The 12-match winning streak finally came to an end. And by an end, I mean a screeching halt.
The United States fell hard to Costa Rica 3-1 in San Jose, Costa Rica and brought the Americans down to earth for the first time since the start of the year. The U.S. was never in the game and it sets them back a bit in World Cup qualifying.
But there’s absolutely no reason to press the panic button just yet for this team.
First off, games in CONCACAF are incredibly hard to play in. The stadiums are probably the toughest in the world. Unlike stadiums here in the U.S. and across Europe, the stadiums down in Central America and the Caribbean are not the best places in the world. I certainly wouldn’t travel there just to see each country’s national stadium. Most of them are old, aging and flat out dangerous.
Also, the fans there don’t just want to beat you–they almost want to kill you, or at the very least injure you. Before last night’s game, there was talk about how Costa Rican fans would throw batteries at opposing players and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. At Mexico’s Estadio Azteca, during both the U.S. friendly last August and the World Cup qualifier in March, there was someone with a green laser pointer shining it right into the eyes of keeper Tim Howard.
Those aren’t the most ideal circumstances to play in. To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting much from last night considering the U.S. has a very poor record playing Costa Rica on the road. I would have been satisfied with a draw, as I am with all CONCACAF games.
The U.S. scenario for qualifying has changed either. They still need to get four points the rest of the way to advance to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The three remaining games for the U.S. are at home against Mexico (Sept. 10) and Jamaica (Oct. 11) and at Panama (Oct. 15) to finish off the qualifying schedule. Jamaica should be an easy “W”, meaning that the U.S. would only need a draw in one of those two other matches.
Of course, the loss is a pretty big setback. For one, Costa Rica has now taken the lead in the CONCACAF qualifying group. It also has killed the momentum of the U.S.’s 12-match win streak. It brings the team back to earth.
But it could be a lot worse. Mexico blew a 1-0 lead at home and currently sits in fourth in the group. If things were to stay that way, Mexico would have to play a South American team in a home-and-home playoff to advance to the World Cup. Mexican head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre very well could be on his way out as well and the Mexican side hasn’t won a match in this qualifying group at home.
The U.S. will still more than likely qualify for the World Cup next summer. If they don’t it’ll be one of the biggest collapses in history. But needing four points in three games at the very least, the U.S. shouldn’t be too worried about Friday night’s loss.