What a difference five days make. After looking rough in a loss to Colombia in its Copa America opener, the U.S. responded with a dominant 4-0 victory against Costa Rica on Tuesday at Soldier Field to get right back into the hunt for a quarterfinal spot.
Three goals came in the opening half as the hosts set the tone, looked sharp and produced more chances in attack, this time actually finishing them. Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Graham Zusi all found the net for the U.S., while the defense was attentive and strong throughout in a performance that erases early concerns and adds plenty of optimism.
Things started going the Stars and Stripes' way early, as Wood was taken down in the box with a penalty kick being awarded before the match was 10 minutes old. Dempsey came up to take it and made no mistake, sending the goalkeeper left and finishing to the right.
From there, the passes were sharper, the creativity in attack returned and the team looked like the complete opposite of what we saw Friday night. Patient in attack, the U.S. ended the half in a dominant fashion.
On 37 minutes, Jones scored on a brilliant, low strike to make it 2-0 off an assist from Dempsey, as the Seattle Sounders man used a fancy little move to get up and set up his teammate.
Dempsey then set up Wood five minutes later for the 3-0 advantage as the striker turned with his back to the goal to produce a fine goal.
In the second half, there were a few quality balls played forward but no great chances for the U.S. until Zusi scored in the 87th minute with a left-footed shot from close to complete the uneven scoreline.
Costa Rica had spurts of quality but couldn't get one by Brad Guzan, who truthfully wasn't tested much in goal.
With the victory, the U.S. moved into second place in Group A with three points. Next, the U.S. will play Paraguay on Saturday in its last group-stage match.
Here's how to watch the match, news and more:
When: Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET.
Where: Soldier Field
TV: FS1 and Univision Deportes
Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go and Fox Sports Go
Last time out: The United States lost to Colombia 2-0, while Costa Rica drew Paraguay 1-1.
What's on the line: Three points in Group A, and potentially finishing the night in second place in the group.
No Keylor, no problem? Good news for team USA is that Navas, Costa Rica's star goalkeeper and best player, is out of the tournament with an injury. It's a big blow to Los Ticos, but they did record a clean sheet in their opener without him. At home, there are no excuses for the Stars and Stripes.
What happens if the U.S. wins: Then the team will be back on track and likely be in second place in the group ahead of the final group-stage clash with Paraguay.
What happens if the U.S. draws: Then the team isn't out, but its chances of qualifying take a major blow and the pressure mounts for the final game of the group stage vs. Paraguay.
What happens if the U.S. loses: You can pretty much consider the team's Copa America over. In fact, if the U.S. loses and Colombia wins, the team will be eliminated from the competition.
What has to improve: How much time do you have? The U.S stunk on Friday, simply put. It lacked execution, energy and class, and Colombia won pretty comfortably. Defensively, the team wasn't alert -- Michael Bradley faded as the match went on and it felt as if the U.S. was playing with nine men because of Gyasi Zardes and Bobby Wood doing next to nothing (midfield at fault for part of that). Sure, the U.S. was unlucky to give up a penalty kick (thought it was clearly a PK), but nothing from that match made me feel confident in this team. Going up against Costa Rica, the U.S. certainly has enough to win and is the favorite, but recent performances are worrisome.
Feeling positive: Though you have to question Jurgen Klinsmann for thinking the match against Colombia was even (it was far from it), the team remains positive, according to Darlington Nagbe.
Projected starting XIs: USA - Guzan; Johnson, Brooks, Cameron, Yedlin; Beckerman, Bradley, Bedoya, Dempsey, Nagbe, Wood; Costa Rica - Pemberton; Acosta, Duarte, Matarrita, Salvatierra; Gamboa, Tejada, Borges, Ruiz; Campbell, Urena.
Prediction: USA 2, Costa Rica 1.