Jurgen Klinsmann played the same lineup that faced Colombia, and it cruised past Costa Rica, rewarding Klinsmann’s faith.
CHICAGO — As long as he has been coaching the U.S. national team, Jurgen Klinsmann has been known as a man who likes to tinker with his lineups.
Not since the opening match of the 2014 World Cup, against Ghana, had the U.S. trotted out the exact same lineup as the previous match. In that instance the Americans were coming off a convincing 2-0 victory against Nigeria.
The U.S. wasn’t coming in off the high of a victory when it took the field against Costa Rica on Tuesday, but rather a 2-0 loss to Colombia. Jurgen Klinsmann insisted that his team had played well that day and matched the highly-rated Colombians, save for a pair of defensive mistakes.
That sounded a lot like spin at the time, but when Klinsmann trotted out the same lineup on Tuesday night against Costa Rica, he showed that he did believe his team had played well, and could be even better against the Ticos. It seemed like a gamble, but his players made it pay off in impressive fashion.
The Americans pressured Costa Rica into mistakes, capitalized on chances in a way they weren’t able to against Colombia, and closed out the match with a shutout despite Costa Rica dominating possession and finding chances in the second half.
Klinsmann’s men showed much more energy on Tuesday, as cooler temperatures here in the Windy City made for a much better environment for the U.S. to press a Costa Rica side that looked frazzled in the first half.
Costa Rica coach Oscar Ramirez was defiant in the post-match press conference, insisting that while the U.S. was efficient in finishing chances, he felt his Ticos were the better team from the run of play. The notion seemed a bit delirious considering the 4-0 scoreline, even if final stats gave Costa Rica clear edges in possession, passing accuracy and total passes.
The U.S. scored early and often on Tuesday, and carried a 3-0 lead into halftime before letting Costa Rica carry the play in the second half.
The Americans aren’t likely to care much about losing in the style points department. That earned them nothing against Colombia, and Tuesday provided a reminder that it’s much better to score goals than to earn moral victories.
Several players were criticized after the loss to Colombia – perhaps none more than Jermaine Jones, who simply didn’t have much of an impact in the Copa America opener. There were calls for him to be benched, in part to allow Klinsmann to play some youngsters, but the U.S. coach stuck by the veteran German-American and Jones showed why he still belongs in the lineup, playing his best national team match since the 2014 World Cup.
“Some players really stepped it up, Jermaine was one of them today, putting his stamp on this game,” Klinsmann said of Jones, who was named Man of the Match. “He kind of gave the message with Michael in the midfield that this is our game.”
Jones thrived in the 4-3-3 at the start, covering ground and helping limit what Costa Rica could do through the midfield, but he looked even more imposing once the U.S. switched to the 4-4-2. He surged forward, delivering passes and taking shots, one of which resulted in the goal that made the score 2-0.
“Today I knew that a big tournament could be over if we lose that game, so I tried to do my best for the team,” Jones said. “My quality, to get that freedom to go forward, to go back. Today was a completely different one than what we had with Colombia, so I went out there and tried to enjoy it.”
Jones was an imposing presence defensively, and dangerous in the attack. His production on both fronts was considerably better than it was against Colombia. Consider his defensive contributions consisted of zero tackles won and just three recoveries last Friday, where on Tuesday he produced five tackles won and nine recoveries. That increased production played a big part in helping the U.S. post the shutout, and keep control of the game.
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