It was a brisk, autumnal night in Chicago, but the U.S. men’s soccer team could not have been more sizzling at Soldier Field.
Coming off a lackluster loss Friday against Colombia, the Americans had categorized Tuesday’s Copa America Centenario match against Costa Rica as a “must win.”
Before the match, U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati lit an extra match under the seat of coach Juergen Klinsmann by telling reporters the federation will evaluate everyone’s standing with the team - including Klinsmann’s - after the Copa.
So the Americans picked a good time to play some of their best soccer in a while.
The U.S. dismantled Costa Rica 4-0 to pick up three needed points in the Group A standings. With one group-play match remaining Saturday against Paraguay in Philadelphia, the U.S. outlook for making the quarterfinals looks brighter and Klinsmann’s goal of reaching the semifinals appears a little more attainable.
The U.S., No. 31 in the latest FIFA rankings, relied on a strong defense and counterattack that decimated the 23rd-ranked Ticas with three first-half goals in front of an announced crowd of 39,642 at the 61,500-capacity Soldier Field.
The barrage began with a disputed penalty against Costa Rica in the penalty area in the seventh minute. Costa Rica defender Christian Gamboa pushed U.S. midfielder Bobby Wood from behind as Wood was attempting to head a cross.
Officials awarded the U.S. a penalty kick over vehement objection from Costa Rica. Steady Clint Dempsey buried the kick into the right side of the net as goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton dived left for a 1-0 lead.
The U.S. allowed Costa Rica to control possession for most of the first half, but its defense limited Costa Rica’s chances. Outside of an early miscue from DeAndre Yedlin that led to a shot for Costa Rica’s Joel Campbell in the sixth minute, the U.S. allowed just one harmless Costa Rica chance to reach goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Dempsey had a hand in the third goal as well when he set up Wood just inside the center of the penalty area. Wood fired his shot low and sneaked it past Pemberton for a 3-0 lead in the 42nd minute. Graham Zusi scored in the 87th minute to provide the final margin.
The U.S. continued its strong defense in the second half. The closest Costa Rica came to scoring was when Bryan Ruiz headed one off the post in the 67th minute.
Besides that, the Americans stifled the Ticas, and for a night they stifled the doubters who had been chirping since Friday.