Christian Pulisic, United States bullied and beaten in shock Costa Rica loss
On the verge of solidifying their place in the Hex and stepping closer to Russia 2018, the U.S. national team fell 2-0 to Costa Rica on Friday in a shocking defeat at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
The United States was the better team in the run of play, but it hardly mattered. Outside of a few reasonably strong individual performances (in the case of Jozy Altidore, one undone by a yellow card), there's little to highlight for the Americans.
Most damaging for the U.S. was the poor collective performance that undermined their possession advantage. The final pass was missing all night on the attacking end. Forced to play from behind because of a simple turnover and bad goalkeeping, the Americans were never able to assert themselves against an organized Ticos side. The whole U.S. lineup didn't work because its component parts were not set up to succeed.
Manager rating out of 10:
3 -- It starts with the lineup chosen by head coach Bruce Arena. The group looked individually strong, but tactical holes quickly appeared. Fabian Johnson was off the pace all night, and Michael Bradley suffered from a lack of support in a midfield that opened up for Costa Rican attacks. Sloppy passing isn't on Arena, but the disconnected nature of the midfield and back line exacerbated problems caused by turnovers.
Down a goal into the second half, Arena was slow to adapt with substitutions that could have shifted the balance of the game. In response to the lack of a scoring edge, Arena turned to attacking options Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris when the U.S. might have benefited more from a two-way midfielder in front of Bradley.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Tim Howard, 4 -- Culpable on the opening Costa Rica goal, despite the defensive error that put him under pressure. Slow to react and played the angle poorly.
DF Graham Zusi, 4.5 -- Competent defensively in the first half, but looked unwilling to get involved on the attacking end when the U.S. needed him in the second half.
DF Geoff Cameron, 3 -- Part of a disastrous night for the center of the American defense. Gave the ball away easily and without pressure on numerous occasions.
DF Tim Ream, 3.5 -- Guilty of major gaffes in both halves that led to chances and goals for Costa Rica. Sloppy in possession.
DF Jorge Villafana, 4 -- Off the pace of the game for most of the 65 minutes he was on. Poor going forward and was beaten to too many second balls.
MF Christian Pulisic, 5 -- Lacked the sharpness needed to make the most of his touches. Seemed to be bullied out of the game by Costa Rica's physical approach.
MF Michael Bradley, 5.5 -- Left on an island because Darlington Nagbe contributed little on the defensive side. Influential in places.
MF Darlington Nagbe, 6 -- Up-and-down game, largely because of the position he was asked to play. Moved the ball out of midfield with his dribble but wasn't strong enough defensively.
MF Fabian Johnson, 4 -- Mostly anonymous. Didn't give enough help tracking back and showed massive signs of rust from his lack of playing time at the club level.
FW Bobby Wood, 5 -- Pushed in behind the Costa Rica defense on occasion, but not enough to keep the Ticos honest. Killed several moves with bad touch.
FW Jozy Altidore, 6 -- The best of a bad lot for much of the game, but let emotions get the best of him with a yellow card that will see him suspended against Honduras on Tuesday.
MF Clint Dempsey, 4 -- Never reached the level necessary to impact the game with his 35 minutes.
FW Jordan Morris, NR -- Had a limited impact as the United States pressed desperately for an equalizer.
MF Paul Arriola, NR -- Made a cameo when the game was already decided.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.