COLUMBUS, Ohio – In its hour of need, and looking for a boost to its World Cup qualifying campaign after an ugly and disheartening performance in Panama, the United States men’s team will have an old and comfortable resource of reservation. Once again he will head to Colón.
The venue is different – the United States will be playing the Crew’s Lower.com field for the first time – and the setting will be new to many members of a youth team. But traditionally, Columbus himself, the city, and his followers can be counted on to do their part. Well known as the site of the first MLS soccer stadium and five editions of the Mexico-United States World Cup qualifier, the capital of Ohio has come as close as any city to being a trusted 21st century home for American men. .
Almost five years have passed since the US visit, and the most recent game, a loss to El Tri, represented the only setback in 12 matches here (including 10 qualifying). Starting a new streak on Wednesday night against Costa Rica will be vital. Following Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Los Canaleros, the USA (2-1-2) faces questions about their depth and mindset as they cling to one of Concacaf’s three direct World Cup spots. for a single point. There will be eight games left after Wednesday’s incline, but the track isn’t as long as it might seem with visits to Mexico, Costa Rica and Canada still to come.
The stakes are high, the margin for error is very small, and the Americans must rebound and rise to the occasion. Coach Gregg Berhalter, who led the Crew before taking the job in the United States, said Tuesday that the supportive environment should set a beneficial stage.
“We know it will be a different game,” he said. “A different opponent, playing at home, playing in front of great fans, a noisy environment, and we want [use] that drive for a safe home game. “
Why does that drive matter? Because the impact of intangibles was evident on Sunday in sultry Panama City. Berhalter did not present a first-choice lineup as he took into consideration fitness, fatigue and these octagonal windows of three games in seven days. But the men he deployed were established internationals, most of whom played a key role in winning the Concacaf Gold Cup or the Nations League this summer. He did not find them on the street. There was probably enough quality in the field to get a result.
“We believe in each and every one of the players in this squad and I do not regret at any time having played in that line-up. I regret our performance more, ”Berhalter said.
That performance was brutal, and the United States was slow, passive and one step behind the kickoff at the Rommel Fernández Stadium. The crowd was a long time coming and it wasn’t that boisterous early. But it was inspired by a local team that was lively from the start, and the stadium quickly came to life. That Panamanian positive feedback loop helped bury Americans, who recognized after the loss that their mindset was not up to the task.
Tyler Adams, who came on as a backup in the second half, said he noticed “a lack of energy and competitiveness.”
Goalkeeper Matt Turner said: “I think physically the intensity was not there. They got a huge boost from their local audience and we didn’t match or beat that. “
Midfielder Kellyn Acosta admitted: “We didn’t match the intensity. They came from the front in the first minute ”.
Berhalter did not have a specific explanation of how or why his team failed to play with the vigor and conviction that a qualifier requires. He simply knows that it was missing and that the United States will have to rediscover those qualities if it wants to get its mission back on track at the World Cup. Early days have been a problem for Americans in recent months. Sunday’s loss marked the eighth straight game in which the United States failed to find a goal in the first half. That frustrating streak includes the Gold Cup knockout rounds plus the first five World Cup knockouts.
Mindset is not the only culprit. The United States certainly came to play in last week’s 2-0 win over Jamaica in Austin, for example. But it does show that there is not much room to maneuver and that starting a game in first class can be detrimental.
“These are tight games, man. It’s not going to be blowouts, ”Berhalter said. “For us, these are the key moments of the game. It’s about staying focused. It’s about bringing that intensity. And these are things we all talk about. “
If the Americans can find that intensity and if Columbus does his part, that will elevate a lineup that should be closer to Berhalter’s available A-list. The United States will continue without injured wingers Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna, who have missed the entire window. But Adams, forward Ricardo Pepi, defender Sergiño Dest, winger Brenden Aaronson and central defender Miles Robinson, who started Panama’s game on the bench, appear to be included in the kickoff against Costa Rica. Weston McKennie’s availability remained uncertain on Tuesday (he missed the trip to Panama with a sore quadricep), but Berhalter said the Juventus midfielder was “making progress.”
Berhalter will be counting on them to make a statement early on. Feed off the environment and the crowd. See how they get inspired in turn. Make Costa Rica (1-1-3) feel like a besieged visitor. The Ticos are a veteran team (their roster features 17 players 29 and older, compared to three in the US) who know their way through the qualifying glove and are tough on defense. The Americans must be prepared for a fight they shunned from in Panama.
“For us it is about returning to what we do well and that is movement without the ball. It’s all we talked about in the pregame to Jamaica. It is exactly what is back on stage now. Part of the idea was to get seven new players on the field and make Panama really pay, and we didn’t do that. And that’s disappointing, and we’re certainly focused on that right now in this game, ”Berhalter said.
“We have fans at home. It will be a great environment and we want to take advantage of it ”, he continued. “We know what it’s like to play away from home in front of the fans and we want to have the same kind of advantage.”
Defender Antonee Robinson, who missed the Panama game due to England’s COVID-19 quarantine protocols (he is based in Fulham and Panama is on the UK travel ‘red list’), made an interesting point here on Tuesday. The United States is circled on the opposition calendar, he said. He is the regional heavyweight in many ways, and his national team has been promoted considerably thanks to the emergence of so many young and talented players. The other team is ready for this game. Americans have to match that.
“That makes all the opponents we’re going to play against more dangerous than they could necessarily be against another team,” said Robinson, who hopes to play Wednesday after having a knee problem. “That is something that we are aware of and we know that we have to keep our heads on that, and try to keep abreast of what we are doing, but be aware that they are going to give everything.”
If playing in the US helps Costa Rica get into big game mode, the US will hope that playing in Columbus will help you do the same.
“The next game is the most important, so the mood now is that we have to go beat Costa Rica. The guys are obviously disappointed with the last result, but the mentality is for tomorrow’s game, “said Robinson. “They are coming to our stadium. It’s going to be a really good environment. “
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.