Jozy Altidore wants U.S. to take hard look in mirror after Costa Rica loss
Jozy Altidore believes he and his United States teammates need to take a look in the mirror following a humiliating 4-0 loss to Costa Rica in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.
The Americans were overrun by Los Ticos, who badly exposed the U.S. defense, and offered little purchase in the attacking third to hand Jurgen Klinsmann's team a second-consecutive loss to start the Hexagonal stage on the road to Russia.
The U.S. was undone on Friday by a last-gasp Rafa Marquez header to lose 2-1 to Mexico, in a match in which Klinsmann's tactics came under fire after he lined the team up in a rarely used 3-5-2 formation to start the game.
Altidore, 27, played down suggestions that the team's tactics were to blame following the two defeats, instead suggesting it was time for the team to do some soul searching before qualifying resumes in March of 2017.
"It is about playing for the shirt and having that desire to come out here and compete," Altidore said. "The other stuff is irrelevant, the tactics, how your formation is. First you have to come out here and you have play for the shirt and what it represents. And we need to be better. I wish I had all the answers but at the end of the day we lacked that.
"It is part of being professional. You take it for what it is. You don't sweep it under the rug by any means. You look at it, analyze it and figure out how to be better. It is on us to stay forward.
"[It is about] looking at each other in the mirror. Being honest with each other and having some honest conversations. Going all around the room and making sure when we are coming back in March, the first thing we are doing is competing."
U.S. captain Michael Bradley echoed those sentiments, while articulating some of the unique challenges that playing for the national team presents coaches and players.
"The reality is that it is a unique situation," Bradley said. "This isn't a club team where you go back and you have all sorts of time together. Regardless there is a need to support each other in moments like this. It does no good to point fingers and be looking around trying to figure out who you can throw under the bus.
"That is not how it works and that's not what a real team is all about. It has just not been good enough this week, we all understand that and come March there is going to be the need to go after things in a strong way so we can start to put things right."
Those were strong words of solidarity from Bradley, who was called out by his manager along with Jermaine Jones following the Mexico loss for failing to execute the team's gameplan in midfield in the opening 25 minutes of the match.
Bradley and Jones implored Klinsmann to change his tactics against Mexico. The German coach did change things back to a 4-4-2 in that game and the team found an equalizer and had chances to win in the second half following the shift in formation.
Following the Costa Rica loss, Klinsmann did not directly criticize his players and said he still believed he was the right man to lead the team to Russia when asked by reporters.
"I think so," Klinsmann said. "But I obviously understand that when you lose two games, and especially to World Cup qualifiers right after each other, there will be a lot of comments. That's just part of the job.
"I told the team at the end that in the last cycle, we lost here [away to Costa Rica], too. We know we have to come back right away in March against Honduras at home.
"It doesn't matter about the system. It's about the collective compactness of the team. It's about the willingness to fight back. After the second goal, they didn't have that power or that drive to get back into the game. So absolutely you question a lot of things that you have done, and I take full responsibility. Six months ago we went to the semifinal at the Copa America Centenario. And now we have two defeats at the start of the Hexagonal. And that's how fast things can go in sports and soccer.
"When you lose 4-0 there are issues, absolutely. It's definitely the defeat that hurts the most in my five years. There's no doubt about it."
ESPN FC writer Doug McIntyre contributed to this story.
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