The era of “dos a cero” was brought to a close on Friday night, as the United States men’s national team lost 2-1 to Mexico at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus had until now been something of a stronghold for the U.S. who had won the previous four matches there against Mexico by a scoreline of 2-0, or dos a cero.
U.S.A. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has since come under heavy criticism for Friday night’s loss. The German tactician, who has been in charge of the USMNT since 2011, got creative with his lineup, sending his team out in a 3-5-2, as opposed to the 4-4-2 most were expecting.
While the formation gave the Yanks more bodies in midfield to better transition from attack to defense and clog the lanes for Mexico’s creative passers, it left the U.S. backline badly exposed.
With highly skilled wide players like Miguel Layon, Carlos Vela and Giovani Dos Santos, Mexico was repeatedly able to pull U.S. central defenders John Brooks, Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez out of position. Hence, much of El Tri’s threat came from out wide, including the go-ahead goal, scored by Layun in the 20th minute.
Klinsmann shuffled his formation at halftime and it paid immediate dividends, with Bobby Wood equalizing for the Yanks just four minutes after the break. For a long while after that, it seemed as if the U.S. would kick on to find a winner, or at least hold on for a draw that would maintain an undefeated home record against Mexico in World Cup qualifying that stretches back to 1972.
Rafa Marquez however, had other ideas. The experienced defender was unmarked at the near post with one minute left in regulation time when he connected with a glancing header on a corner to send the ball spiraling into the back of the net while the U.S. defense stood by and gaped.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for a U.S. team that had fought hard to come back in the second half. Although in truth, so dominant was Mexico’s performance in the first half that Klinsmann’s side was perhaps lucky to have still been in the game at that point.
The loss represents a poor start to the crucial Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying for the U.S. Klinsmann and his team have no time to lick their wounds however. On Tuesday the Yanks have an away date with a formidable Costa Rica side to contend with.
Klinsmann will hopefully have learned his lesson in terms of getting experimental with his lineup when it counts. Further complicating matters for the U.S. is the injury Tim Howard suffered on Friday. The veteran goalkeeper went down in the first half with a right abductor injury that is expected to sideline him for months rather than weeks.
That means Middlesbrough keeper Brad Guzan is likely to start against Costa Rica, hopefully in command of a four-man backline consisting of Brooks and Gonzalez at center-back, and DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson as outside backs.
Although he faded somewhat as the match wore on, Jermaine Jones made a good account of himself in midfield for the U.S. and will likely start again alongside Michael Bradley in the center of the park.
Christian Pulisic also put in a good shift against Mexico and should start against Costa Rica. The hope is that Klinsmann will complete his midfield by reinstating the reliable Alejandro Bedoya on the other wing, rather than rolling the dice on another experimental lineup or formation.
In addition to scoring the only goal for the U.S., Wood had a good game overall on Friday and should get the start in attack alongside Jozy Altidore again.
There’s still a long way to go in terms of qualifying in the Hex, but another poor result on Tuesday would give the U.S. a steep hill to climb going forward.
Watch the USA vs. Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying, this Tuesday, November 15 at 9:05 p.m. EST on BeINSports.