Losing a home match is never good. Losing in the stadium you’ve never lost in is worse. Losing to your rival, well, that’s a killer.
The United States got hit with all of that on Friday night in a 2-1 loss to Mexico at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, where they were previously undefeated and had beaten El Tri four times by 2-0 scorelines. But that wasn’t all the bad news for the U.S.
Because the Americans’ next match in World Cup qualifying is away to Costa Rica, they are looking at potentially being in a very deep hole to start the Hex.
The U.S. have never beaten Costa Rica away and it’s not hard to understand why. The Ticos are a good team that has been one of the top three in CONCACAF for a while now and, even though they no longer play at the intimidating Saprissa Stadium, they still have a raucous crowd backing them for every match.
On top of all that, Costa Rica started the Hex with an impressive 2-0 win at Trinidad and Tobago so they’re a confident team in good form. And that’s what’s up next for the U.S. as they try to avoid two losses to start off the Hex.
If the Americans do lose in Costa Rica, they’ll have to wait until March to get a chance at their first point of the Hex. That’s four months of worry and staring at a table that, potentially, would have them dead last. It would also likely put them in several near must-win scenarios over their last eight matches of the Hex.
The good news is two-fold:
1. They could beat Costa Rica. It’s a tough match, but not an impossible one to win by any means and not being at Saprissa Stadium helps.
2. Even if they do lose, they only have to get back into the top three of the Hex to book their spot in the World Cup. That’s hardly impossible with eight matches left to play, especially with two of their tougher ones already done, and Jurgen Klinsmann’s teams have always played well with their backs against the wall.
Still, the U.S. were banking on a win over Mexico. They’d gotten it at home in every World Cup qualifier against their rivals since 1997 and three points would have given them a nice cushion going to Costa Rica. But that cushion is gone and now they’re facing a scenario — one maybe even likely — where they’ve dug themselves a hole after just two matches with a World Cup place on the line.
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