CHICAGO - Following the U.S. national team's 2-0 loss to Colombia, manager Jurgen Klinsmann needed a big response from his team, and he got one, as the Americans demolished Costa Rica 4-0 to keep its hopes of advancing to the group stage alive.
"We were eager to get on the field, we were eager to get the first three points in this tournament," said Klinsmann during his postgame news conference. "It took a little bit to kind of grind ourselves into the game, in the first 15-20 minutes. But then once the first goal came, we kept pushing for the next one, and we kept pushing for the next one."
One of the keys to the victory was simple familiarity. Klinsmann named an unchanged lineup for the first time since the 2014 World Cup opener against Ghana. But the U.S. also got a huge performance from its midfield, with Jermaine Jones - the scorer of the second U.S. goal -- and Michael Bradley doing plenty to dictate the early play as the Americans raced out to a 3-0 half-time lead.
"Some players really stepped it up," said Klinsmann. "Jermaine was one of them today, putting his stamp on this game. He kind of gave the message to Michael that this is our game, this is our three points. We want to put ourselves in the driving seat for the last game against Paraguay.
"That's what these two guys did in the middle of the park, and so they have every right to enjoy that moment."
Some tactical flexibility also paid off, as the U.S. switched from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 after 30 minutes. That allowed Bobby Wood to play in a more familiar position as a central striker with Dempsey, who scored the opener with an eighth minute penalty, playing off him. The switch paid off as Jones put the U.S. up 2-0 in the 37th minute, and Wood scored the third U.S. goal five minutes later.
"[The switch was] fluid, no problem at all because we figured out that we were losing too many balls after we win them back with a lot of energy," said Klinsmann. "That gave us a bit more width. Ale [Bedoya] knows how to play the left wing. Gyasi [Zardes] obviously knows how to play either way, as a forward or as a winger. But with the flow, it stayed the same. It was nice that we had that element."
The win puts the U.S. in excellent position to advance. With Colombia beating Paraguay later in the day, a draw against the latter in Philadelphia on Saturday will likely be enough to propel the Americans into the quarterfinals.
"I think we are right there in the driver's seat to get through this very, very difficult group," said Klinsmann. "This is the most difficult group in the Copa America. Now, obviously we're looking forward to a packed house in Philadelphia with our fans and we want to go at Paraguay. And then, hopefully, we get the opportunity to play the next big one. So this is just encouraging to see that this group has this extreme hunger now to make things happen."