Bryan Ruiz (white jersey) and Costa Rica need to be beat Colombia in the last Group A game to have any chance of advancing in the Copa America Centenario. (Photo: Mexsport)
CHICAGO – Whenever a team loses a game in any sport, an immediate search for reasons is launched.
The need to assign culpability and correct mistakes becomes a priority, especially when the stakes are at their highest and time is short. Sometimes a result or a below-expectation performance is just an anomaly for which no explanation can be readily generated.
On Tuesday, Costa Rica (0W-1D-1L, 1 point) fell 4-0 to the United States (1-0-1, 3) in the Copa America Centenario at Soldier Field. The Ticos could have eliminated the competition host with a Group A win, but now themselves face an exit earlier than expected.
"I think it was one of the weirdest games I've had,” Costa Rica head coach Oscar Ramirez said. “We were superior, we had control, but this is football and you have to score. The United States hit us in crucial moments.”
One of those moments came just two minutes after Joel Campbell missed an opportunity to put the Ticos ahead, when Christian Gamboa pushed over Bobby Wood in the area, giving the Americans a penalty kick that Clint Dempsey buried.
“I accept responsibility for what happened,” said Gamboa. “It was my mistake.”
Whether a byproduct of the penalty or not, that error seemed to unnerve the Central American champion and the U.S. capitalized by scoring twice more before halftime.
Gamboa and Campbell were subbed out at the break. The Costa Ricans improved over the course of the last 45 minutes, but it wasn’t enough to impact the final result.
"I apologize to the fans for the score, but not for football,” Ramirez remarked. “We are left to deal with this at a difficult time, but I prefer it here than in (World Cup) qualifying.
"Football-wise, we were far superior, we had control, but football is about scoring and, in that, the United States had a very high rating.”
If Costa Rica is to have any chance to progress to the semifinals, it must beat Colombia, which has already sealed progression and sits first in Group A with maximum points from two games.
Ramirez wants to see the right response from his players as they look to fix the faults that marked the USA setback.
"They’re are all upset at the dressing room, but more games are to come,” finished the 51-year-old. “Another team begins to die with 3-0, but we did not. Yes you feel discomfort. You don’t want a result like that, but if it happens one must know how to receive it and have a reaction. That is important.”