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HARRISON, N.J. – If the alarm bells weren't ringing after the United States men's national team's 3-2 extra-time loss to Mexico in a playoff for a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup on Saturday, they are all blaring now.
On Tuesday, the Americans lost for the fifth time in six games, dropping a friendly to Costa Rica 1-0 on Joel Campbell's all-too-easy goal. Ever since the semifinal of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup was unexpectedly lost to Jamaica, dethroning the Americans of their regional crown, things have spiraled into a deep and terrible soccer abyss. There was a half-hearted penalty loss to Panama in the third-place game, a win over Peru, and then a bad loss to Brazil before the disappointment against Mexico.
"The Saturday night clash with Mexico was still heavy in the air," Klinsmann said. "Heads were full. We were not able to shake this off within two days. It was too much a disappointment but also too much on their shoulders.
"There are not only sunshine days. We had a lot of sunshine 2012, 2013, 2014. Now it's raining a little bit and you've got to go through that. Maybe you've got to go trough a little bit of mud as well."
Not many who were partial to the USA had come out to Red Bull Arena to observe the drudgery. Those who were found themselves easily outnumbered by the Tico fans but did manage to voice some boos when embattled U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was announced. And those who did show surely regretted their decision.
The paltry crowd of just 9,214 witnessed a poor game. The USA, preparing for the kickoff of a new World Cup qualifying campaign in exactly a month, showed nothing to inspire confidence that reaching an eighth straight edition of the world's biggest sporting event will be easy over the next two years.
In a flat first half, the two sides produced little of note. Costa Rica scampered off when Danny Williams committed a wretched turnover in midfield early on, but Michael Orozco bailed him out with a sharp challenge. And Brad Evans retained the stalemate just before halftime by blocking Johan Venegas's finish from just a few yards out on the line, seemingly with his backside.
At the other end, all the U.S. mustered was a Tim Ream header off a wide Brek Shea free kick which was no major issue for Keylor Navas, who starts in goal for Real Madrid. The Americans spent less time in the attacking third than they did shouting at each other while Klinsmann was seen stalking the sideline and shaking his head in dismay or sitting in his seat staring blankly.
After the break, the defensive errors were the only thing the U.S. was consistent in. Almost right away, a Shea turnover and a misread on a bounce by Orozco created a chance for Marcos Urena.
Yet another turnover in midfield, committed by Williams but enabled by a poor Evans ball, sent Campbell off just before the hour mark. However, veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard, back between the posts for the first time since the 2014 World Cup, made the save.
Costa Rica began creeping closer to the only goal it would need. Urena only just failed to redirect his finish on target from close range. And then, in the 70th, Campbell finally finished off a Costa Rican chance. Dave Myrie cut back into the Arsenal man's path, who had run away from Williams and stuck the ball past Howard. And were it not for a late save by the latter on Urena in stoppage time, the score would have been twice as bad.
But if a loss in a friendly isn't so problematic in its own right, the performance displayed by the Americans – or more like the malpractice – certainly was. Throughout the game, they lacked possession in midfield, presence on the flanks and service to the forwards. Whatever time and calm on the ball they managed all occurred in the back, where Costa Rica couldn't be bothered to pursue the U.S.
When the Yanks did manage to attack, it was that contemptable, not to mention ineffectual, route-one soccer straight to the strikers that Klinsmann was supposed to pull the U.S. away from upon his ballyhooed appointment four years ago. It was rudimentary stuff. And while this wasn't the American first string, exactly, it was a team that should have been able to do better against a Costa Rican side that was equally diluted.
Following the Mexico game, this was the first and only chance to figure some things out before World Cup qualifying. But as often in these scenarios in recent months, the USA posed more questions than it mustered answers.
There is really only one consolation in this sorry situation. That first qualifier, in St. Louis on Nov. 13, comes against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, ranked 122nd in the world by FIFA and 167th by ELO.
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.