United States Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann wasted little time on his frustrations as he spoke in the depths of Levi's Stadium on Friday.
The opening night of Copa America Centenario did not generate the desired result, but Klinsmann pointed quickly to the silver linings in the 2-0 defeat to Colombia with one eye on the challenges and the possibilities ahead.
The result stung, yet he found plenty of encouragement in the manner of the setback. The two teams were even on the night and that parity offered his players an important boost with a vital match ahead against Costa Rica in Chicago on Tuesday (8 p.m. CT, FS1, UniMas, UDN), according to Klinsmann.
“I think that the players take a lot out of this game,” Klinsmann said in his post-match press conference. “Obviously, there is even more hunger toward the second game now because we are with our backs against the wall. We need three points against Costa Rica. But there are a lot of positives coming out of it.”
Most of those positives stemmed from how the Americans functioned on the ball. They enjoyed the advantage in possession (53 percent possession share, according to Opta statistics) and moved the ball precisely in the middle third (84 percent passing accuracy).
Those efforts in possession restricted Colombia’s effectiveness on the counter and underpinned the structure of the side, but Cristian Zapata and James Rodridguez pounced from dead ball situations to secure the points.
"For the most part, I thought we did really well," U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. "The guys in front of me they put in absolutely great shifts in. At the end of the day it's two set piece goals."
The performance did not deliver the desired rewards on opening night, but it did provide a sturdy foundation as the Americans shift their focus toward CONCACAF rivals Costa Rica, according to Klinsmann.
“I think the players, coming out of that game, they see, it was the number three [team] in the world, we can play with them, we can damage them,” Klinsmann said. “It didn’t happen [on Friday], but, hopefully, next time.”
Klinsmann and his players brought forward when they returned to the training field at Avaya Stadium in San Jose on Saturday to prepare for the Ticos.
The circumstances – plus the prospect of playing against a Costa Rica side predicated on solidity first and foremost – increase the need to create more opportunities from the run of play.
"The challenge now is to go into the Costa Rica game and win," Guzan said. "Before this game even started, we knew that the second game in the tournament was always going to be as big as the first. In that sense, nothing changes."
Starting U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan
Klinsmann praised his players for their application and diligence as they attempted to break down the Colombians, but he also underscored the need for more incisiveness in the final third in the second Group A encounter.
At this point, the emphasis falls squarely upon finding a way to translate the careful work in possession into gilt-edged opportunities in the final third. It is a task that requires a combination of creativity between the lines and ruthlessness inside the penalty area.
“Those traits did not rise to the fore against Colombia, but Klinsmann said he hopes those frustrations pave the way for a breakthrough on Tuesday and set the U.S. on course for a place in the quarterfinals.
“The key is to find ways to play through a very compact, very well organized Colombian side,” Klinsmann said. “We have to find ways there to find the forwards up front, find spots to go through. It doesn’t really matter what system you play. We have to find those opportunities against Costa Rica and finish them off.”
According to defender Geoff Cameron, the team is already looking ahead.
“It’s a big game against Costa Rica coming up and we’ll keep our heads held high. We know what we have to do.,” Cameron said. “We did show some good things. We’re playing better soccer than we have in a long time. … It will come.”