Winners And Losers: USA Versus Costa Rica

Goal.com's Noah Davis takes a look at who came out well after the USA battled Costa Rica to a thrilling draw.
By Noah Davis

Washington, DC. -- After falling behind visiting Costa Rica by two in the early stages of the last qualifying match in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, the United States Men's National Team -- still reeling from Charlie Davies' car crash and subsequent surgery-- needed more than 90 minutes, but tied the Ticos 2-2 on Jonathan Bornstein's late strike. The point gave the U.S., which had already qualified for next summer's tournament in South Africa, first place in the group.

Winners

Bob Bradley


Keeping the U.S. focused on winning the match was hard enough without Davies' injury. Making sure the team was ready to play just 30 hours after they learned of the striker's plight must have been nearly impossible. Yet Bradley and the rest of his staff gave the squad time to grieve while keeping the final qualifier in mind. The Americans came out strong and probably deserved a goal before the defense allowed Bryan Ruiz's brace. The U.S. manager should also be pleased with the resolve his team showed on a night when there were more important issues to deal with than a soccer game.

U.S. fans

The collected masses packed the lower bowl and kept RFK rocking for 90 minutes. They cheered at the right moments. They booed at appropriate times. They held No. 9 signs aloft for Davies during the ninth minute in a truly touching tribute (and a wonderful example of the viral power of the Internet). They set off red, white, and blue smokebombs. The American Outlaws and the Barra Brava bounced up and down throughout. But most impressively, 26,243 bought tickets to watch a game that meant very little on what promised to be a rainy, 45-degree night.
 
Jozy Altidore

The young Hull City striker quickly asserted himself as the best forward on the pitch for the Americans. Costa Rica's defenders struggled to deal with his combination of size and foot skills. He showed great touch to cut between two Ticos and then wonderful vision to finish off the play with a pass that his strike partner Conor Casey couldn't convert. Altidore drew a number of free kicks in dangerous places after holding the ball up and being dragged down. He even chested down a couple balls. (Has he been taking lessons from Casey, who did this brilliantly against Honduras?) Altidore tired at the end of the match, but it was an excellent performance from the youngster.

Robbie Rogers

The Columbus Crew midfielder replaced Stuart Holden on the right in the 68th and immediately made a difference. While the man he replaced struggled with his crossing all night, Rogers hit a couple wonderful curling balls that failed to find anyone before latching on to Landon Donovan whose shot was saved by Keilor Navas before Michael Bradley drilled home the rebound. "I think Costa Rica was a little tired when I came in and I just tried to use my pace to get behind them and get some dangerous service in," he said after the match. The midfielder nearly had a goal of his own in the 73rd after running on to a pass from Donovan, but his shot went wide of the net. Just four minutes later, a cross from Steve Cherundolo just glanced off the side of his head.

Losers

Landon Donovan

The U.S.'s offensive inspiration took a shot that led to the American's goal, but he struggled in the first half and missed a number of opportunities during the opening 45. In the 37th minute, Donovan had a semi-break on Navas -- and Casey alone across the goalmouth -- but chose to shoot and missed the net. On almost any other night, the Los Angeles Galaxy star would do better. His free kicks and corners were lacking throughout the match as well. As in Honduras on Saturday, he was more dangerous after the break (his fitness is clearly far superior to anyone on either team) but lacked the necessary final touch. In D.C., Donovan was good, but he didn't match the greatness he's displayed in previous outings.

Benny Feilhaber

Starting in place of Ricardo Clark, the central midfielder had an opportunity to show Bradley and the U.S. coaching staff that he deserves more playing time. Unfortunately, after Wednesday night's performance, Feilhaber will likely be relegated back to a substitute's role. (A position, to his credit, that he's played very well.) The American was guilty of too much dribbling in the midfield and tried to be too fancy on the slippery pitch. Donovan deservedly admonished him after a couple of bad turnovers early in the match. For a player with an attacking mindset, Feilhaber strangely seemed afraid to go forward at times, instead resorting to knocking the ball to his backline. Additionally, he struggled to link the right side of the field and the left. Feilhaber appeared a tad overwhelmed.

The Centerbacks

Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu struggled on the wet pitch at RFK. Early in the match they miscommunicated a number of times. It almost hurt the U.S. when the pair allowed Walter Centeno to get behind them, but Tim Howard bailed his defense out with a brilliant reaction save to kept the match level. On the first goal, Onyewu was badly beaten by Brian Ruiz's and Bocanegra likely could have slid over faster to cover. The pair played better as the match progressed, but still allowed some dicey moments. It wasn't a terrible performance by any means, but they will need to be stronger in the World Cup.

Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com.

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