COLUMBUS, Ohio – The U.S. soccer team has a Jekyll and Hyde personality that makes it difficult to determine which will show for tonight's World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica.
During last weekend's loss at Panama, the Americans were as stagnant as ships backed up outside the canal.
“It's really disappointing to watch the team, especially when we're not playing as good as we can play,” said left back Antonee Robinson, who didn't make that trip due to British COVID-19 restrictions. “Having to watch and not being able to try and help out is frustrating.”
The U.S. flowed during the second half of last month's 4-1 win at Honduras and last week's 2-0 victory over visiting Jamaica. Play was haphazard during an opening 0-0 draw at El Salvador and a 1-1 home tie against Canada.
A portion of the fan base nervous and skeptical following the failure to reach the 2018 World Cup hyperventilates at DEFCON1 in response to any hiccup.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter swapped seven starters in Panama in an effort to have fresh legs ready against Costa Rica, and a team already missing Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna due to injuries couldn't string many passes without Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson. The Americans failed to manage a single shot on target.
“When I took responsibility for the result the other day, it was not aimed at the choice of players, because we believe in every single player in this squad,” Berhalter said Tuesday. “I don't regret in any moment playing that lineup. I regret more of our performance and some of the attacking adjustments we could have made in that game to be more mobile, to be moving more, but not personnel.”
Mexico leads CONCACAF qualifying with 11 points after five of 14 matches, and the U.S. has eight, ahead of Panama on goal difference. Canada follows with seven and Costa Rica six after rallying for a 2-1 win over El Salvador.
El Salvador has five points, Honduras three and Jamaica two.
No. 44-ranked Costa Rica has qualified for four of the last five World Cups, missing on 2010. The 13th-ranked U.S. has lost three straight qualifiers against the Ticos: 3-1 and 4-0 on the road and 2-0 in New Jersey.