Things Fall Apart: The USMNT and a Shocking Upset

The USMNT plays Costa Rica tonight in San Jose, Costa Rica. And, after the second biggest shock of last week, things are not looking good for the United States.

The US were dramatically upset by Mexico on Friday. Having lost at home, in Columbus, birthplace of dos a cero, to our hated rival (more on that below), the USMNT is in a very early must-win game against the Ticos.

The CONCACAF schedulers started the Hex out with a bang. As I mentioned last post, the US plays the only other 2 winners of the Hex, Mexico and Costa Rica, in this tight window. We already failed our first test and, odds are, we fail tonight as well.

The Stars and Stripes will be hard pressed for a result in Estadio Nacional. We are 0-8-1 in Costa Rica, and the Ticos are on a tear, having won 5 straight international matches. Costa Rica is an organized, established team with a unique identity. They are a gritty, defense-first team and their 5-man backline was the talk of their unlikely World Cup 2014 run. The US, on the other hand, has an identity crisis.

Jurgen Klinsmann is a mess. He is a man banking on his past celebrity and his big name to cover his atrocious soccer mind. The man is a piss poor man-manager and an even worse tactician. He is just another blond blowhard who doesn’t deserve to be in a position of authority.

Jurgen, aside from again selecting an odd 11, put his men in a wacky 3-5-2 formation to start against Mexico. This was a lineup we hadn’t tried in nearly two years and results were as expected. A talented Mexican side attacked and easily found space around the disjointed and uncomfortable Yanks. We held on, despite an injury to Tim Howard, and were lucky to get into the break only down a goal.

Then things clicked. We regrouped to a comfortable shape and Bobby Wood went all medieval. The US enjoyed gorgeous ball movement, found the equalizer and, on a few occasions, very nearly the go-ahead goal. In the 89th minute, we were tied and looking good, until Rafa Marquez buried a set piece for the unlikely 2-1 win.

The result was frustrating, but zooming out it was a travesty. As Brian Straus at ESPN reports:

It not only was the Americans’ first loss in Columbus. It was the first home World Cup qualifying defeat since 2001—the run lasted 30 games—and the first home qualifying setback to Mexico since 1972.

Yes, that’s right. This was our first home WC Qualifying defeat since 2001, back when the shorts were baggy and Landon Donovan had hair (okay, he never had hair). The US had built a fortress and, for 15 years, always got a result at home.

Worse? The US was a bad abysmal soccer nation for decades. We failed to qualify for the World Cup from 1950 until 1990. For 40+ years we couldn’t punch our ticket and yet, from ‘72 on, we always got a result at home against Mexico, the clear-cut power in that era. One more time: for 40+ years we always got a result at home. That is until last night and Jurgen.

We, as US soccer fans, have taken to enjoying the narrative that the United States is an ascendant soccer power. We take heart in our recent string of advancing out of the Group in World Cup play, our, at times impressive, international ranking, and that famous, though musty now, Confederations Cup run in 2009. Even recently we had a very nice showing at the Copa America.

And yet I think we all have to admit: this is a major low point for US Soccer. This. Is. A Low. Point. For. US Soccer. We had just lost at home to Mexico last October in the CONCACAF Cup, and then followed that up with Friday’s shocking heart breaker.

As long as Jurgen is steward of the team, we’ll see boneheaded 18s, poor formations, and much bus-throwing-under. For many reasons, we gotta quit the ascendant America narratives.

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