Did the U.S. men’s national team lose to Costa Rica because Friday’s game was held in Red Bull Arena? Absolutely not. Did the location of the venue help the Central American side? Oh yeah.
September 02, 2017
HARRISON, N.J.—Several mistakes led to the U.S. national team’s demise against Costa Rica on Friday. One of them was hosting the game at Red Bull Arena.
The U.S. was handed a second home loss in the Hexagonal round of World Cup Qualifying by falling, 2-0, to Costa Rica on Friday night. While the Americans’ lackluster performance was largely to blame, U.S. Soccer’s selection of Red Bull Arena as the site for the match also contributed to the defeat.
To be blunt: There was no true homefield advantage. Whereas in most recent home qualifiers the Americans have played in front of mostly pro-U.S. crowds in places like Commerce City, Colo., or San Jose, Calif., this game saw the Americans play in less favorable conditions. Costa Rica had plenty of support in the stands and the visitors were pushed on by its large contingent of boisterous fans throughout the 90 minutes.
Costa Rica salutes its supporters. pic.twitter.com/ooEYtPdfw0
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 2, 2017
Let’s be clear: Playing the match at Red Bull Arena was not the sole factor for the U.S.’s poor performance or frustrating loss. It was not even the primary factor.
It was, however, a contributing factor. That is a mistake any way you look at it, especially when considering that the U.S. is still fighting for its World Cup life.
“At the end it didn’t sound like 50-50,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said after the match, suggesting that the Central American team had more supporters. “Only in America. I think Costa Rica probably enjoys coming to New York. I wish we had that when we go to Honduras.”
Costa Rica did in fact enjoy playing in front of thousands of Ticos fans that helped comprise the sold-out crowd of 26,500. Chants of “Ole” could be heard while Costa Rica held possession while the U.S. was jeered for playing backward to Howard
The U.S. faithful certainly made their presence felt known but there were still too many times, especially after Marco Ureña scored both goals, when it seemed like Los Ticos were playing at home. Just like it did back in July when Costa Rica played Honduras in a CONCACAF Gold Cup game at Red Bull Arena.
“It felt at times like we were playing in Costa Rica,” said Costa Rica midfielder Bryan Ruiz. “You feel really good hearing the fans chant ‘Ole,’ in the U.S.’s house, and we did a good job.”
More so than having good support, however, was the way that talented Costa Rica managed to execute its gameplan. Los Ticos threw numbers behind the ball well, hit quickly on the counter, and pounced on mistakes to frustrate and punish the subpar Americans.
Still, playing inside Red Bull Arena helped Costa Rica’s cause more than it hurt.
“Today we felt pretty even in terms of crowd support, so you don’t have that aspect always against you,” said Ureña. “That is motivating for us to see so many Ticos fans.”
Added Ruiz: “We felt very, very comfortable today. This stadium suits us well. We also beat the U.S. in a friendly here [in 2015]. This game shows us that the stadium suits us well.”