U.S. player ratings vs. Costa Rica
Tim Howard was trusty but was eventually undone by a lack of defensive support
The roles of defenders Michael Orozco Fiscal and Edgar Castillo are in jeopardy
Landon Donovan was an ordinary version of himself, just like he's been all year
U.S. player ratings vs. Costa Rica (scale of 1-10):
GK Tim Howard, 6 -- The Americans got two quality saves from their trusty No. 1 just before the break and got lots of sure-handed stuff otherwise. Howard managed one big save on the goal sequence but was eventually undone by a lack of tracking and defensive support as the rebound found its way in for the game-winner.
D Tim Chandler, 5 -- After that bright spring debut, the German-born transplant reminded us that all that promising young talent doesn't come without flaws. He was slow to get out on a couple of occasions, and he put Carlos Bocanegra in trouble with one floated ball across the back. Chandler's one-on-one defending and his attacking were OK, but he's not going to push Steve Cherundolo out of a job anytime soon. He sometimes seemed unsure of when to pressure and when to hold the line.
D Michael Orozco Fiscal, 5 -- It's not that the San Luis center back was bad, necessarily, in his second consecutive U.S. start. But if Orozco Fiscal isn't the physical presence of other central defenders in the player pool (Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, Clarence Goodson), and if he's no better a passer than any of them (which he isn't), you wonder why he's getting the extended tryout. Watching him get manhandled once by the more physical Alvaro Saborio and appeal for calls elsewhere, it's easy to see him having some costly moments when things really get heated in qualifiers ahead. Friday, after all, was just a friendly.
D Carlos Bocanegra, 6 -- Jurgen Klinsmann talked up Bocanegra's role this week, promising that the veteran center back will play a big role going forward. The U.S. captain didn't disappoint with another steady night, attempting to direct the youngsters around him and dealing capably with Costa Rica's forwards -- even if they weren't exactly a world-class pair.
D Edgar Castillo, 4 -- This has got to be a case of two strikes and he's out, right? There was some marginal improvement after that super-clunker against Mexico, but it just wasn't enough. He settled into the match just a little after 10-15 minutes, but those nervous, rickety starts are going to prove costly against higher-quality sides. Overall, a couple of nice attacking bursts didn't mitigate defending that just wasn't good enough, passing that wasn't clean enough and too many instances where he lost balls on the dribble.
M Maurice Edu, 6 -- Edu was essentially the only defensive-minded midfield presence in Jurgen Klinsmann's 4-3-3, and he held the area reasonably well. Only for about 10 minutes in the first half did the Rangers man lose tactical discipline and get pulled away from the U.S. back line. His linking was mostly simple and clean, if not always zippy enough. Finally, Edu was lucky to escape a card after one dangerous first-half tackle; in the future he'll need to transition more quickly out of "Scottish" tackling mode.
M Jose Torres, 6 -- What member of the U.S. pool better exemplifies the difference in regimes than Torres, a forgotten man under Bob Bradley who got his second consecutive start for Klinsmann? His first touch and overall awareness were "on" Friday in the middle third. On passing, his execution and variety were decent enough, although Costa Rica's relative lack of midfield pressure made things easier. But Torres' lack of desire to push into the final third is concerning; most of that passing came within the first 60-65 yards of the field. Only in the final, desperate 15 minutes did Torres venture further into the final third, and that's not good enough if he wants to earn the full-time playmaker's badge.
M Landon Donovan, 4 -- Maybe it's time to say it: 2011 just isn't Donovan's year with the national team. When are we going to see the "big Donovan" again, as opposed to this more ordinary version who keeps appearing? He played slightly higher than Torres as offensive, center midfielders and was the more influential of the two as action got close to the Ticos' goal. But the ideas and the passing remained sluggish by his standards. He also narrowly missed on a sixth-minute ball from Brek Shea, a shot that Donovan usually nicks into a corner. His free kicks weren't the best, either.
F Robbie Rogers, 4 -- The Columbus Crew man proved fairly handy in the middle third in keeping possession. But if he's going to be a runner and a crosser in a 4-3-3, he definitely needs to run a little more and cross a little better. On the other hand, this is what Rogers has always been in MLS, someone who is never quite as dangerous or productive as you think he should be. Rogers needed to be better at stretching the Ticos horizontally and exploiting that extra-wide Home Depot Center field. He wasn't the only one guilty of getting too narrow, but the wingers in a 4-3-3 are especially responsible.
F Brek Shea, 6 -- He looked dangerous all night, showing up in different spots and combining with most of the men around him at some point. Passes from the FC Dallas attacker arranged early shots for Altidore and Donovan, but his early crosses were lacking. Some of his runs off the ball need refining, but he always seems willing to make them. Overall, the lanky lefty caused enough trouble to keep his place in the rotation.
F Jozy Altidore, 4 -- Kind of a typical Altidore night, with enough hard work and a sufficient amount of semi-productive, earnest effort to keep him on the depth chart. But the bottom line remains the same: it was another night where he didn't do what a striker ultimately must: score a goal. In fact, Altidore never really came close to scoring.
F Juan Agudelo, 5 -- Entered in the 62nd for Altidore and was more aggressive than his slightly older counterpart in trying to occasionally weave through the Costa Rican defense. On the other hand, he's not quite the target presence and the harassing element that Altidore usually proves to be. All in all, it seems like he's done enough to earn a start, never mind all that mess about him being too young.
M Sacha Kljestan, 4 -- Did very little to change the game after his entrance in the 66th for Rogers. Kljestan may not get many chances to make an impression, considering other attackers (like Shea) who have already lapped him in the player pool.
Jurgen Klinsmann -- The new boss essentially placed five defenders and five attackers in the starting lineup, a bold move that backfired on the Ticos' goal. So did his choice to stick with Edgar Castillo at left back. Klinsmann wants to establish a style that leans toward more technical play and fair enough for that. But a bad result -- and make no mistake, a loss on home soil to a weakened, disheveled Costa Rican version is a very bad result -- proves that he has yet to find the balance. It does no good to establish styles and such if you're getting beat by lesser lights up along the way.