The United States’ young players proved to be the difference in a comeback win over Costa Rica.
The u.s. win over mexico was a victory for the United States Men’s National Team, who relied on youth to come back from a goal down and defeat Costa Rica 2-1 in their opening match of the 2018 World Cup.
THE CITY OF COLUMBUS, OHIO — Sergino Dest and Tim Weah cheered up the home fans at Lower.com Field as they were making their way back to the United States bench after being replaced. Dest gave high-fives to his teammates and a few supporters. Weah took the opportunity to hand up his jersey to a fan in the audience. Despite the fact that there were approximately 17 minutes remaining in Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica, they both exuded confidence that the US could finish the game.
That’s exactly what the Americans accomplished, defeating the Ticos 2-1 to earn a crucial three points in their World Cup qualifying campaign.
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Dest and Weah’s vigor belied the fact that this was a match in which youth won over experience. With an average age of 22 years and 61 days, the US starting lineup was the youngest it had ever fielded in a World Cup qualifier. Costa Rica, on the other hand, named a starting XI that had six players over the age of 30. And its youngest player, Keysher Fuller, was older than the United States’ oldest player, goalie Zack Steffen, who was 26 years old. Later in the game, when Alvaro Saborio, a 39-year-old striker, Christian Bolanos, a 37-year-old midfielder, and Kendall Waston, a 33-year-old defender, all joined the game, the disparity grew much more apparent.
The United States definitely shown its inexperience at times, not least by falling behind with less than a minute remaining on the clock. The United States, on the other hand, showed great tenacity in winning a game that would likely land them in second place in the Octagonal rankings.
“For us to be navigating through this CONCACAF qualifying — which is a bear, a monster — with this group, and the amount of poise they showed on the field today, particularly going down a goal and then being up a goal in the second half and managing the game really well,” said United States coach Gregg Berhalter after the match. “I mean, Gianluca Busio appears, and he seems to be in his 30s. As a result, I’m pleased with my efforts. The players showed a lot of composure and are continuing to improve. They’re maturing as a unit.”
The beginning could hardly have been more unfavorable. Steffen — a surprise starter after Matt Turner started the previous five games — came off his line less than a minute into the game to clear a through ball with his head, but it didn’t remove the threat. Ronald Matarrita found a wide open Fuller at the far post to slip past Steffen with the US defense trying to get back in shape.
Despite this, the young American squad did not collapse. In reality, it took the initiative right away, and despite the United States’ overeagerness with some of its passes, it was first to a number of second balls and consistently placed pressure on Costa Rica’s goal.
Weah stated, “We weren’t worried at all.” “Taking the goal so early in the game was obviously a disappointment. But we had a game plan, and it was to expose their backline, which I believe we accomplished. Today, the outside backs were crucial. The wingers were outstanding. Everyone performed well, so it was simply a matter of us banding together and remaining concentrated while ratcheting up the intensity.”
After scoring a goal for the United States versus Costa Rica, Timothy Weah, right, and Sergino Dest celebrate. courtesy of Getty Images
The concern was that with Keylor Navas, the world’s best goalkeeper, in net for the Ticos, it would take something out of this world to score. Dest did just that, collecting a pass from Yunus Musah at the corner of the box, shifting the ball to his allegedly weaker left foot, and launching a rocket into the top corner, leaving Navas helpless. He wasn’t deterred by the fact that his shoelace was undone.
“I believe it was [Weston McKennie], he came in behind him and the guy followed him, so there was room for me,” Dest said. “I had just been escorted inside and felt like the only thing I could do at the time was shoot it because we needed to score. We were down 1-0, so I was simply trying to demonstrate that we needed this point, and it was an incredible goal.”
The halftime announcement that Navas had sustained an adductor injury and would have to be replaced by Leonel Moreira was a turning moment in the game. The game was up for grabs without its talisman in the net.
In the 66th minute, the United States grabbed the lead when Dest found Weah, whose tight-angled shot deflected off Moreira, struck the post, and trickled in. Officially, it was ruled an own goal, but Berhalter said that he will work to get it overturned.
Even so, it was a huge occasion for Weah, who just found out he’d be starting five minutes before kickoff when Paul Arriola was hurt during the warm-up. He also realized he was going to be subbed out shortly before the goal.
“I saw [Matthew] Hoppe and DeAndre [Yedlin] on the bench getting ready to come in, so I figured I’d be substituted out,” he said. “But my aim was to remain concentrated till then, and it just so happened that the ball came out wide to Serge, and I spotted the run and struck it once, and it went in. It’s simply a matter of staying focused in such situations.”
Following last Sunday’s defeat to Panama, the United States, and particularly Dest, put up a strong showing. Much has been anticipated of the defender, who has played for Ajax and now Barcelona, but he has had a rollercoaster ride in qualification, particularly while playing on the left side of the United States defense. Dest succeeded in improving his level throughout this window, and he was the difference-maker that fans and teammates alike anticipated in this encounter.
“It’s almost as though [Dest] can do anything. He has the potential to be as excellent as he wants to be “Berhalter said. “It’s amazing, as you witnessed today with his offensive play. For Serge, it’s important about being mentally strong and pushing himself to be the greatest on the field.”
Dest acknowledged that CONCACAF qualifying games are “eye-openers” and a world apart from what he’s accustomed to in Europe. He said that the competition is intense and that the opponents are dedicated.
He went on to say, “And it’s simply physical.”
Dest and his colleagues, on the other hand, are learning how to play that card as well. To get past the Ticos, they needed to utilize both their physical and mental abilities. When defender Miles Robinson threw the ball away in the second half, Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz went on an apparent breakaway, it highlighted the job before of the Americans. Robinson, on the other hand, devoured the yards and put an end to the danger. Costa Rica lacked the necessary stamina.
The US also exorcised some spirits in the process. With a 2-0 road win, the Ticos threw the US team’s qualification campaign for the 2018 cycle into a tailspin. After four years, it’s obvious that this Costa Rican squad is in transition. But it’s an adversary that still has to be defeated, and the US defended its own ground this time.
With the victory, the United States is expected to finish second in the Octagonal rankings, depending on Mexico’s outcome against El Salvador. Given that a draw in Panama was possible, the six points in this window are a bit fewer than anticipated. However, the journey will get more difficult. A home match against arch rivals Mexico looms, as does an away match against Jamaica, who looked resurgent following a 2-0 victory over Honduras. The United States will need to be more consistent in their performance.
But, so far, youth has served the United States well, and the qualifying campaign is back on track, at least for the time being.
The usmnt vs costa rica is the United States’s comeback win over Costa Rica in their opening game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
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