US bet on youth pays off in comeback win over Costa Rica

COLOMB, Ohio – As Sergino Dest and Tim Weah were returning to United States bench after being substituted, the two scorers swelled the crowd at Field. Dest high-fived teammates, as well as a few fans. Weah found the time to give his jersey to someone in the crowd. Even with around 17 minutes remaining in Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica, they both showed their exuberance and confidence that the United States could see the rest of the game.

What the United States did, prevailing 2-1 on the Ticos to win three essential points in his quest to qualify for the World Cup.

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The energy exerted by Dest and Weah was appropriate as it was a game where youth triumphed over experience. The American starting lineup, averaging 22 years and 229 days, was the youngest they’ve ever fielded in a World Cup qualifier. Costa Rica have meanwhile released a starting XI with six players over 30 years old. And his youngest player, 27 Keysher Fuller, was older than America’s oldest player, the 26-year-old goaltender Zack Steffen. The difference became even more pronounced later in the game when 39-year-old striker Alvaro Saborio, 37-year-old midfielder Christian Bolanos and 33-year-old defender Kendall Waston all entered the game.

The United States certainly showed its inexperience at times, not the least of which was lagging behind with less than a minute on the clock. But the United States showed a lot of resilience in recording a victory that puts them probably second in the octagonal standings.

“For us to navigate through that CONCACAF qualification – which is a bear, a monster – with this group, and the amount of balance they showed on the pitch today, especially in losing a goal, then the second half being up a goal and handling the game very well, “Berhalter said after the game. “I want to say, Gianluca Busio lights up, and he looks like he’s 30 years old. I am therefore proud of the effort. The guys have shown a lot of balance and they are growing. They grow up as a team. “

The start couldn’t have been worse. Less than a minute after the start of the match, Steffen – a kind of surprise starter after Matt Turner had started the first five games – went out of his line to clear a ball deep with his head, but that didn’t eliminate the danger. As the US defense scrambles to get back in shape, Ronald matarrita found a Fuller wide open at the far post to pass Steffen.

Yet this young American team did not collapse. In fact, they immediately took the initiative, and although the United States seemed too impatient with some of their passes, they were the first to receive a lot of second balls and put constant pressure on Costa Rica’s goal. .

“We weren’t nervous at all,” Weah said. “Obviously it was a bummer to score early enough in the game. But we knew what our game plan was, and that was to expose their backline and I feel like we got it. The outside backs played a huge role today. The wingers played well. Everyone played well, so it was us who would come together and stay focused and add that intensity. “

The fear was that with the world goalkeeper Keylor Navas in net for the Ticos, it was going to take something from another world to appear on the dashboard. Dest delivered precisely that, taking a pass from Yunus Moussah near the corner of the box, moving the ball to his supposedly weaker left foot and launching a rocket into the top corner that gave Navas no chance. Even the fact that her lace was untied couldn’t stop her.

“I think it was [Weston McKennie], he ran behind and the guy is following him so there was room for me, ”Dest said.“ I just got put inside and thought that the only thing I could do for the moment was had to score. We’re down 1-0 so I felt like you know we needed that point so I was just trying to show it and it was an amazing goal. “

A critical moment in the game came at half-time when it was revealed that Navas had suffered a groin injury and should be substituted. Leonel Moreira. Without his talisman in the nets, the game was there.

The United States finally took advantage in the 66th minute, as Dest became supplier to Weah, whose tight shot came off the post, Moreira and the inside. He was officially scored as an own goal, although Berhalter said he would try to get it. amended.

Still, it was a big moment for Weah, who only found out five minutes before the game that he would start after. Paul Arriola was injured during the warm-up. And just before the goal, he noticed that he was about to be substituted.

“I saw [Matthew] Hoppe and DeAndré [Yedlin] on the sidelines, I was getting ready to come in, so I kind of had the idea that I was going to be replaced, “he said.” But my goal was just to stay focused until then and that ‘ is what happened to the the ball came out wide towards Serge and I saw the run and I just hit him once and it happened. It’s just to be focused in those times. “

It was a redemptive performance for the United States following last Sunday’s loss to Panama, but especially for Dest. We expected a lot from the defender, him from Ajax and now Barcelona pedigree, he endured a roller coaster in qualifying, struggling in the last window, especially when he was playing on the left side of the American defense. In this window, Dest managed to raise his level, and in this game he made the difference that fans and teammates were waiting for.

“It’s almost like the sky is the limit for [Dest]. He could be as good as he wants, “Berhalter said.” You saw today with his attacking play, it’s unreal. For Serge, it’s just mentally hanging on, really pushing himself to be the best when he’s on the pitch. “

Dest admitted that the CONCACAF qualifiers are “a revelation” and a different world than he is used to in Europe. He noted that the intensity is high and the opponents are working hard.

“And it’s just physical,” he added.

But Dest and his teammates learn that they can play this card as well. And they needed to use their physical attributes – and also their brains – to overcome the Ticos. One moment that crystallized the task the United States faced was when the Defender Miles robinson gave the ball away in the second half, causing the Costa Rica captain Bryan ruiz on an apparent breakaway. But Robinson voraciously ate the yards and stifled the threat. Costa Rica just didn’t have the legs.

In the process, the United States has also banned certain ghosts. It was the Ticos which sent Team USA’s qualifying effort into the 2018 cycle into freefall with a 2-0 road victory. Four years later, this Costa Rican team is clearly a team in transition. But it is an enemy that has yet to be defeated, and the United States has this time protected its territory.

The victory allowed the United States to occupy probably second place in the octagonal standings, pending Mexicocounter result The Savior. The six points in this window are a little less than expected, given that a draw in Panama was doable. But the road will get complicated. Home encounter with bitter rivals Mexico looms, as does a tilt in the road against Jamaica, who seemed rekindled after a 2-0 road win over Honduras. The United States will have to play with more consistency.

But so far the youth have served America well, and at least for now, the qualifying campaign is back on track.

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