HARRISON, N.J. — For nine months, Bruce Arena was unbeaten in his second stint as U.S. national team coach. As the Americans moved up the standings in World Cup qualifying and claimed the CONCACAF Gold Cup title, it seemed as if the 65-year-old could do no wrong.
That was, until Friday at Red Bull Arena.
Tasked with choosing a center back pair in the absence of the injured John Brooks, Arena sat the proven duo of Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler in favor of a first-time partnership: Tim Ream and Geoff Cameron.
And that lack of chemistry was apparent as the Americans' World Cup hopes grew increasingly tenuous, with both veterans making crucial errors in a 2-0 loss to Costa Rica. While several players delivered off-nights at an inopportune time, it's the Cameron-Ream duo that will draw the most scrutiny ahead of Tuesday's trip to face Honduras in San Pedro Sula.
Here are Goal's full player ratings from the Americans' loss to Costa Rica:
GK TIM HOWARD, 4: Wasn't tested much aside from the two goals, and those are two he'll want back.
D GRAHAM ZUSI, 5: Got the job done defensively — for the most part — but wasn't overly involved going forward in a game the U.S. needed to dominate out wide.
D GEOFF CAMERON, 3: Delivered an uncharacteristically sloppy performance, failing to develop an understanding with Ream while making miscues in distribution — including a brutal giveaway that led to Marco Urena's second strike.
D TIM REAM, 3: Got the start but didn't seize the opportunity, struggling to contain Urena throughout and looking particularly vulnerable on the opener.
D JORGE VILLAFANA, 5: Was exposed at times while also making some decent interventions. Like Zusi, didn't offer much in the attack before exiting in the second half.
M CHRISTIAN PULISIC, 6: Found himself isolated on the right flank but still caused problems with his pace and precision on the dribble. Did struggle to get going after halftime.
M MICHAEL BRADLEY, 5: Won battles in midfield and occasionally offered dangerous distribution, though breaking down the Costa Rican defense proved difficult.
M DARLINGTON NAGBE, 6: Dropped deep to spark a couple U.S. attacks with a bold commitment to building out of the back. Just couldn't find the final ball, though.
M FABIAN JOHNSON, 4: It was another uneventful outing in midfield before he dropped to left back for the first time in the Arena era.
F JOZY ALTIDORE, 6: Was a handful for the Costa Rican back line thanks to his movement and physicality, giving the U.S. its most consistently dangerous option going forward. Perhaps deserved to earn a penalty in the first half.
F BOBBY WOOD, 4: His combination play didn't come off, even if he worked hard on both sides of the ball.
F CLINT DEMPSEY, 5: Never found a rhythm after entering to much fanfare midway through the second half.
M JORDAN MORRIS, N/A: Got off the bench as the U.S. searched for the equalizer but came on just as the deficit turned to two goals.
M PAUL ARRIOLA, N/A: Made a late cameo.