The U.S. Men’s National Team was legitimately terrible from start to finish on Tuesday night, falling 4-0 to Costa Rica in an important World Cup qualifier.
The rout, which came on the heels of a 2-1 defeat to Mexico on Friday, marks the team’s worst shutout loss in a World Cup qualifier since 1957. It also puts head coach Jurgen Klinsmann in some very hot water.
Through their first two games of the CONCACAF hexagonal, the Americans have managed zero points. They now find themselves in a precarious spot: with the top three teams advancing out of the six-country group and the bottom two eliminated, the USMNT currently sits fourth.
There’s still plenty of time left to right the ship (eight more games, to be exact), and Costa Rica and Mexico are the two most difficult opponents the USMNT will face in the hex. But after such an embarrassing performance on Tuesday, Klinsmann may not be the one in charge to right things.
Against Costa Rica, Klinsmann trotted out an extremely conservative lineup, which managed just one shot on goal over the course of the 90 minutes. Offensively, the entire team was flat; even 18-year-old American prodigy Christian Pulisic, in his first competitive game in Central American, looked to have tired legs. The conservative approach from Klinsmann was curious in itself, but even more so in light of his puzzling approach against Mexico. After that loss, several players — including captain Michael Bradley — questioned openly his decision-making.
Costa Rica, meanwhile, undoubtedly deserves credit for netting four (including three in 10 minutes in the second half) against the USMNT. But the story of the game was the terrible defence from the American back four. They struggled to clear the ball out of the air, to deal with crosses and balls over the top, and even to play the ball out of the back.
The third goal was a gift from American center back John Brooks:
The fourth, too, was the result of the USMNT’s startling inability to deal with a ball over the top:
What was especially jarring about their loss on Tuesday night was how little effort the team gave by the final whistle. The USMNT has suffered plenty of routs over the years, but they always at least appear to be trying hard. That wasn’t even the case in Costa Rica.
The drubbing was so bad that even before the final whistle Klinsmann’s firing was a hot topic on Twitter.
It’s a rare fballing nation that wouldn’t change mgrs after tonite, on 0 pts after 2 gms,4-0 loss. Is this American exceptionalism?staytuned
— Bob Ley (@BobLeyESPN) November 16, 2016
Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reported that should Klinsmann get the boot, former USMNT head coach Bruce Arena would be the heavy favourite to replace him:
If Klinsmann is fired, the name most likely to replace him: Bruce Arena.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) November 16, 2016
Perhaps most damaging of all, the next morning Wahl shared a statement from US Soccer boss Sunil Gulati, whose comment on Klinsmann’s job security in light of the Costa Rica match was far from a vote of confidence:
Klinsmann’s tenure with the USMNT has been consistently up and down, but never has the chorus been louder for his dismissal. The American team may not win the 2018 World Cup, but the talent pool is too good to lose 4-0 to any CONCACAF opposition. That they did is on Klinsmann and his ability as a tactician.
The USMNT’s next qualifier doesn’t come until March, when they play Honduras. They will need all three points — with or without Klinsmann as their coach.
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