cameron stuck to that tune as well on Monday.
“We watched video, we see things, we know as players we can do things better, but we can take positives out of the game,” Cameron said. “Colombia is No. 3 in the world, they’re a very good team, they have a lot of good players, but they didn’t play us off the pitch. Two goals, a penalty and a set piece. That’s not saying they dominated us or crushed us.”
Regardless of how the performance against Colombia is viewed, the U.S. has to play better or else it could be the first team out of the tournament.
“We need to play better,” Bradley said. “There’s no question about that. To win big games you need a lot of guys to have good days.”
Bradley is the son of former Chicago Fire coach Bob Bradley and as a result spent some of his childhood in the Chicago area. After playing in front of a crowd that appeared to have more Colombia fans than U.S. fans, Bradley was asked if Chicago would have a more pro-U.S. crowd.
“We certainly hope,” Bradley said. “But the reality is that we never know exactly what to expect in terms of the makeup of the crowd.”