An extra time defeat to its closest rival, while losing out on a place at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, was tough to swallow for the U.S. Men’s National Team on Saturday.
After a long day of travel from Los Angeles to Newark, N.J. on Sunday, the team began to move forward with a return to the training pitch Monday for their lone session ahead of Tuesday’s friendly against Costa Rica.
Undoubtedly, it’s a short turn around with little prep time, but with Tuesday being the team’s final match before kicking off the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in November, the game gives players a quick chance to move on from the defeat and demonstrate they belong in the team that will face St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago next month.
“There’s always something on the line when you play for the National Team,” Jozy Altidore told ussoccer.com, “especially on the back of a heavy defeat, a heavy one to swallow against Mexico. That’s what’s great about soccer – the next one is always around the corner. Hopefully we’ll put in a good performance against Costa Rica and put our focus now on qualifying.”
Jozy Altidore holds of Danny Williams during a scrimmage as the USMNT prepares to face Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena on Oct, 13.
Having returned to the U.S. fold last month following a year-long international sabbatical, goalkeeper Tim Howard acknowledged that with the loss on Saturday and qualification looming, now is time for the MNT to put the last year in the past.
“The sky isn’t falling,” he told ussoccer.com. “This team is unified and we still have the resolve to want to get results and push for one another. We’re trying to pick ourselves up from the loss and make sure we get a result. Results are always important for the team, it allows you to feel good and November is about qualification and there are no more friendlies. It’s important that we have that mindset and that the senior players set the tone.”
With 104 caps, 29 of which have come in World Cup Qualifying games, Howard is the most senior of the 20-man U.S. roster. Still, following his year off, he has as much to prove as anyone after serving as a back-up to Brad Guzan the last three games.
“Every time you pull the shirt on, you’re given the opportunity to make a statement,” Howard continued. “I think you always have to reinvent yourself every World Cup cycle. Being a part of so many qualification cycles is a challenge because we know how hard it is. Us senior players that have been there before know it’s a gauntlet and it’s tough, it’s never easy.”
Though he’s far from the oldest player on the team, Altidore will begin his third World Cup Qualifying cycle next month, just days after his 26th birthday. Understanding the rigors of the two-year process, the striker agreed that Tuesday’s game against Costa Rica will be a good test before taking on the next journey.
“Every game is an opportunity,” agreed Altidore. “Every game with the National Team is a chance on the biggest stage to show that you belong. Is it hard sometimes? Absolutely, we’re human, but at the same time, going into this game, it’s another opportunity to showcase yourself, another opportunity to show the coaches that you are a guy that belongs in the heart of this team as we begin our run to the World Cup.”