by Ronald Bloom ap sports writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The U.S. soccer team has the personalities of Jekyll and Hyde, making it difficult to determine who will perform for Wednesday night’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica.
During Sunday’s 1-0 defeat in Panama, the Americans were as steady as the ships parked outside the canal.
“It’s really disappointing to see the team, especially when we’re not playing as well as we can,” said Antony Robinson, who didn’t make the trip because of the British COVID-19 restrictions. “It’s frustrating not to be able to watch and try and help.”
America flowed during the second half of a 4-1 win in Honduras last month and a 2-0 win at the Tour of Jamaica last week. Play was chaotic during the initial 0–0 draw in El Salvador and a 1–1 home draw against Canada.
A section of the fan base who is panicked and skeptical following the failure to access the 2018 World Cup hyperventilate at DEFCON1 in response to any hiccups.
American coach Greg Berhalter swapped seven starters in Panama in an attempt to prepare a fresh leg against Costa Rica, and the team that had already ruled out Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna due to injuries, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Couldn’t make many passes without Brendan Aaronson. The Americans failed to make a single shot at the target.
“When I took responsibility for the result on the second day, it was not aimed at the players, because we believe in every single player on this team,” Berhalter said on Tuesday. “I don’t regret playing that lineup at any moment. I’m more sorry about my performance and some of the aggressive adjustments we could have made in that game to be more mobile, to walk more, but not to personnel.
Mexico qualifies CONCACAF with 11 points after five from 14 matches, and the US has eight ahead of Panama on goal difference. Canada are with seven and Costa Rica six after rallying for a 2-1 win at home over El Salvador.
El Salvador has five points, Honduras has three and Jamaica has two points.
Number 44 Costa Rica has qualified for four of the last five World Cups, missing in 2010. The 13th-ranked America has lost three straight qualifiers against the Ticos: 3–1 and 4–0 on the road and 2–0 in New Jersey.
“It’s massive. It’s a really big game. We all have to be prepared for it. There’s no other option,” said defender Walker Zimmermann. “You look at your home games, those games are like that. Those are the ones you have to win and when you don’t get any results on the road they become more important.”
In 66 home qualifiers since 1976, the Americas have had 51 wins, 11 draws and four losses: two each to Costa Rica (1986, 2017) and one each to Mexico (2016) and Honduras (2001).
Robinson (knee) and McKennie (quadriceps) are uncertain for an American team that has made a slow start to regulars.
The Americans have had difficulty breaking both the high press and the low block. They have gone without a score in eight consecutive first stops since Shaq Moore’s 20-second goal against Canada in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and Sunday’s second half was downright inactive.
“It’s just a testament that we’re building confidence in sports,” Robinson said. “Maybe moving forward means we need to be a little more ruthless.”
Costa Rican forward Joel Campbell will miss the match due to a sprain in his right ankle, and forward Jose Guillermo Ortiz due to a positive COVID-19 test. He was replaced by Christian Bolaos, a 37-year-old winger with Saprisa, and lvaro Saborio, 39, with San Carlos.
“The whole thing took me by surprise,” Bolanos said. “I was training with my club and all the requirements had to be met very fast. Years are passing by but nothing is more proud than playing for your country
Costa Rica introduced five players aged 32 or older in Sunday’s win over El Salvador, and the others were at least 27.
“I don’t have a complete picture of the situation in Costa Rican football, but we really need to assess the work in the youth divisions,” said coach Luis Fernando Suarez.
Berhalter coached Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew from 2013–18, and the American team played five consecutive home qualifiers against Mexico at the old Columbus Crew Stadium, including four “dos a cero” before a 2–1 loss in 2016. win the game The crew moved to their new downtown stadium in July.
“The fans are the core fans of Major League Soccer. They’re the ones who go back from day one,” Berhalter said. “And it’s a special atmosphere.”
US still building home-field advantage
Zimmerman marveled at the crowd at the Estadio Rommel Fernández, almost all dressed in the reds of the Panama team, a mass that beat in unison and resonated like a nest of hornets leading the hosts.
“It was a great environment. You always want to play in an environment where there is intensity, there is energy among the crowd,” said the American defender. “No different from what we experienced in Salvador and Honduras.”
Team USA’s loss to Panama on Sunday night again highlighted the Americans’ loss on the road in Central America, where it doesn’t take long to get them out like this: heat, humidity, subpar surfaces, pristine stadiums and dressing and showers. Back to Hotel Mano High School. Flying alone is exhausting: Panama City is further south than Caracas and Barranquilla.
Three nights after looking so good during their 2-0 win over Jamaica on home soil, America failed to score a single shot on target. The Americans’ five shots fell short of Berhalter’s and their expected 0.22 target was less than half the previous nadir.
To qualify for the World Cup, a team usually has to win home games and probably score sporadic points on the road.
There are two aspects to the United States’ failure to reach the 2018 World Cup against Costa Rica on Wednesday night.
The Americans went on to win 32 consecutive home games, 30 of them without defeat in World Cup qualifying, before a 2–0 loss against Mexico at the old Mapfrey Stadium in Columbus in November 2016. Ten months later, the Americans lost, 2–0, to Costa Rica at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, a defeat that proved costly when they won 2–1 in Trinidad and Tobago the following month and Russia. One point away from getting it.
Prior to the final round, the US had not been defeated in a home qualifier since a 3–2 loss to Honduras at RFK Stadium in Washington in September 2001. Then-coach Bruce Arena criticized the US Soccer Federation’s decision to play the game. The place where the number of opposing fans exceeded that of the US
“Only in America, I think, are we fighting for the advantage of a home turf,” Arena said.
Since then the USSF, helped by the creation of MLS locations, has attempted to find a pro-American environment, though occasionally slips in examples such as the 2017 loss in New Jersey.
Crowds of 43,028 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville and 20,500 at the new Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas supported America in the first two qualifiers of this cycle, led by the American Outlaws, a supporter group that has grown in numbers and Even travels in road sports. limited number.
Clad in red, white and blue, American fans clapped, but the way Central American fans harassed America didn’t intimidate opponents
The five remaining home matches are an opportunity for 15 points, enough for one in three guaranteed berths.
“We have to be prepared to win our home games,” Zimmerman said.