September 4, 2011


U.S.'s finishing problem persists (Luke Cyphers and Doug McIntyre, 9/03/11, ESPN)

The U.S. completely dominated the Ticos for most of the first half.

"Felt like it was 5-0," keeper Tim Howard said afterward.

"The way we combined, the way people looked for each other, and the way they passed out of very difficult, tight spaces was good to see," Klinsmann said. "There was confidence there, there was technical ability there."

But there was not a goal there. Most shocking? At intermission, Costa Rica had a 2-0 edge in shots on goal.

The U.S. often flowed and combined seamlessly in the attacking half of the field for the first half hour of the match, with Jozy Altidore taking passes from Landon Donovan and distributing cleverly to Brek Shea flying down the wing, and Jose Torres finding seams for cutters all night. But ultimately the buildups were a tease, with the Yanks too often over-passing or waiting a split-second too long to feed a ball through the Ticos' back line.

On at least two occasions, Altidore was caught offside because winger Robbie Rogers' through-ball was a beat late. And on the Yanks' best-executed combination of the night, an open Donovan slid his shot just wide of the post in the sixth minute. "Certainly my chance, I've got to at least hit the target," Donovan said. "A few other chances we had, if you get a shot on goal maybe something happens. We can be a little better with that."

The missed opportunities stood out even more on a night when the usually dangerous U.S. set pieces fizzled.

While Klinsmann's New Age-y optimism has been the talk of this week's camp among the players -- "positive energy" is their new catchphrase -- on Friday night the coach implied that his team needs to be less Tony Robbins and more Gordon Gekko near the goal. "You've got to be even more determined -- another piece of determination and another piece of being greedy for that goal," he said. "I think more nastiness is part of it, too. ... We need to step up a little bit more and be more hungry in that moment and finish up one of our chances."

As Howard said, "Goals change games, simple as that."

Playing just one striker is the sort of craven formation that teams about to be relegated use against big clubs on the road. Jozy did his usual good job holding up the ball but the defense could pile on him since he had no outlet. Instead of Rodgers, Juan Agudello should have started up front, as, indeed, Altidore and Agudello should be played together at every available opportunity. And, given that it was a home game against a team we should beat, a third forward would have been appropriate.

Posted by at September 4, 2011 8:30 AM

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