BRIAN SCIARETTA - Saturday, March 23, 2013
In a game that will never be forgotten by anyone who watched on TV, the United States defeated Costa Rica on Friday night.
Played in a driving snowstorm, it was a crucial World Cup qualifier for the US team and a game it needed pick up three points. Despite all the turmoil of the past week, the US team managed to succeed and will now head to Mexico without the pressure of needing a win at Azteca - something it has never done in an official competition.
It's really difficult to draw too many conclusions from this game since it was played in brutal conditions of a driving snow storm. Making skillful plays was near impossible and no team really had a game plan for a game like this.
That being said, here are a few things to take away
It's about heart
The USMNT was having a difficult weak leading up to the game against Costa Rica. Several players went to the press to express displeasure with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Despite all that, in a game where skill was neutralized, the ability to win this game came down to heart and toughness. Those two attributes can carry the team a long way in a tournament even if the team is not in synch. It's a great attribute that helped carry the team since the late 80's when it first began to compete well internationally after nearly four decades in soccer oblivion.
In such a game as this, the ball doesn't roll the way it should and it becomes impossible to play quick one touch ball. What wins this game are intangibles and the US team had the advantage in that area.
That's why players such as DaMarcus Beasley, Clarence Goodson, Jermaine Jones, and Clint Dempsey were the keys to the victory. Veteran leadership paid dividends.
One potential concern is that with the rumors of a rift between the German-Americans and the rest of the team, does the fact that the US team bonded together for win in a game where only one German-American played help this problem? That is still to be determined.
DaMarcus Beasley is back
Since Klinsmann was hired in 2011, DaMarcus Beasley hasn't really fit into Klinsmann's plans. That could well change despite the Indiana native now on the wrong side of 30.
Beasley played left back and was perhaps the best player on the field against Costa Rica. Beasley consistently making good plays on both sides of the ball and helped give the Americans an edge in a game they desperately needed.
I remain skeptical that Beasley is a viable option at left back except in an emergency. The position is still in good hands with Fabian Johnson and Edgar Castillo. Still Beasley seems like a great fit for this team. He's a player that has been through many, many ups and downs in his career and knows how to deal with the pressure of a big game.
Klinsmann's team still has issues with width and Beasley is still a playmaker out wide and can help the team in many different areas. Even when the injured players return to the team, Beasley will still play a role.
The backline held up
By now, everyone knows about the injuries to the US defense. Without its starting goalkeeper and top eight fullbacks in Fabian Johnson, Edgar Castillo, Steve Cherundolo, Timmy Chandler, Michael Parkhurst, and Jonathan Spector, the remaining contingent played well and came up with a shutout.
Geoff Cameron struggled to get forward but Costa Rica did not have much success attacking on Cameron's side. Omar Gonzalez was vastly improved over his poor outing against Honduras, and Clarence Goodson proved that even after a poor series of games, he can still come up big.
A decade ago, the US national team would not have been able to win a game with this many injuries.
I am very reluctant to even do match ratings since the conditions were so poor and it's next to impossible to draw many conclusions other than the fact the team won this with tremendous grit.
Still, the game was played and there are always conditions to overcome.
Brad Guzan - 7 - A few moments of nervousness but he responded to the challenged and didn't allow a goal.
Geoff Cameron - 6.5 - Playing at right back where he plays for Stoke but has never played for the US team, Cameron struggled to get forward and turned the ball over too much but Costa Rica did not have success going down his side.
Omar Gonzalez - 7 - It was a very nice comeback game from Gonzalez who struggled against Honduras but was vastly improved against Costa Rica.
Clarence Goodson - 7.5 - After having a poor series of games to close out 2012, many thought Goodson's international career was over. Minutes will still be tough for Goodson to earn in the future but he proved he has the ability to still come up big.
DaMarcus Beasley - 7.5 - MAN OF THE MATCH - It was a turn back the clock game for Beasley who reminded everyone that he can still be a factor for the US team. He showed ability in both offense, defense, and in mental toughness. Castillo and Johnson will soon return to the team from injuries but Klinsmann will still likely have use for Beasley.
Jermaine - 7 - In a game that required a lot of dirty work, Jones was able to excel. It wasn't pretty but Jones handled his defensive midfield responsibilities well and was a big factor in the win.
Michael Bradley - 7 - In a different role than Jones, Bradley was as tidy as you can be in the conditions and made the short passes which were the only real possible options in the snow.
Graham Zusi - 5.5 - It was not the best of nights for Graham Zusi who struggled in the elements more than most. Moving forward he was not as dangerous as he could be but he was better defensively.
Clint Dempsey - 7.5 - After being named the team's captain earlier in the week, Dempsey came up big when needed and was very dangerous in the first half. In the second half, the elements neutralized him a bit but that's to be expected.
Herculez Gomez - 6.5 - Like many of the team's older players, Gomez played like a leader in a game where leadership was needed. He was also effective in combining with Altidore and Dempsey. He fits the team well.
Jozy Atidore - 7.0 - Altidore was huge for the US team even while some people are wondering why he still isn't scoring. The bottom line is that the team doesn't win the game without Altidore's presence on Saturday. With Gomez and Dempsey frequently drifting back into the midfield, Altidore didn't get a chance to combine quickly with other attackers (which has been a big reason for his breakout AZ Alkmaaer). For the US team he has to do different things and against Costa Rica he was effective in his hold up play. His shot lead to Dempsey's goal and that was the difference.
[b]Eddie Johnson - 5.5 The game was a total mess when Johnson entered. Still he was pretty good in helping maintain possession as the US team killed the clock.
Maurice Edu - 6.0 - Edu will likely have a huge task ahead in Azteca where he could earn the start. Against Costa Rica, Edu came into help preserve the win and Edu was successful in that.
Kyle Beckerman - NR - As a late sub, Beckerman did not play enough to earn a grade.
DSG Park Grounds Crew - 10 - A massive kudos have to go to the ground crew a DSG Park because this game does not get played with out them.
American Outlaws - 10 - Similar to the games in Kansas City and Columbus last year during World Cup qualifying, the US team needed great fan support and the American Outlaws brought it despite the bad conditions. In fact, they seem to enjoy it more as the conditions went on. Great stuff and this supporters group is a massive asset to the US team.