CHICAGO - Jurgen Klinsmann spent a lot of time after the United States' 2-0 loss to Colombia Friday in Santa Clara, Calif., emphasizing what he saw as the positives from the opening game of the Copa America Centenario.
"The No. 3 team in the world, we can actually play with them," the U.S. coach said, referring to Colombia's place in FIFA's global rankings. "There was no difference besides the two goals."
Asked whether Colombia deserved the victory, Klinsmann offered a tart reply: "I leave that up to you."
Many observers would accept Klinsmann's invitation. Yes, the box score said the Americans possessed the ball longer and completed more passes than Colombia. But Colombia could afford to let that happen as it sat on a 2-0 lead for the entire second half.
Some U.S. players were willing to admit what Klinsmann was not.
"We weren't quite sharp enough or quite good enough to be able to take some little advantages, or some half-chances, and really punish them," captain Michael Bradley said. "They were ruthless in terms of their ability to know what the game was going to need."
Bradley's performance was among the worst of any American player. Instead of setting the tempo from central midfield, he gave the ball away too often.
There was plenty of blame to go around, though. Alejandro Bedoya, who played in front of Bradley, was invisible for most of the night. Jermaine Jones played next to Bradley, and, not for the first time, the two were not in sync.
Jones also had to cover for left back Fabian Johnson's runs up the flank to try to spark attacks. Jones is not one to shy away from defensive work, but he told a scrum of reporters Friday that he had to "help protect Fabian" because "that was what the coaches wanted."
Klinsmann's critics will pounce on that remark. But even the coach's fans might wonder whether sticking with Friday's lineup will put too much emphasis on defense.
The game Tuesday against Costa Rica at Chicago's Soldier Field is a must-win game. That means it's a must-score game.
Costa Rica is in must-win mode, too, after a scoreless draw with Paraguay on Saturday in Orlando. Expect the Ticos to play a compact defense, even without suspended star defender Kendall Watson. Their offense will be led by counterattack specialists Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell.
What will it take to overcome that? The first step might be starting Darlington Nagbe instead of bringing him off the bench. He can fit on the right side, with Dempsey in the middle and Gyasi Zardes or Bobby Wood up top instead of wide. That would give the United States the skill to break down Costa Rica and the smarts to finish chances.
It's just one idea. The ideas that matter come from Klinsmann. And if the heat was on him after Friday's loss, another poor outing Tuesday will only turn it higher.