Youth prevailed in USMNT win over Costa Rica

COLUMBUS, OH – OCTOBER 13: USA starting eleven during a game between Costa Rica and USMNT at Field on October 13, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The USMNT have found themselves in a couple of “must-win” scenarios early on in World Cup qualifiers. That was the feeling heading into the game against Costa Rica, having lost 1-0 to Panama the match before.

The inexperience, or youth, of the national team was one of the factors people pointed towards for the handful of lackluster performances and for the amount of points dropped. After rotating against Panama, manager Gregg Berhalter put out his strongest, and youngest, lineup.

The USMNT youth was an advantage rather than a hinderance against Costa Rica

Despite having home field advantage, it was Costa Rica who got on the board first. Keysher Fuller put Los Ticos ahead in the opening minute after his shot crept past Zack Steffen. Shouts of offside were waved away as Sergiño Dest played everyone onside.

It was a bit of a shell shock for the U.S. being behind so early in the game. But the team did well in responding and were quickly on the front foot following the goal. They were all over Costa Rica, taking advantage of the wings and causing problems for the visitors who were willing to sit back and wait for the counter.

Their game plan worked well until the 25th minute when Dest cut inside and, with his weaker foot, struck the ball from outside the area past the outstretched hands of Keylor Navas. Once the USMNT equalized, it seemed like only a matter of time before they found the winner.

“It’s an amazing feeling because it’s a really important goal and it was a really nice goal so it’s an amazing feeling,” Dest said. “At that moment, I was just happy, I was so happy , because we were 1-0 down so it was really important.

“I was just running to my teammates, because we all do this together so I think we needed that moment.”

Source: Goal

Their search for a second was improved in the second half after Costa Rica was forced to replace Navas after the keeper picked up an injury. Costa Rica did their best to try to prevent a winner but the more the game dragged on, the more tired they look.

The youthful exuberance of the USMNT was on full display as they were quicker to the ball and were able to pull away from their markers with relative ease.

It might have taken a little longer than they wanted, but Tim Weah scored the winner in the 66th minute. Weah carried the ball into the area and took his shot. He was fortunate as it hit the post and then the back of the Costa Rican keeper before rolling into the back of the net.

“I saw [Matthew] Hoppe and DeAndre [Yedlin] on the sideline getting ready to come in, so I kind of had the idea that I was gonna get subbed out,” Weah said. “But my goal was just to stay focused on till then and it just so happened at the ball came out wide to Serge and I saw the run and I just hit it one time and it happened to go in. It’s just being focused in those moments.”

Source: ESPN

Weah might not have even been on the pitch had it not been for a late injury to Paul Arriola, which forced Berhalter to make a switch.

A 20-year-old and a 21-year-old were the heroes for the U.S. on the night. Again, they used their age to their advantage against an opponent who valued experience and knows what it takes to play in these types of matches.

Berhalter’s team didn’t let that inexperience stifle them and one could point towards that as one of the reasons why they did not panic following the early goal.

“For us to be navigating through this CONCACAF qualifying — which is a bear, a monster — with this group, and the amount of poise they showed on the field today, particularly going down a goal, and then the second half being up a goal and managing the game really well,” said Berhalter after the match. “I mean, Gianluca Busio comes on, and he looks like he’s 30 years old. So I’m proud of the effort. The guys showed a lot of poise and they’re growing. They’re growing as a team.”

Source: ESPN

The win was an important one for the U.S. to create separation between them and the rest of the pack as well as bouncing back from the Panama loss. While some may still point out flaws in the performance, in CONCACAF qualifying, the main goal is simply to qualify.

The win brings the USMNT to 11 points, three behind the leaders. Their next game will be at home, in Cincinnati, against the leaders, Mexico, in what should be another intense affair with their main regional rivals.