DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, June 7, 2016
The United States still has a window of opportunity in their Copa América Centenario campaign, however there will be little room for error when they face a weakened Costa Rica on Tuesday.
The team's opening loss to Colombia on Friday night was perhaps not wholly unexpected, however the bland, toothless nature of their performance amplified long-standing fears that the current team simply cannot hang with some of the world's best in a competitive situation.
A 0-0 tie in the other game in the group between Paraguay and Los Ticos gave the Americans some reprieve, and made their path to a top two finish and the knockout round slightly less tricky.
Notching a victory against Costa Rica is a critical step along the way, even if not a mathematically required one. A win, coupled with the expected vanquishing of Paraguay by Colombia in the group's other game would give Jürgen Klinsmann's team the advantage of likely only needing a draw to go through.
Luckily for the team, they appear to have avoided the injury bug during the last few games, and will have the same squad available to take the field as on Friday. Whether the same players are in the lineup from the get-go is, however, entirely up to Klinsmann.
Lackluster performances from effectively all players in the front-six could feasibly put any of them in line for benching, although most focus has been on the midfield duo of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones.
Yet another underwhelming output from the pair, where the total was far less than the sum of its parts, could relegate Colorado Rapids star player Jones to the bench in favor of Kyle Beckerman or new blood Darlington Nagbe.
Los Ticos have troubles in the back, with star starting keeper Keylor Navas, fresh off a Champions League win with club team Real Madrid, missing the tournament due to an injury requiring surgery over the summer.
Their usual backup keeper Esteban Alvarado is also injured, leaving the experienced, but aged Patrick Pemberton as the anointed starter.
Similarly, central defender Kendall Watson earned a red card in Saturday's opening match against Paraguay, and will watch from the stands.
The USA has not lost to Costa Rica in official games on US soil over a long stretching back to 1989 - 15 games in total - bud did fall in their most recent meeting, a friendly in October, 2015.
The game kicks off at 7pm local time at Soldier Field in Chicago.