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2020 January Friendly Recap: USA 1-0 Costa Rica - A youthful squad takes the win

The USA opens 2020 with a victory

Soccer: International Friendly Soccer-Costa Rica at USA Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

January camp came to a close Saturday afternoon with a 1-0 win for the USA thanks to som impressive performances from a young and at times exciting lineup.

After going with more tried and... well tried options in 2019, Gergg Berhalter turned to a young lineup filled with players who are developing in MLS. Given that this is a January camp and the top players in the pool are not available, it was a nice chance to get a fresh look at a new crop of players that could break through in the player pool. Particularly exciting was seeing Jesus Ferreira and Ulysses Llanez start for the Stars and Stripes.

While the lineups were a change of pace for January, one thing was sadly the same:

Just a friendly, but still some nice moments

Through the first quarter hour the US largely dominated possession. The team easily strung together short, quick passes and the creativity of Brenden Aaronson and Ulysses Llanez put the US in some dangerous spots early.

The US continued its strong play, but Costa Rica began to settle into the game and find some chances of their own. In the 24th minute the team earned a free kick about 40 yards from goal. David Guzman took the kick and floated it on the right side of the defense where a Costa Rica player ran unmarked behind the defense, he sent a ball toward Giancarlo Gonzalez in front of the goal and it seemed like Los Ticos had grabbed the lead, but his header hit the underside of the crossbar only to bounce back in play and be cleared by the defense.

The remainder of the half would take a decidedly slower turn as the game settled in and the defenses adjusted to what had been working for the opposing attackers. Still, the bring spots were promising for the USA. The younger lineup was lively and were at times bright though lacking in overall consistency. After a long range shot from Aaronson went wide and Sebastian Lletget unleashed a solid effort that forced keeper Esteban Alvarado to make a diving save, the teams went into the half at 0-0.

As the second half began, the US charged forward looking for a goal and it wouldn’t take long for it to materialize. After Reggie Cannon was taken down in the box trying to get on the end of a terrific Paul Arriola through-ball, Llanez stepped up and cooly sent home the penalty to make it 1-0.

The lead held through some unsuccessful forays into the US third by Costa Rica, but the lead never really seemed to be at risk. The 60th minute ushered in the first subs of the game for the Stars and Stripes as Ferreira and Aaron Long came in for Gyasi Zardes and Mark McKenzie. Shortly thereafter Aaronson made way for Brandon Servania and Jonathan Lewis checked in to replace Uly.

There were a few other chances created by the US as the game wound down, but a string of subs broke up most of the rhythm of the game. Someone named Chase Gaspar entered for Sam Vines and Bill Hamid got to see the pitch with Sean Johnson coming off.

As the game wound down, the US earned a corner in the 85th minute. After the initial kick was cycled back through the box by the Americans it looked like Lletget had found Zardes unmarked in front of goal. The striker sent a shot into the goal but he was called offside and it did not stand. The game would finish with the Stars and Stripes seeing the game out and claiming its first win of 2020.