I can say with confidence that the US will not make it past the first round of the World Cup on the strength of their display against the Ticos. Granted, Saprissa Stadium has never been an easy hunting ground and we were going up against an adverse record. But overcoming such a record is precisely the solid indicator of improvement that signals USA's readiness for the next level.
We missed Frankie Hejduk on the right with his work rate and tough tackling but that really should not be an excuse for the way the defense allowed so much space to the Costa Rican attack to flourish. It was tentative, disjointed and frankly, extremely slow witted. Yeah, all those university graduates were made to look very silly. And it was Gooch Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra, two experienced defenders with tonnes of international experience who let down their custodian badly.
The first goal took place as Andy Herron with his back towards goal drew two defenders before coolly pivoting around and passing the ball to Alvaro Saborio. That was the first mistake as there was no defender to cut off the passing lane. The second mistake was allowing Saborio to split two defenders who made no serious effort to tackle him. The third mistake was made by Gooch who should have charged out to narrow Saborio's angle instead of just standing there. The meltdown should not take away Saborio's tricky feet and exquisitely curling shot that beat Tim Howard. But it should never have been allowed to happen in the first place. The Everton goalie was naturally livid.
Howard's blood pressure went up even higher with the second goal. Three defenders collapsed around the charging Junior Diaz and Celso Borges and the ensuing one two between them had Marvel Wynne chasing Diaz even after he had passed the ball to Borges. Gooch was caught out of position futilely chasing down Borges who had acres of space to run and pass the ball to Esteban Serias for the second goal.
The third goal was the worst. With the defense backing up, no one cut off Walter Centeno's pass to Pablo Herrera who was allowed all the time and space in the world to cut in from the right. It took Carlos Bocanegra six seconds and 20 yards to react but by that time it was too late. Herrera had neatly sidestepped him to slot the ball home. The goal had defenders standing abjectly with hands to the hips. Howard lay on the ground probably wondering whether they could have stopped a fat, drunken Peter Griffin lolling on a Lazyboy on this day.