CHICAGO — The U.S. men's national team stared elimination in the eye Tuesday but put together a masterful performance to beat Costa Rica, 4-0, at the Copa America.
Clint Dempsey got the scoring started in the ninth minute when he drove home a penalty in the right corner after Bobby Wood was thrown to the turf in the penalty box. DeAndre Yedlin set up the play with a great stutter-step and quality cross that Wood was ready to pounce on getting taken out.
The goal, Dempsey's 50th internationally, brought him to within seven of Landon Donovan's USMNT record.
After playing as a striker in the first game, Dempsey slid into an attacking midfield role Tuesday, and looked much more comfortable facilitating for others. Dempsey's keen vision led to the second goal, when he picked out Jermaine Jones while dribbling into the box.
Jones took the slow-rolling ball and laced one into the bottom right corner of the net, then celebrated with the American Outlaws. Jones had just missed an opportunity moments before, but he made sure he got it right the second time.
Costa Rica, normally known for its tight defensive formation, looked completely out of sorts after allowing the second goal. Fabian Johnson, the USMNT's left back, was ready to take advantage.
The marauding runs of Johnson caused Costa Rica havoc all night, especially in the 42nd minute when he found Wood at he top of the penalty box. Wood quickly gained control, spun, then slotted one home in the bottom left corner.
The fans, situated right behind the goal, went wild because they knew that goal gave their team a chance to stay in the tournament.
The second half was a little more subdued with the game already out of hand, and Costa Rica opting to sub out Joel Campbell, but Graham Zusi, who came on in the 70th minute, added a fourth goal in the 87th minute after stealing a pass.
After Friday's 2-0 loss against No. 3 ranked Colombia, and then when Costa Rica and Paraguay tied in their game, the USMNT would have been out of the tournament with a game to play with a loss. But Jurgen Klinsmann, who has been under fire lately, got his team to play with more passion and better precision against a beleaguered Costa Rican side.
Now, they just have to keep it>
Jurgen Klinsmann's biggest decision heading into Saturday's group finale against Paraguay may not be which players to start, but which system to deploy.
The Americans looked good in both the 4-3-3 and the 4-4-2 on Tuesday night, scoring goals in both systems and looking comfortable in both as well.
Truth be told, the Americans may have looked even better in the 4-4-2, though they were also playing that system while holding a multi-goal lead, and ceded the possession edge during that time.
For Klinsmann the 4-4-2 showed well, but may not be the best option if the Americans advance past the group stage and the opposition gets tougher.
"The 4-4-2, it depends, as we discussed before, it depends on our opponents as well," Klinsmann said. "We don't have the luxury to just stand with everyone here. No. We need to modify things too according to who we play against.