Costa Rica came flying out of the gate and dominated the opening five minutes. Los Ticos had a chance to take the lead in the 5th minute, but Joel Campbell sent a curling half-volley wide of the net.
Shortly after Campbell's miss, the U.S. began to adjust to the pace of the game. While Costa Rica had the better of the early play, the USMNT opened the scoring in the 9th minute. As DeAndre Yedlin whipped a cross into the box, Cristian Gamboa blatantly shoved Bobby Wood.
The referee whistled for a penalty, Clint Dempsey stepped up, and made no mistake as he buried the ball in the bottom right corner for his 50th international goal.
Costa Rica was forced to use it first substitution in the 18th minute, as forward Marco Ureña appeared to injure his shoulder and was replaced by Álvaro Saborio.
As the first half went on, the game began to slow down to a more reasonable pace.
The U.S.' best chance from open play came in the 33rd minute, but Gyasi Zardes couldn't put the ball on target. Zardes slipped away from his defender on the edge of the box and received a pass from Clint Dempsey. With defenders closing in and only the keeper to beat, Zardes skied his shot over the crossbar.
Jermaine Jones doubled the USMNT's lead in the 37th minute. Jones won the ball at midfield with a perfect tackle. The ball fell to Clint Dempsey who ran to the top of the box. On the edge of the eighteen, he took a heavy touch that fell to Jones. Jones slotted the ball into the right corner of the net.
After Jones' goal, the U.S. switched from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 with Wood moving up top with Dempsey and Zardes dropping to a more traditional wide midfield role.
Bobby Wood bagged the U.S.' third goal with his 42nd minute strike. From the left side of the eighteen, Dempsey sent a pass to Wood who had his back away from goal. Wood quickly turned towards the net and hit a great shot that left goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton helpless.
The USMNT entered half-time full of confidence, looking like a team capable of advancing out of the group.
With Costa Rica struggling mightily, manager Oscar Ramirez decided to bring on two substitutes in hopes of changing the momentum. Cristian Gamboa and Joel Campbell were replaced by José Salvatierra and Rándall Azofeifa.
Throughout the second half, Costa Rica had the better of the play, but failed to create many opportunities.
Jurgen Klinsmann made his first change in the 70th minute with Graham Zusi coming on for Bobby Wood.
In the 78th minute, Chris Wondolowksi replaced Clint Dempsey. Kyle Beckerman entered the match for Alejandro Bedoya in the 82nd minute.
Despite the U.S.' poor second half play, Costa Rica failed to put a shot on target. The Costa Ricans best second half chance came off of a 83rd minute free kick. The ball was sent backpost and redirected across the face of goal by a Costa Rican player, but Kyle Beckerman was able to clear it out for a corner kick.
Zusi added to the rout with the 4th goal in the 87th minute. Zusi won possession in the attacking third after pressuring a Costa Rican defender. He sprinted towards the net and fired a shot into the back of the net.
Jurgen Klinsmann will have to be pleased with the result, as the U.S. got a vital 4-0 win that never looked to be in question.
Klinsmann Rewarded for Trusting his Players
With the U.S. facing elimination, Jurgen Klinsmann was under a lot of pressure. Fans and pundits had been critical of his lineup decisions and were calling for significant changes.
Clint Dempsey in particular was strongly criticized, as he had been invisible ever since the friendly against Ecuador.
Instead of listening to his critics, Klinsmann stuck with the same starting XI he deployed against Colombia. Klinsmann's faith in his players was rewarded as Dempsey had an excellent game and veterans Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley also had good performances.
Klinsmann's lineup choices may often be puzzling, but it is clear that he got his tactics right for this match.
Great Win but, the U.S. Needs to Be Consistent
The U.S. finally played up to its potential tonight. Costa Rica was ranked higher than the USMNT and was expected to provide a tough test, but the U.S. obliterated Los Ticos.
The USMNT needs to build on this win and should easily defeat Paraguay, a team that is seemingly worse than Costa Rica. The U.S. will likely finish second in the group and could end up facing Brazil in the quarterfinals.
Brazil would be heavily favored, but this Brazilian team that doesn't have Neymar is not nearly as good as it has been in past years. The USMNT can be an excellent team, but it needs to be consistent from match to match and play at 100%.
A Tale of Two Halves
The USMNT controlled the first half and was clearly the better team. Costa Rica had limited opportunities and didn't put up much of a fight. However, in the second half, the U.S. took its foot off of the gas and wasn't at the level of the Costa Ricans.
The USMNT created almost nothing offensively and was lucky not to concede. Graham Zusi's goal was a result of his individual hard work and a careless turnover by the Costa Rican defense.
It's understandable that U.S. players may have been looking to conserve energy, with an important game on Saturday against Paraguay. However, the USMNT was playing too conservatively.
While Costa Rica was unlikely to overcome a 3-0 deficit, the U.S. can't begin to kill off games when an entire half is left.