In falling to Costa Rica for the seventh consecutive time on the Ticos’ home ground, the Americans added yet more gravitas to the already-loaded build-up for their World Cup qualifier against Mexico here on Tuesday. So, having allowed some time and space for hindsight, here are the relevant lessons drawn from the 3-1 loss as they relate to yet another crucial bout:
1. Michael Bradley is indispensable
Folding over his ankle in the final movements of the warm-up and ruling the central midfielder out of the game plainly unsettled the team. He is their emotional leader, after all, the man leading by his combative example and, from the looks of it, verbally too. But when he fell away, they lost more than that. What Bradley brings to the table, nobody else can replicate. Shuttling between boxes, he sets the pace, tone and rhythm of the run of play. He covers much ground defensively, distributes from deep and gets counterattacks started. Geoff Cameron, the late replacement for Bradley, tried to fill that role but he hasn’t the range and simply isn’t as tidy with the ball. Bradley’s absence against Mexico will have to be compensated for; his many roles filled by a combination of others.