The US Soccer team is not in danger of missing the 2010 World Cup. Even after last nights 3-1 loss to Costa Rica debacle, they are in second place in the CONCACAF qualifying group. The top 3 teams move on, so you will see the red, white, and blue in South Africa. The United States will probably beat Honduras on Saturday and defeat Costa Rica in the return game in October. That does not diminish the seriousness of what transpired on the pitch tonight.
America’s goals as a soccer nation should no longer just be to make the World Cup. Every competition we should strive to duplicate our 2002 performance, when we weren’t just happy to be there. We cannot make a statement with the kind of energy and lack of commitment they showed tonight.
We fell behind in the first minute. That happens, although it was the quickest score against the United States in qualifying history. What makes a strong team, one that can be a contender against the best Europe and South America have to offer; is the ability to rally and come back from that kind of mishap. Instead our team played tentative soccer, and our back line gave Costa Rica entirely too much space.
It’s true that we have never won in Costa Rica in a World Cup match. There is no dishonor in losing to the Costa Rican side; but Marvell Wynne, Oguchi Onyewu, and Carlos Bocanegra showed no desire to engage the Costa Ricans offensive attack. Goalie Tim Howard was given no help. The Costa Ricans second goal came from an unmarked player, Onyewu almost added an own goal, and with the game still in the balance Bocanegra failed to close on a rushing attacker giving him an unchallenged shot from close range.
Our offense was no better. Altidore, Adu, Dempsey, it didn’t matter. We created very few chances against the Costa Ricans. Our players seemed tentative and rusty. This is becoming an issue with how we train and choose our national team. Our soccer is not the best in the world, we are a second tier nation in talent. Our league does not pay competitively or offer the stiffest competition. Fortunately, we have many players that interest big European clubs. Unfortuantely, they are viewed as role players by those clubs. Therefore the guys we count on most, like Beasley, Altidore, Edu, mostly ride the pines in Europe’s best leagues. Then we expect them to be ready to go when we need them. They certainly weren’t tonight.
Coach Bob Bradley has a few days to get them ready for Honduras. I fully expect him to get the job done, but we need to look more long term. When you don’t have the best talent you can’t have lapses in effort. Games like last nights won’t kill us in CONCACAF, but will embarrass us against the world’s best in South Africa.