A Rodney Wallace header in the 65th minute gave Costa Rica a shocking 1-0 victory over the United States in a friendly on Friday, handing new U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann his first defeat.
Klinsmann, the former German international striker and coach who took over the U.S. side on July 29, is still seeking his first victory with the U.S., after drawing, 1-1, last month with Mexico at Philadelphia in his debut match.
“For sure you’re not happy with the result, but I am happy with the performance,” Klinsmann said. “The players did what I wanted to do. We had our chances in the first half.
“Overall a very good performance. Unfortunately there wasn’t a goal.”
Klinsmann will hope his third try is charmed when the U.S. plays Belgium in Brussels on Tuesday.
U.S. troubles with Costa Rica did not begin with Klinsmann. The U.S. team are winless in their past five meetings with the Ticos and fell behind 12-11 with six draws in their all-time rivalry with the latest defeat.
Wallace, a 23-year-old midfielder for the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer, scored less than five minutes after coming on as a substitute for his international debut.
Real Salt Lake forward Álvaro Saborío took the ball deep down the right side for Costa Rica, then crossed for Michael Barrantes, whose left-foot shot deflected off the left arm of U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard.
The rebound came to Wallace, who opened his international account with a diving header from six meters out.
The U.S. pressed in vain for the equalizer, with play becoming more and more physical and with starting forward Brek Shea and substitute Sacha Kljestan being issued yellow cards in the 78th and 79th minutes respectively.
“We would like them to get in their mind,” Klinsmann said. “We would like to develop a style of play that is more attacking, more aggressive.”
The victory was a strong send-off for Costa Rica interim coach Ronald González before Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto takes over the team next month.
Klinsmann, 47, wanted to see how well such talents as Jozy Altidore and Landon Donovan demonstrated his desire for an aggressive style.
“The things we saw were what we wanted to see,” Klinsmann said. “We wanted to see how they combined. They were patient, moved the ball around, played the whole 90 minutes through. They kept the pace up and the rhythm high.
“What we needed was a goal.”
Donovan nearly delivered it in the seventh minute, his shot going just wide of the near post after a charge to the right from inside the penalty area. The misfire left the Los Angeles Galaxy striker with his head in his hands.
The Ticos didn’t manage their first shots until first half stoppage time, but forced two saves from Howard before the end of a scoreless first half.
Altidore was offside just inside the area in the 55th minute to thwart a U.S. goal while Costa Rica’s Randall Brenes was denied by Howard from inside the area in the 59th, two minutes before he was yanked for eventual game-winner Wallace.
Klinsmann made a subtle but meaningful change by having the Americans play in jerseys numbered 1 to 11 with no player names on the back, the basic-looking red attire a departure from recent tradition, and making the U.S. look like it was wearing Costa Rica’s traditional uniforms.