COLUMBUS, Ohio – Words like “crisis” and “adversity” get tossed around fairly readily – probably too much, actually – when a team as widely and passionately supported as the US national team loses a tough game or hits a bad patch of form.
The USMNT did the former in Costa Rica on Friday, crashing to a 3-1 defeat that modestly complicates their path to World Cup qualification and extends their history of futility in the Central American nation.
But they're determined not to allow that to trigger the latter, as coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his men made clear on Sunday at their first training session here ahead of Tuesday's enormous qualifier vs. Mexico at Crew Stadium (8 pm ET, ESPN/UniMas).
“I think there are things we look at [from Friday's loss] and think we can get those right and we'll be a heck of a lot more solid,” veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard told reporters on Sunday. “At the same time, we've been playing well. That happens. Sometimes, you get your butt kicked, man. That's part of it. You just have to shake it off and move on. I think this group has the resilience to do that.
“We wouldn't be having this conversation if Friday night didn't happen. It's one game,” he added later. “One game isn't going to define us.”
The Yanks' record-setting 12-game winning streak is now a thing of the past, yet spirits were high at Sunday's training. And so was the volume, as Klinsmann and his players were vocal and chippy in the early stages of the practice that members of the media were allowed to watch.
“We discussed the mistakes that we did, especially in the beginning of the game,” said Klinsmann, who acknowledged that the late scratch of midfielder Michael Bradley due to an ankle injury in warm-ups dealt his team an damaging psychological blow at Estadio Nacional. “And especially second half – until that counter break [where Joel Campbell scored Costa Rica's third goal] came, they actually played a really good game, if you watch the game again, which we did.
“All the things are prepared for Tuesday night and we want to give them a real, real fight.”
Defender Clarence Goodson, one of four reinforcements called in over the weekend to replace Bradley and the USMNT's four suspended players, looks likely to step right into a starting role at center back on Tuesday. He has been a part of both the qualifying and Gold Cup squads this year and noted that ample adversity has already been faced and overcome in 2013.
“The team has always done a good job coming back from, maybe it's tough defeats or whatever,” he said on Sunday. “I think even in this stretch of games where we were undefeated, we came back quite a few times from being down. It's something where the team has shown very strong character, I think. And that's something that's going to be needed now, to qualify for a World Cup.”
The US trailed in matches against Cuba and Bosnia & Herzegovina this summer before storming back to notch victory, and also had to conjure up an injury-time winner to dispatch Jamaica in a road qualifier in June.
But Tuesday will probably require an even higher level of focus and intensity.
“It’s been a good couple of months – really exceptional – but we put it in perspective,” said midfielder Kyle Beckerman. “You’re going to have to go through some down times. It’s just part of professional sports. It’s part of qualifying. We went over video, and we looked at the bad stuff and we looked at some good stuff. Now it’s time to move on and see if we can get back on another streak.”
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