Before this round of World Cup qualifiers, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati made it very clear that Jurgen Klinsmann's job was not on the line.
"We have not had a coach in 27 years that has started World Cup qualifying and not finished World Cup qualifying," Gulati said. "We've never changed coaches in the Hex, and I expect that to be the case here."
Following the United States' embarrassing 4-0 defeat by Costa Rica on Tuesday, he might be forced to reconsider that position.
It was clear from the start that the U.S. was not prepared for their opposition. In the seventh minute, Johan Venegas nutmegged John Brooks and forced Brad Guzan into an excellent save. Guzan had to save a Bryan Ruiz bicycle kick with his face. Timmy Chandler and Jermaine Jones picked up yellow cards that will see them suspended for March's game against Honduras. The Americans completed 63 percent of their passes in the first half. And despite that, they almost got to halftime with a clean sheet.
But Johnny Acosta changed that in the 44th minute. Brooks turned the ball over off a poor pass by Jones, who then failed to challenge for the ball. Los Ticos worked the ball wide to Christian Bolanos, who crossed for Venegas to head in at the near post.
Things started to get embarrassing in the 69th minute, when Bolanos added a goal to his assist and otherwise impressive performance. Ruiz set it up with an excellent cross from the right wing, and Bolanos had an easy finish after beating Chandler.
Then Joel Campbell, arguably Costa Rica's most dangerous attacker, came off the bench. With the USMNT already low on confidence and needing to push forward, they never had a chance to slow him down. He scored in the 74th minute off a Brooks turnover, then added a second goal four minutes later after a long ball by Ronald Matarrita beat the entire American defense.
Klinsmann is not the entirety of the problems with the USMNT, He's probably not even a majority of their problems. But they looked indisciplined on Friday, and on Tuesday night they refused to fight. That — and not the bad result — will force Gulati to reconsider his position.
Costa Rica: Keylor Navas, Johnny Acosta, Kendall Waston, Michael Umaña, Ronald Matarrita, Celso Borges, Randall Azofeifa (Yeltsin Tejada 70'), Jose Salvatierra, Bryan Ruiz (Rodney Wallace 84'), Christian Bolanos, Johan Venegas (Joel Campbell 67')
Goals: Venegas (44'), Bolanos (68'), Campbell (74', 78')
United States: Brad Guzan, Matt Besler, John Brooks, Omar Gonzalez, Timmy Chandler, Christian Pulisic (Lynden Gooch 70'), Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones (Sacha Kljestan 71'), Fabian Johnson (Graham Zusi 77'), Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood
Costa Rica had a plan. The USMNT didn't.
The most striking thing about this game was how well Costa Rica was organized on the rare occasion the USMNT got a hold of the ball and worked it over the halfway line with some competency. Even though Costa Rica could expect to be on the front foot for much of this game, and committed numbers forward, they knew what to do when they lost the ball. Their pressing was limited but effective, and their back line stayed in shape well. When they got the ball, they had multiple ways to build from the back. The USMNT looked confused about what they were trying to do at all times.
If Jermaine Jones isn't fit, why is he playing?
Jones probably still has something left to give the USMNT — just not right now. He's been injured for months and played just two games for the Colorado Rapids leading into this camp, neither to completion. He looked sloppy on the ball and unwilling to go full speed into challenges against Mexico and Costa Rica. He had no business starting these games.
Joel Campbell is a monster off the bench.
After Costa Rica's win over Trinidad and Tobago, I commented that Campbell should be a starter for Costa Rica. On Tuesday, he showed why he might be best as a sub. After Johan Venegas spent the entire game running, wearing down the USMNT defense, Campbell came into the game with a burst of pace that the Americans weren't equipped to handle.