The United States wants to make sure its Copa America Centenario won’t be defined by the start.
The MNT was left to rue two moments in an otherwise even performance against third-ranked Colombia, as several players noted after a difficult opening match in Santa Clara. The result left the players determined to turn their full attention to a match Clint Dempsey termed a “must-win” against Costa Rica in Chicago on Tuesday at 7 p.m. CT.
DeAndre Yedlin has clearly turned the page on a game that included a controversial penalty called against him in the 2-0 loss. “I think a loss always stings, but I think it’s how quick you can move on from it,” defender DeAndre Yedlin said. “That’ll depend on how good you do in the next game.”
Fellow defender John Brooks said overall the U.S. played well defensively against a dangerous, physical Colombian attack. Both he and Yedlin believe they can do even better against Costa Rica, who sits just one point ahead in a tie for second place in Group A after a 0-0 draw with Paraguay.
“I think we can expect a very aggressive team,” Brooks said. “A lot of physical battles, but we’re prepared for that.”
USA defender John Brooks challenges Colombia attacker Juan Cuadrado during the teams' opening match of the 2016 Copa America Centenario.
The U.S. has shown resiliency many times before, most notably during an impressive run to the 2009 Confederations Cup final despite losses to Italy and Brazil to open the tournament. Last March, the Americans faced some unexpected World Cup Qualifying danger following a 2-0 loss in a tough environment at Guatemala and responded by demolishing the Guatemalans 4-0 in Columbus to keep the United States’ World Cup hopes well intact.
“We always feel confident in our abilities as a team,” said Dempsey, who scored the first goal just 12 minutes into that decisive rout. “We’ve been in situations where our backs have been against the wall. This time it’s no different.”
He emphasized they still have at least two matches left and said he’s looking forward to another challenge against Costa Rica. A win would likely put the U.S. in great position to earn a coveted Round of 16 spot in its final Group A match against Paraguay on Saturday.
Even though it’s the first Copa America meeting between the two countries, Costa Rica and the U.S. know each other quite well from World Cup Qualifying and Gold Cup play. The Americans haven’t lost at home to their CONCACAF rivals in either of those competitions since 1985.
A 94th minute red card against Paraguay means the Ticos will be without central defender Kendall Waston, the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2015 MLS Defender of the Year finalist. Costa Rica is also missing the star of its World Cup 2014 quarterfinal run, Real Madrid starting goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who was ruled out of Copa America with an Achilles injury.
Despite those absences, Dempsey and his teammates know better than to overlook their opponents. He expects Costa Rica to bring plenty of energy, since it will also be in need of a good result to feel confident about its chances of advancing.
“They’re a team that’s good in possession, they’re a team that’s difficult to break down, and they also have players that can score goals,” Dempsey said. “They’ve shown in major competitions they can perform well like they did in the last World Cup, so we know it’s going to be a difficult game. But we’re ready for the challenge.”