By Roger Wimmer
USA 2-1 Costa Rica
Nobody can question the need to rotate the U.S. team with a schedule that saw them play 3 matches in just 7 days, but after making 7 changes to a team that lost to Panama 1-0 where the U.S. failed to muster a single shot on goal, any changes while welcomed would be undoubtedly heavily scrutinized. Berhalter not only made more changes to the squad but he put together a lineup comprised of the youngest U.S. squad to ever play a Concacaf World Cup Qualifier. But less than a minute into the game, he had to be rethinking his selection once again.
With only 59 seconds into the match, the United States were already behind when Ronald Matarrita sent a cross to waiting, unmarked Keysher Fuller who sent a one-touch volley with the inside of his foot bouncing past a helpless Zac Steffen who appeared to be screened on the play by Moya who first appeared to be in an offside position. All appeals for offside were quickly waved off as Sergino Dest was on the end line and nervousness grew around a once optimistic sell-out crowd of 20,165 in Columbus.
The nerves seemed to calm shortly after as the U.S. team pressed for the equalizer and fans rallied behind the U.S. as they started to control possession in Costa Rica’s defensive half. On 25 minutes the fans were rewarded. A beautiful passing sequence that saw 13 passes conclude when Musah laid off a cross-field pass to Sergino Dest . Dest dribbled towards his defender on the right side of the box and then with a quick cut inside onto his left foot he sent a blistering shot to the upper corner of the goal, leaving PSG and Costa Rican international Keylor Navas no chance.
The United States continued to control the game sending wave after wave of attacks down the flank as Brenden Aaronson and even defender Antonee Robinson relentlessly attacked, driving at defenders and sending crosses into the box. The U.S. fans would have to wait until the 66th minute to see the break through they were desperately looking for. Dest was involved once again after a wayward pass from Weston McKennie was poorly dealt with by goal scorer Fuller. Dest quickly gathered and played Weah in behind the back line and the 21 year old was quick to blast a strike at the near post which fortuitously rebounded off the post, then off substitute goalkeeper Leonel Moreira and finally rolled into the far corner of the net.
Berhalter made a few changes after his youthful side took the lead including bringing on Walker Zimmerman in place of Brenden Aaronson to sure things up at the back with some much-needed size to help neutralize any aerial threat. The fresh legs seemed to help as the U.S. limited Costa Rica to very few chances beyond the first minute of the game, save one Jonathan Moya chance which was thwarted by a well-timed Chris Richards sliding challenge.
The United States youthful side showed the desire to fight and overcome adversity but they will need to refocus their attention to their next fixture which will see them take on a very strong Mexican team on Nov. 12th. Hopefully, Berhalter has found more answers in the last week on his best eleven as they will certainly need it when they take on a Mexican side that currently sits atop the group with 14 points. A win would see the U.S. draw level on points and could overtake Mexico on goal difference. In all the uncertainty in Concacaf World Cup Qualifying, one thing is certain, The American Outlaws have reason to be optimistic as the game will once again be played in Ohio.