Americans remain in second in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying through six matches

By Official Florida FC

The United States men’s national team recovered from a listless performance in Panama City on Sunday night with a 2-1 win over Costa Rica on Wednesday night in Columbus, Ohio.

Through six qualifying matches, the USMNT has 11 points and is second in the region behind El Tri. The two CONCACAF powerhouses will meet in Cincinnati on Nov. 12.

Though no one with Florida ties made the USMNT roster, or made an appearance for Costa Rica on Wednesday night, here are three thoughts from the match:

Mistakes were punished

Costa Rica’s Keysher Fuller scored in the first minute of the match. USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter led the complaints that Jonathan Moya interfered with American goalkeeper Zack Steffen. Whether he did or didn’t, the bigger concern was that a pair of mistakes were ruthlessly punished.

First, Steffen ran 25 yards off his line to head the ball but didn’t effectively clear it. Costa Rica won the ball and attacked an unsettled defense.

When Fuller picked out at the back post, he had time to size up his shot. The fact he was given three yards of space in the penalty area in the first minute of a must-win match for the USMNT is more concerning than any call, or no-call.

The USMNT has had defensive lapses in the first half against El Salvador and Canada and got away with them. This time they were not as fortunate.

The Americans can overcome turnovers in poor areas against an aging Costa Rica squad. Mexico is the type of opponent who will not throw away an early lead like Los Ticos did Wednesday.

Midfield of the future

Having Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah in the midfield gives the Americans the dynamic, energetic and creative midfield that would be the envy of all but the top countries in the world. McKennie, at 23, is the oldest of the three. Meaning, those three could play together for this World Cup cycle and the next.

Adams’ willingness to do the dirty work, carry possession from deep and not lose the ball in poor positions is something the USMNT has lacked in the middle of the park since peak Michael Bradley.  If one wants to go back further, the program hasn’t had someone in midfield with Adams’ skillset since Claudio Reyna retired in 2006.

Darlington Nagbe had the talent and creativity to be a very good No. 8 for the USMNT, but he was routinely played out wide and didn’t get paired with the right personnel when deployed centrally.

Meanwhile, Musah can dribble in tight spaces and is a willing runner. McKennie occasionally loses the ball, but he usually does so while trying to unlock a defense. Things may not always work for the Texan, but his turnovers are in places where the team has cover.

Attacking pecking order

This is the window Ricardo Pepi established himself as the program’s No. 9. The 18-year-old scored twice against Jamaica, didn’t embarrass himself in the Panama loss and made runs that opened up space against Costa Rica.

Pepi didn’t score against Los Ticos, but he diversified his runs. At times, he would sprint to the near post, at others the far post. He would occasionally linger about 14 to 16 yards away from goal to make himself a pullback option.

Another attacker who earned additional playing time was Timothy Weah. The Lille attacker forced Costa Rican goalkeeper Leonel Moreira to commit an own goal while trying to save his shot in the 66th minute.

When Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna are healthy, it’s possible that Weah may not have a place in the starting line. But, every exceptional country needs a super sub who provides something different. Weah may be that for the USMNT.

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