CARSON, Calif. — In Jurgen Klinsmann’s second game in charge, the US national team at times played the attacking, attractive style he has pledged, but the new manager’s side failed to get a result against Costa Rica on Friday night, falling 1-0 at the Home Depot Center.
A second-half goal from Portland Timbers midfielder Rodney Wallace, making his international debut, was enough to give the Ticos the win in what started as a friendly and turned into a chippy affair as the American side grew increasingly desperate for an equalizer.
The result marks only fourth win alltime for Costa Rica against the US on American soil.
Klinsmann’s lineup, positioned in a 4-1-2-3, was loaded with speed and had an attacking look. Brek Shea, Robbie Rogers, and Landon Donovan all took up advanced positions, and Jozy Altidore lined up at the lone targetman.
In the early going, the US looked sharp, bossing the game for the first 30 minutes through the smooth link-up play of José Francisco Torres, the best American player on the night, and Donovan. Quick combination play created several good early chances, the best of which fell to Donovan in the 6th minute. Shea fed Donovan at the end of a counterattack, but the LA Galaxy striker shaded his side-footed just wide of the right post.
While Costa Rica attempted to disrupt the US rhythm with fouls and numbers behind the ball, Altidore played the target role perfectly. In the 27th minute, he relieved pressure, started the counterattack, and eventually took a pass from Donovan that nearly resulted in a breakaway. But the play was smothered out by Ticos keeper Keylor Navas, who made four saves on the night.
Costa Rica almost took a surprise lead in first-half stoppage time when captain Randall Azofeifa long-range shot was knocked wide, and then Álvaro Sánchez’s close-range shot was parried over the bar by Tim Howard.
The second half was choppy, and only grew choppier after the goal. The matchwinner came in the 65th minute, just four minutes after Wallace had subbed on.
Saborio cleverly beat the offside trap when Carlos Bocanegra was slow to step up, and his cross from the right side found Michael Barrantes surging into the box. His initial shot was saved brilliantly by Howard, but the Everton No. 1 could do nothing about the rebound, which Wallace headed in.
The goal seemed to fuel both sides, as the US pushed for the equalizer and the Costa Ricans hung on. Fouls suddenly ruled the moment – the US finished with 12 fouls committed, Costa Rica with 27.
A dust-up in the 78th minute symbolized the Americans’ frustration, as both sides wound up pushing and shoving after Shea made a run into the box.
One final good chance came to New York Red Bulls striker Juan Agudelo. His snaking run past three defenders afforded him a clear shot from close range, but again Navas was up to the task.
The US now travel to Brussels to face Belgium on Tuesday (2:30 pm ET, ESPN) in what will be Klinsmann’s first game outside of the US.